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Aug 10 2005

Bad bike-rack etiquette

Swedes are seriously bike-crazy. They ride them everywhere year-round and in all kinds of weather. I have no hard numbers to base this on, but I honestly would not be surprised of there were two bikes for every person in the country. (Guilty!)

Naturally this proliferation of bicycles that are actually ridden for transportation necessitates convenient and secure places to park them. Malmö‘s Central Station is a shining example of the ingenuity Swedes can apply to this challenge…the city has actually built a huge floating cycle-parking area that sits in the canal adjacent to one end of the station.

The green bike-racks I use on the other end of the station are also cleverly designed. The spaces within the racks are staggered in such a way that every other slot is elevated about six inches to help keep handle bars from overlapping and getting tangled up. This allows more bikes to fit into the available space and supposedly make it easier to get them in and out of the slots.

I usually select one of the elevated slots since the handlebar ends on Ole Blue* hook a bit like ram’s horns, and then there’s my geeky but incredibly useful review mirror to think about. And because I arrive at the station so early, there’s always an elevated slot to park in and plenty of space around it to weave my lock cable through the bike-rack, front tire and the bike frame.

That’s not the case when I get back to Malmö in the evening, however. The racks are nearly always completely full and some days it can take a bit of gymnastics to get my bike out of them in spite of the very clever alternating elevations.

Tuesday was one of those days. Not only were the racks packed, but Ole Blue was hemmed in by a three-speed women’s bike that had a toddler seat on the back and a HUGE basket on the front, making it impossible to get my bike out of the adjacent slot. Upon closer inspection, I realized that the rider of the dorky basket-bike had actually lifted Ole Blue out of the elevated track and wedged the tire and front fork between the track and the metal bars in order to fit her’s into the rack.

So not only was my bike well and truly stuck…the front fork was scraped up from being wedged against the bars of the rack. And then, to add insult to injury, dorky bike-basket person didn’t even bother to lock her piece of shit bike to the rack she was obviously so hell-bent on parking in!**

Granted, it was a cheap bike and the combination of the huge front basket and the toddler seat probably did not push the street value up very much. But if you’re going to bother to move someone else’s bike (and damage it in the process) in order to jam your own bike in the rack, you should at least lock it TO the rack…that’s kind of the whole friggin’ point of parking it there!

Once I realized that this huge basket-on-wheels was not actually locked to the rack, I wrestled it out of its slot so that I could get access to Ole Blue. At that point I thought VERY seriously about moving it to another equally crowded rack so that the owner would get to spend 20 panicky minutes hunting for it, but I talked myself out of it at the last minute.

Five minutes into my ride home I noticed several spots of bike-chain grease on my pants that had not been there before the bike-rack incident, and I spent the next four kilometers cursing myself for being too damn nice. Later, when I relayed the story to Dr. Darling, she said she would have taken the extra cable and cheap padlock she always carries on her bike and locked the offending cycle to the rack so the owner would have had to use a pair of bolt-cutters to get it out. Talk about sweet revenge!

I’m quite honestly surprised and more than a little disturbed that my meek and mild-mannered Swede has such a devious side…and yet, I find it strangely attractive at the same time.

*My trusty old blue trek Antelope, as opposed to my new red Trek 7500FX.

**Many low-end bikes sold here come equipped with a small device on the back wheel that renders the bike un-ridable when it’s locked in place, but this will not prevent someone from picking the entire bike up and tossing it in the back of a truck.

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Feed my ego!

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