Face it, people are creatures of convenience. Although there are many righteous reasons to ride a bike, it’s the most convenient way to get around the isthmus. However, the simple inconvenience of storing a bike or accessing it are simple, yet powerful factors reducing the number of people who ride bikes. The City of Madison has added much public bike parking capacity, but at home you’re still on your own and for many apartment and condo dwellers, storing a bike is not so convenient.
As with most apartment dwellers, we make do: We can fit two bikes along each side of the wheel-bender rack out back, but that’s not protected from the elements and easy to lift along with a bike, so gets used for short-term parking. One bike is sometimes wedged at the bottom of the stairs. (We are the only ones using the 2nd floor stairway and it doesn’t block it). Another frequently gets parked on the small porch or next to it. Our touring bikes get stashed in the apartment. We love bikes, but not as much in the living room.
Within feet of our apartment building stands an empty shed. I asked the apartment management company several times if I could rent it, even if just for the winter. I was refused. It’s a pity, as is the sea of gravel parking where there should be lush green space and, ideally, a bike shed shared among neighbors.
Where I studied abroad in Germany, each dorm had a large bike shed that met the criteria for protection from precipitation and thieves. Hamburg, Germany even subsidizes the installation of shared bike sheds near apartment buildings.
It got me to thinking: Why not something like it in Madison? Could a single garage space be used by several cyclists who live in the vicinity? Could a business organize garage sharing for bikes? Well, these concepts don’t exactly fit the zoning code, but only because the code doesn’t specifically allow for them. If provisions can be made for bee-keeping and granny flats, why not communal bike sheds?