One of the obstacles to more people cycling is really simple -- there aren't places to secure your bike. The city of Long Beach has installed hundreds of bike racks all over the city, and it open to putting up more where there's an identified need from businesses or cyclists. But this only works where a bike rack or two on the street does the trick, which is usually when we're dealing with smaller storefront businesses.
But the biggest non-work-commute trips that people make in their cars, the one that is usually well less than 2 miles each way, the one that could easily be made by bike, aren't trips to cafes and vintage clothing stores and other little storefronts served by bike racks the city can put out. The biggest trips are grocery store visits. And grocery store parking isn't a need that's best met by the city putting up racks on the sidewalk -- the grocery store is usually situated far away from the street. Bike parking needs to be in the form of racks or something similar that are close to the front doors of the supermarket. And the supermarket has to put them up and maintain them.
I am doing a survey of supermarkets in my area of Long Beach, looking for bike parking. Does the supermarket have racks? How many spaces? Does that seem to meet the need during busy hours? The idea is to get a feel for what the average supermarket is doing, first, and then to encourage supermarkets to put down more bike parking.
So far, I've seen some interesting things. Most supermarkets have racks, but often the racks are placed off to the dark, poorly lit side of the storefront, far from the doors. This is important because if the area isn't well-lit, people wont' feel as safe parking there leaving their bike there. And some supermarkets with no racks seem oblivious to how many people bike to the store.
The Superior market on Long Beach Blvd and 10th has no racks, but when I went there a couple nights ago, around 6pm, I counted 6 bikes parked there... they were secured to the shopping cart corral, because that was the only secure piece of thick metal available. The supermarket had recognized this was happening, because they had posted a sign outside in English in the corral area, saying no bike parking. But they hadn't figured out that they needed to provide a bike rack.
And the Ralphs at 4th, which I go to at least weekly via bike, HAS racks, but only space for four bikes. One of the spaces is unusable because the metal is bent together, so it prevents getting bike tires in. And during busy hours after work, there are more than 4 bikes at a time parked there. Plus, the rack is by the door the market closes when it's late. So if you visit Ralphs late at night, you are securing your bike on the side of the store that isn't getting as much foot traffic and is darker... it doesn't feel as safe as the other side. In fact, I've seen people just park their bikes without securing them by the door that IS used at night, rather than secure them by the locked door side.
And Trader Joes at 2nd and PCH - no bike racks. I can't believe it, and I must be wrong and need to go slowly through the whole area and see if I missed them, but I tend to avoid TJs now when on bike and actually go to Whole Foods across the street, because, although they are too expensive and irritating, they HAVE A PLACE TO LOCK BIKES.
Anyway. It's a silly, small thing, in a way, but it's really interesting, and I hope to get info that I can then use to get supermarkets to think of cyclists and do things to accomodate them.