Jazz, Art, Tree-huggers, and Presidents
What do these things have in common?
They’ve all been made more accessible to me by a bike valet.
Never heard of a bike valet? Maybe you’ve heard of a bike corral. I prefer the former term for its French sound and connotation of fanciness, but basically it’s a secure area, in the midst of an unsecured area—a community festival or trade conference, for instance—where you can drop your bike off (and usually helmet too), pick it up later, and not worry about it in the mean time—free of charge! These glorious service areas are usually set up and staffed by noble and unpaid bike enthusiasts who park your bike for you and give you a ticket so you can retrieve it later.
I’ve been a bike valet beneficiary at a variety of events:
- President Obama’s inauguration in Washington, D.C., thanks to the Washington Area Bicyclist Association
- Penrod Art Fair in Indianapolis, Ind., compliments of Pedal & Park
- City Park Jazz in Denver, Colo.
- Green Festival in Washington, D.C., provided by College Park Bicycles and Mt. Airy Bicycles
From my experience, I can tell you that bike valets provide a variety of benefits to cyclists:
Bike parking at large events often involves searching a good while for a bike rack, wedging your bike into the last available spot, and contorting your body into a series of yoga poses around other people’s bikes to get your lock in place. With bike valet, you just grab your ticket and head off to join the festivities, confident in the knowledge that your bike is being loved and cared for just as you would do. At the end of the day, when other event-goers start the half-mile trek across the parking lot, you just stroll over to the little blue tent where, thanks to the efforts of a benevolent volunteer, your bike will appear in front of you, voila.
Bike valets bring the cycling community together. Even if it’s only for a few minutes during drop-off and pick-up, you get to see the faces of your cycling comrades. If you have a bit of time to linger, you
can meet and greet fellow alternative transportation supporters. Perhaps most importantly, you can spend a moment thanking the valet volunteers who make car-free transportation a more viable option.
You may never grace a red carpet, but coasting up to an event and having someone whisk your steed away makes you feel pretty glamorous, as anyone who’s used car valet can probably attest. You often get freebies, like stickers or bike gear, and sometimes you even get a pat on the back or word of congratulations for choosing to bike instead of drive. Bike valets make you feel special, like you you’re being rewarded for doing a good deed, which is true in a way.
Three cheers for bike valets and the generous volunteers who staff them!