May I Take Your Bicycle?

Courtesy of bfick/Flickr Creative Commons

Step aside Porsche and Mercedes drivers. Valet parking is no longer just for sports car enthusiasts and highfliers. Restaurants, farmers markets, and festivals across the country are now offering the service to cyclists to encourage green transportation and healthy lifestyles.

“Any big outdoor event is a prime location for bike valets,” says Ryan Nuckel, development director for Transportation Alternatives, a New York City-based advocacy group that runs several free valet services throughout the city. “They are a very simple idea, easy to set up, and something really anyone can do. We have had great responses at our own events and cultural events where we set up services, weather depending, of course.”

I first heard about the service while relaxing with friends at Brooklyn Bridge Park’s Movies with a View nights in New York City. With designated bicycle lanes lining a growing portion of the city’s streets, green transit is gaining popularity, fast. If you look around, however, there are hardly any bike racks to lock up your precious two-wheeler. Plus, with an event that attracts hundreds of people every week, fences and telephone poles would get mighty crowded with chained up bicycles. Hence the valet parking. Ride from work or home, hand over your bicycle to one of the attendants, grab your ticket, and enjoy the movie. The service is free and extremely easy to use.

New York is not the first nor last to incorporate bike valets into event planning. Farmers markets from Carson City, Utah to Santa Monica, California have designated bicycle valet zones, often times with specialized “no parking” and “tow zone” signage and multiple reflective-vested attendants who quickly whisk your wheels away while you shop. Even President Obama’s inauguration had a bicycle docking station and, according to Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA), nearly 2040 people used the valet service.

A pioneer in bicycle valets, Robert Gregory, co-owner of Redbones, a popular BBQ restaurant in Somerville, Massachusetts, started his service back in 1996. Gregory, who is an avid mountain biker, noticed many cyclists were hesitant to leave their bikes on the street. His service provides free, locked, indoor space for bikes. Is it not just for diners either; Redbones provides all riders in the Davis Square community access to their bike valet.

Anything that gets people out of their cars, cutting their personal CO2 emissions, and exercising seems like a good idea to me. So pull out those Schwinns and Huffys and get riding.

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