Monday, February 23, 2015

Parking problems

This isn't funny anymore. This white stuff is everywhere and while roads and even (surprisingly) some bike paths are plowed quite well, the amount of snow this winter created a new kind of problem for me - with a place to park. To park a bicycle, that is. Not a car.

Bike advocates (myself included) like to point out the obvious fact that there is simply not enough space in the city to accommodate everyone's personal car (i.e. one per person). This makes other solutions such as public transportation or bicycles much more suitable in congested residential or commercial zones. Well, this winter I realized that there are exceptions to this rule but these seem to exists only because of our car-centric city planning.

What gets plowed first in winter? City streets. What gets low priority for snow removal? Sidewalks and bike paths (They become snow storage in winter months). And everyone follows this pattern, at least in my area. Everyone is expected to drive, roads are cleared of snow and parking lots too. Sidewalks - not so much (or not at all), so if you need to go to the store two blocks away you better drive there. Weird.

I know that I'm a bit of a weirdo, since in my building with hundreds of employees I'm the only person riding a bicycle to work, year round. This obviously means that clearing out the snow from the bike rack at the front door gets lowest possible priority from our maintenance crew. It simply never happens. The rack got buried in the snow a month ago, after the first blizzard and hasn't been cleaned up ever since. Facing this problem, I had to find another place to park my bike. The railing at the unused back door worked fine for the next few weeks but after the last weekend's snow storm, it got buried in the snow as well. I'm slowly running out of options. Since the beginning of the last week I've had to lock my bike to another railing at the loading dock.
This how NOT to lock your bike but believe me, I had no choice.

Meanwhile, everyone else who drives can enjoy a snow-free parking lot. You may say that my example is isolated because in downtown Boston the situation is probably quite the opposite. Huge snow banks resulted in reduced parking spaces on street and while you can chain your bike to any lamp post, you can't do the same with your car.
This is how you park your bike in Boston this winter.

However, this would be largely avoidable if you didn't have to drive into the city at all. The problem is, most public transportation systems in United States are slower and less efficient than driving your own car and most Americans who could bike to work, won't, because they picture cycling as sport, exclusively.

Fortunately, as of yesterday the white stuff seems to be melting slowly. By the end of this week I might start seeing the top of the bike rack at my workplace again.

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