fitness

Biking Accessibility

A few years ago, my workplace started undergoing a major refit, including a completely renovated cycle parking area. Cycling was a popular option because there is extremely limited parking, and the bus schedule can best be described as “whimsical”.

The stated goal of my workplace was to encourage cycling as part of an effort to reduce greenhouse gases. To do that, we needed something much better than the old open area with bicycles crammed in higglety-pigglety.

Employees were consulted several times. At each of the sessions I participated in, someone raised the issue of accessibility and the importance of doing a GBA+ assessment. GBA+ is an analysis of gender, race and accessibility implications for a planned policy or activity. They are mandatory in my work. More importantly, they are welcomed as a way to help us identify both positive and negative impacts of what we propose to do, design strategies to avoid or mitigate the negative ones, and measure the results.

Based on the reaction of those leading the consultations, we were not confident that our concerns about the bike area design where registering, or that a GBA+ analysis would be done.

Fast forward past the pandemic and today I finally experienced the results of those consultations.

I bonked my head on the security gate as I struggled to keep my bike upright while swiping my ID card and then get through a weird combination of revolving door and bike gate. Fair enough; I do work in a place where security is a concern.

Then I got to the second set of doors and swiped again. The doors don’t open so I can walk my bike through; I need to pull them open with one hand, while trying to roll my bike through. Sure, that’s not much worse than getting my bike into its storage spot at home, but the work doors are much higher and heavier than my basement door, and it would have been easy to install an automatic door opener as the default.

Then a third door (more of the same) before finally arriving at the glory that is our new bike area. I am reasonably tall (5′ 8″) and fit. I have some upper body strength from swimming. I worked up more of a sweat trying to get my bike onto the lowest of the racks than I did cycling to work.

Row of bikes stored vertically. Mines is the blue and white CCM in the middle, about 4 inches off the ground.

There is no way that someone smaller or less fit that me could manage this. I felt ready to cry with frustration. After I finally got it in place, I noticed that some people had abandoned the racks altogether, and parked their bikes in the few free areas.

Bicycles parked in a row in an area mated by yellow paint.

So if I were a cyclist with a cargo bike, ebike, tricycle, trailer for my kids because I dropped them at daycare on the way, where would I park? Those with physical limitations would struggle with using the racks even if they could use a regular bicycle.

My building doesn’t need anything like the 8,000 bicycle spaces in this Utrecht, Netherlands parking garage, but it could certainly have used something like the system where bikes are rolled into place and then lifted up to various heights. Accessible and even more space efficient!

Two cyclists parks their bikes in the world’s largest bike parking garage in Utrecht, Netherlands, on Aug. 21, 2017. (Michael Kooren/Reuters)

2 thoughts on “Biking Accessibility

  1. Oof, that sounds like a fresh nightmare. It reminded me of the sorry excuse for a bike storage at my university accommodation during undergrad, which featured a revolving hanging bike storage situation which would start MOVING while you were trying to hang your bike. Needless to say, nobody used it and all the bikes were piled up around it.

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