Wednesday, April 14, 2010
Here come the cyclists - "Call for Backup!"
If you ever find yourself craving a lecture on private property, a charge of trespassing, a threat of physical force, a claim to your property, and a complete insult to your intelligence, hop on a bicycle and ride over to the Museum Square building on Wilshire Blvd. Enter the parking lot on the west side of the property and try to lock up your bike. For some reason, the simple sight of a cyclist at this "professionally" managed building is enough to inflame the sensibilities of those in charge, sending the property manager and security guards into combat mode, calling for reinforcements and applying the "bicycle boot" to the offending bikes.
To be fair, this behavior is hardly unique to the Museum Square property, and is actually so prevalent that it leaves one wondering if the first day of Security 101 training consists of "Whatever you do, make sure you harass the cyclists. If you don't, they might feel welcome and then they'll come back. That will be the beginning of the end."
Our most significant "standoffs" with security have occurred when we arrived on bikes at the Harmony Gold Theater, the Arco Plaza, the Dorothy Chandler, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science, Raleigh Studios, the City of LA's Marvin Braude Constituent Services Center, locations where the bike racks were either full, insufficient or broken, or simply non-existent. The "standoff" typically results when uniformed (tempted to write uninformed but that would more appropriately apply to the property manager) security forces anticipate our desire to secure our bikes in a safe location and block our efforts with threat of seizure.
At Harmony we brokered a truce, at Arco we acquiesced, at the Dorothy Chandler we simply ignored, at the Academy we folded, at Raleigh we cooperated, at Braude we prevailed. At the Museum Square, they have twice applied the "bicycle boot" requiring an appeal to the management for the release of the offending bicycle. (This "punishment" is also reported at Hollywood & Highland and at Westfield - Fashion Square)
Through it all, we discovered that a follow-up call to those who have a financial stake in the operation of the building or facility typically prompts an apology and an acknowledgement that their in-security forces were inappropriately zealous. This "reversal" usually follows the discovery that their staff are threatening to seize personal property and that the City of Los Angeles actually has a Municipal Code that dictates the minimum amount, the structural type, and the location of mandatory bike parking. It at this point in the conversation that some crafty property managers point out that their building is of such age that surely the muni code wouldn't apply. (Mr. John Cotter of Museum Square smugly applied this exemption) Of course, the recent building permits for the recent remodels/improvements require them to bring the facility up to code and this leaves their Certificate of Occupancy in jeopardy, a condition that does not bode well for their job security.
1) Safe, secure, and effective bike parking is simply smart. It efficiently reduces the need to accommodate motor vehicles. A simple bike corral (convert a car parking space into a protected bike parking space) will hold a dozen bikes, easily a wise trade-off and yet somehow unfathomable to those who sit and stare at parking facilities and ponder "How can I squeeze another motor vehicle into this vast wasteland of car parking?" Are the people who hassle cyclists aware that many of these facilities are also engaged in Transportation Demand Management strategies that will reduce the number of vehicle trips generated and purportedly encourage pedestrians, cyclists, mass transit passengers? Effective Bike Parking is the simple beginning of a TDM program. Aggressive and threatening behavior is the best way to kill a TDM program.
Property Managers - encourage cyclists by installing and maintaining effective bike parking.
2) There are standards for bike parking. First, "Location, Location, Location!" Second, visibility and space. Third, bike rack design. All three count, two out of three results in stolen bikes. It is imperative that the property managers engage professionals and demonstrate a simple commitment to excellence. Treat your guests and employees and patrons with a little respect, the same respect that your guards demand, and install bike parking that works. It's cheaper to do it correctly and it's so easy to demonstrate your professionalism by hiring professionals.
Property Managers - respect cyclists by providing quality bike racks in an appropriate location.
3) Bad bike racks encourage crime. The "broken windows" theory of crime prevention holds that simple and small signs send a message to criminals that an environment is either a good target or a bad target for crime. Broken bike racks, stripped bikes, racks in bad locations, seclusion and isolation are all salt licks for criminals. The Arco Towers were recently in the news as the location of a serial bike thief who spent several days stealing bikes from the same location. The bike racks are isolated, they are wheel-bender racks, they are poorly located. Based on results, often harsh but always fair, the property manager of the Arco Towers has known since last year that there was a problem but it just wasn't a priority.
Property Managers - protect cyclists by discouraging criminal activity on your property.
4) Community Policing is everybody's responsibility. Criminals look for soft targets and crime in LA is down in most categories but bike thefts are up 29% in LA, 57% in the Downtown area. Why? Because it's so easy. Because the bikes are a commodity. Because stolen bikes translate into quick cash and there is little risk of getting challenged or caught. LAPD Senior Lead Officers typically make the rounds of homeowner associations, community groups and neighborhood councils, maintaining relationships, giving updates, encouraging community policing and offering advice. Invariably, the SLO will advise the audience to remove valuables and lock their cars, depriving potential thieves of any target. Never have I heard them give any advice on how or where to lock a bike. Yet, this is the crime that is skyrocketing in Los Angeles.
Property Managers -partner with cyclists and make safety and security a priority.
Most of all, consider this; what's good for cyclists is good for the community. Improve the quality of life in your neighborhood by installing a decent bike rack and by treating cyclists with respect. Everybody benefits!
From the Los Angeles Municipal Code: (LAMC 12.21-A. 16)
16. Bicycle Parking and Shower Facilities. (Added by Ord. No. 167,409, Eff. 12/19/91.) Off-street parking spaces for bicycles and facilities for employee showers and lockers shall be provided as follows:
(a) In the C and M zones, for any building, portion thereof or addition thereto used for non-residential purposes which contains a floor area in excess of 10,000 square feet, bicycle parking spaces shall be provided at the rate of two percent of the number of automobile parking spaces required by this section for such non-residential uses; provided, however, that at least one bicycle parking space shall be provided for any such building having a floor area in excess of 10,000 square feet of non-residential use. If the calculation of the number of required spaces under this paragraph results in a number including a fraction, the next highest whole number shall be the number of spaces required.
(b) The bicycle parking space requirements in Paragraph (a) shall also apply to any building, regardless of zone, owned by the City of Los Angeles and used by the City for government purposes which contains a floor area in excess of 10,000 square feet.
(c) All bicycle parking spaces required by this Subdivision shall include a stationary parking device which adequately supports the bicycle. In addition, at least half of the bicycle parking spaces shall include a stationary parking device which securely locks the bicycle without the use of a user-supplied cable or chain. Devices which hold the bicycle upright by wheel contact must hold at least 180 degrees of wheel arc.
(d) Each bicycle parking space shall be a minimum of two feet in width and six feet in length and shall have a minimum of six feet of overhead clearance.
(e) Bicycle parking spaces shall be located no farther than the distance from a main entrance of the building to the nearest off-street automobile parking space.
(f) Bicycle parking spaces shall be separated from automobile parking spaces or aisles by a wall, fence, or curb or by at least five feet of open space marked to prohibit parking.
(g) Aisles providing access to bicycle parking spaces shall be at least five feet in width.
(h) Signage which is clearly legible upon approach to every automobile entrance to the parking facility shall be displayed indicating the availability and location of bicycle parking.
(i) Showers and lockers shall be provided as required by Section 91.6307 of this Code. (Amended by Ord. No. 177,103, Eff. 12/18/05.)