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on a mission

October 2, 2010

20090813 orange-bike-rack, originally uploaded by Jym Dyer.

Perhaps you remember a post of mine from August in which I described my attempts at getting a bike rack installed outside of my favorite coffee shop. In brief: I had contacted my city hall and found out that a person must go through the business when making such a request. The business has to request a bike rack on behalf of its clients by contacting the city’s traffic engineer.

So I wrote this information down and presented it to the café’s owner. All he had to do was make that phone call for me. If you can’t tell from my frustrated set-up of this story – I’m still waiting on that phone call to be made. Since I contacted the owner, I have patronized the coffee shop about once weekly. Each time, I ask the owner whether he’s had a chance to call about the bike racks and each time he tells me ‘no’. He keeps saying he’ll get to it but I’m not so sure anymore.

This less than enthusiastic support from him makes me want to take my business elsewhere. However, this coffee shop is near campus and the beloved meeting sport of many professors and students and thus is always the suggested venue for informal gatherings and meetings with colleagues. Even if I didn’t want to visit it anymore, it would be difficult to avoid. And it would make me sad to cross it off my list since I enjoy the place itself and their delicious menu.

I am, however, very disappointed in the owner’s lack of cooperation. While he procrastinates and refuses to call, the weather is getting colder and the chance that work will be done to install a bike rack this year diminishes. And so, every time I show up at this café, I fight for a spot at the parking meters or at the one available pole. Sigh…

I’ve decided that waiting is a lost cause and I am moving on to Step Two of this mission. I was told that if the business refuses to cooperate, I can contact the city traffic engineer myself and submit my request in writing. I will do just that since it has been over a month and the owner still hasn’t called. Am I jumping the gun here or would you also consider that enough time spent waiting?

I don’t mind putting my request in writing for the city or doing what the owner himself might have been required to do, I just am disappointed that a place so thriving on campus business would so carelessly dismiss the requests of its patrons. Many students and professors use bikes to navigate this collage town of mine and there is never a shortage of bikes locked up outside of this particular coffee shop; the one tree, the only pole, and the parking meters are usually taken. What will it take to have a cheery bike rack join their ranks?

20 Comments leave one →
  1. Sister Helga permalink
    October 4, 2010 01:43

    I’d say go for it! Thje squaky wheel gets the oil. Plus, your bike is too beautiful to risk it being stolen. Tje worst thing they can say is no.

  2. October 4, 2010 02:10

    Personally, as long as your calling isn’t going to somehow cost the shop owner, I don’t think you’re jumping the gun. It seems logical that a city’s citizen might request such an amenity in any busy area. Go for it!

  3. October 4, 2010 03:13

    I’d go ahead and make the call to the city. Another thing you could do would be to get other patrons on your side. If you can get a dozen other folks to “randomly” go in a make a similar request the owner might get wise more quickly. I feel your pain though. I’m a rider in Alabama and it’s about as bad as it can get down here for bicycling!

    • October 4, 2010 12:15

      Niklas, I know, I think I need to start recruiting so that I’m not the only one making this demand.

  4. Aleksandra permalink
    October 4, 2010 12:21

    Well, I suppose that the place being so popular is exactly the reason why the owner procrastinates. He/she does not have to do anything special to make the customers happy, the place itsef is enough. You know the saying ‘If you want to have anything done, you have to do it yourself’. I would write the request and get the rack myself. Good luck :)

  5. October 4, 2010 13:21

    why don’t you harness the power of the joint’s popularity by asking some patrons that you may know to join you in the cause and petition the owner? the owner is much more likely to take it seriously when he realizes that a good chunk of his patrons are asking him for the same thing.

  6. October 4, 2010 13:37

    Sommervillebikes – when you say petition, do you mean an actual collection of signatures in writing or should I just ask people to please talk to him when in there to make this request?

    I think that a verbal request carries more weight but I don’t know how many people would feel comfortable asking to speak to the owner and asking something of him face to face. I think people would be more likely to sign something (more of a passive form of protest). But does a list of signatures have the same gravitas to it?

    I would love to hear how others might proceed. Collection of signatures? Verbal requests? Both?

    Thank you!

  7. October 4, 2010 14:29

    Hi, I would go on verbal requests. If you can persuade other people to ask the same at the owner I think it can work.

    Good luck!

  8. October 4, 2010 14:39

    I also recommend asking other patrons to verbally petition the owner of the cafe to get a bike rack. I’m sure many other coffee-drinking cyclists would love to support your cause. He still may not do it, at which point you can write the city yourself.

  9. Sr. Helga permalink
    October 4, 2010 17:16

    I think it would be more helpful if other cyclists speak to the owner of the cafe. And then you also collect signatures to send to the city. This way it is not only one person who wants it, but several.

    Is there a way to petition for bike lanes?

  10. Erin permalink
    October 4, 2010 17:59

    S — Keep on fighting the good fight! I don’t think you’re out of line to approach the city on your own, but I think you might want to give the shop owner a heads up about your plans. I would make it a friendly heads up, though — something to the tune of, “I know you are really busy, so I’m going to make a request to the city about the bike rack. You biking customers are looking forward to extra parking!”

    I also think your other readers are wise to suggest that you recruit support. There’s strength in numbers. Have you considered getting in touch with a reporter at your local newspaper to bring attention to the issue? As someone who used to work in NPs, I can tell you that journalists love good reader-generated, community-improvement stories.

    Good luck, and please keep us posted! :D

  11. DEDHED permalink
    October 4, 2010 19:23

    Having 25 years in municipal govt, I say contact them yourself. The other alternative is your Alderperson/councilperson. You are a constituent and VOTER. Nothing makes us jump faster than an ASR (aldermanic service request).

    The fact is if the city is installing these in the public ROW, not on private property, and if the business owner is in agreement there shouldn’t be a problem. Write up a letter sort of from you & business owner saying he agrees and take it into the business and have the owner sign it. He should be able to take the 2 seconds to do this. Then take it to the Engineer. If all else fails go to the alderman. The squeeky wheel does in fact get the grease.

    I know that a small business owner with a thriving establishment is often very busy and doesn’t want to get into the whole city hall run around over something that isn’t part of his core business. He probably gets enough from health, building inspectors etc. They try to stay off the city radar so to speak.

  12. October 4, 2010 23:04

    I wouldn’t hestitate to do it myself. You might also ask some of you fellow cyclists who patronize the shop to mention it to the owner and contact the city in support of the request. I work in City government and the squeaky wheel really does get the grease. Actually, I need to do the same thing myself. My favorite sushi shop does not have a bike rack and more and more cyclists are coming to that little shopping center and locking their bike to hand rails. New developments should be required to include them in their developments and provide racks that can accommodate a lot of bikes.

  13. October 5, 2010 17:34

    Good luck! It sounds like you’ve got your work cut out for you. And how cool that so many of your readers chipped in with experience-based advice! Nice :-)

  14. October 6, 2010 02:29

    I’m with Dedhed. City staff report to the elected officials, and elected officials report to you. Find out which of your elected officials are responsive to alternative transportation issues and go to them. That’s what we’ve done here in Nor Cal and it’s looking good for us to take it a step farther. We’re hopeful about getting a “bike corral” or two as depicted in this street films thing. With this approach you take a car parking space and make room for 10+ bikes. If you build it, they will ride.

    • October 6, 2010 12:13

      Neil and Dedhed – great ideas! I will look into this and see if I can’t make any progress that way!

  15. October 6, 2010 21:17

    The squeaky wheel gets the grease . . . go for it.

  16. October 8, 2010 00:39

    oh that is frustrating! i would not want to give them my business either… i would try to go directly to the traffic director at this point, but probably also continue to bug the shop owner!

  17. C. Anschutz permalink
    October 29, 2010 15:15

    Just stumbled upon your blog… love it.


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