A bike rack should be one of life’s simpler things – a safe place to leave your bike.
So it’s pretty frustrating when it isn’t.
Even when bike racks are designed and specified well, it just takes a poor install to make them pretty much unusable.
Have you experienced any of these bad ways to install a bike rack?
- Too close to roads, so that drivers damage bikes when parking
- In a door zone so that bikes become trip hazards
- Too close to a wall so a bike can’t get pushed into position and therefore can’t be locked securely
- Perpendicular to pedestrians’ line of travel so bikes get knocked over
- Too far away from your intended destination
- On a slope rather than at right angles to one
- Crammed into too little space, too closely together, creating handlebar conflict
- Under very drippy trees or trees with good bird populations
All of these are easy to fix with a bit of foresight and planning. If you’re charged with installing some cycle parking, why not go and discuss your plan with some real, live cyclists? They’re easy to find. Just hang around at your proposed location for a bit and they’ll be by in a moment or two!
Whilst you’re waiting for them, here are some guidelines for delivering good bike parking that cyclists will be happy to use.
Five factors to consider when planning to install fantastic bike racks.
Follow these points and you’ll be on the right track.
Make your cycle parking obvious
If it can’t be found, it won’t be used. It should be easily seen – signage and bright colours help. It also needs to be instantly recognisable as bike parking and need no explanations. Placing bike racks near (though not too near) entrances and other areas where people are passing by also helps prevent theft.
Get the spacing right
There needs to be enough for the bike and enough around the bike. Don’t forget swing room for getting the bike in and out of the parking place! It is worth having a bike around when installation happens to use as a guide. (Or maybe two, plus one cyclist.)
Though the footprint of the average bike is approximately 150cm x 60cm, there are many sizes and shapes of bikes and attachments and bike parking should accommodate them with good enough clearances. Bikes with child seats or panniers need more width and bikes with trailers can extend to 300cm or longer. And in order to avoid a clash of handlebars and pedals, when two bikes are parked together, the second bicycle will be parked slightly to the front or rear of the first.
The minimum footprint of two bicycles parked in a bike rack should be taken as 200cm x 100cm.
The recommended distance between cycle stands, where one bike is parked on either side of a rack, is 100cm. This should be increased to 120cm if space permits.
These measurements can be used to calculate the space required for a given number of stands.
There needs to be plenty of room for the bikes to rest properly along the length of the rack. Walls and street furniture should not affect the way a bike is locked to the stand. If near car parking, racks should be placed between parking bays to avoid contact with opening car doors.
Some cities with limited pavement space position bike parking in “bike corrals” on the road next to the kerb in areas that are unsuitable for car parking. A car-sized corral can generally fit 8 to 12 bicycles. These can be problematic if they are not protected from the closest parking car – many is the bike that has been damaged by a bad parker.
Make it strong
Bike racks are generally made from steel as it is resistant to cutting and easy to maintain. Rack finish should be suitable for the location. Galvanised mild steel is economical and, when powder coated, allows for different colour options. Stainless steel is more corrosion resistant even in salty conditions and does not tarnish.
If tubular steel is used, then square tubes are harder to cut through than round. Thicker gauges of steel also deter theft.
The location of bike parking is a significant factor in security. Cyclists generally prefer parking that is visible to the public, and they particularly value racks that can be seen from within the destination.
A bike rack needs to be at least 80cm high to support the bike upright, with no stress on the wheels.
There need to be two points of contact with the frame so that parked bikes are less likely to shift. Racks need to permit the locking of the bike frame and at least one wheel with a U-lock. Rack tubes with a cross section larger than 5cm won’t work with smaller U-locks. It should be usable by a wide variety of sizes and types of bicycle. If children’s bikes are to be locked, an A frame rack with a lower bar is necessary.
Selecting a good installation surface and technique is key to creating bicycle parking that remains secure and attractive over time. The bike rack needs to be securely anchored with the right fasteners for the installation surface – consider non-standard nuts. Areas with high incidence of bicycle theft may justify specific security features such as specialty racks, tamper-proof hardware, or active surveillance.
Consider how long the bike is going to stay in the cycle rack
Is your cycle rack going to be used short term or long term?
Short-term bike parking is generally considered to be less than two hours. The emphasis is on ease and convenience.
It is usually unsheltered – though weather-protected parking makes using bikes a more viable option all year round. Best installed within view of a business entrance and easy to find and use. If the bike parking is too far away, cyclists tend to lock their bike to the closest object which may not be as suitable as a heavy duty bike rack.
For long-term bike parking the emphasis is on security and shelter. Bicycles are often left for long stretches of time and bike parking needs to be weather-protected for year-round use.
For instance, for a residential building or workplace, there needs to be the added protection of either an enclosure (shelters, bike rooms, lockers) or surveillance. Areas should also preferably be lighted.
With all cycle parking, the main thing to recognise is that though recommended layouts are well documented, they won’t work if installers don’t follow guidelines.
When bike parking isn’t good, cyclists lock their bikes to anything that seems secure, causing hazards for pedestrians and damage to fixtures. It’s worth taking the time to get bike parking right as good parking is always a win-win.
And though it’s OK to start small when specifying bike racks, be aware that demand always increases if quality parking appears.
Cycle parking resources
The International Bike Fund looks at cycling the world over and has this useful guide to bike parking:
Manufacturers of bike racks generally have good guides too. Here’s a couple we liked:
Then there’s Sustrans, with their reliably great resources:
And how about the Association for Pedestrians and Bicycle Professionals? Here’s their thoughts: