I live in a fantastic apartment complex in my home city of Rochester, New York. The maintenance staff is amazing, the rent is reasonable and aesthetically the place looks pretty nice. Sprawling lawns, great landscaping and big old trees make it all feel like home. My wife and I have no complaints about where we live.
Recently, an overflow in our designated storage area forced me to chain one of my 8 bikes to a disabled parking sign for about 10 days. I used this bike on and off, but I needed a temporary space to park my fixed gear bike until I could clear some space. The bike wasn’t blocking a sidewalk or interfering with any access or activity. In a complex that has more than 600 car parking spaces (I know because I went on Google Maps and counted) and not a bike rack to be found, I thought “what’s the harm in leaving a bike chained to a sign for a few weeks?”
Today I received the letter below under our door. I could see that this was sent to all the immediate residents in our complex, but clearly the offender was… well, me.
I get it. From the perspective of someone who doesn’t understand that biking is my primary mode of transportation, having a bike chained to a sign for 10 days probably seems like I’m simply using the complex’s infrastructure to store my crap. But when I look out on a sea of parking that takes up more space than our actual apartment buildings themselves, I can’t help but see the problematic irony with regard to this notice.
My apartment complex has over 111,000 square feet of dedicated car parking, not counting the on-street parking along the west side of the street on which we live. But apparently all it takes is one 20-pound bike chained to a sign, taking up less than 12 square feet, and half the complex receives a notice of contempt.
I’m not posting this to hate on my complex… we are very very happy here and I would still recommend living here to anyone. But this notice is yet another reminder of how blatantly we have accepted car culture’s impact and subsequently negated the relevance of any other mode of transportation. We accept the sea of 3,000+ pound monsters and persecute the 20-pound “villain” because of course this couldn’t possibly be someone’s preferred mode of mobility. Cars can park on sidewalks, in bike lanes and right of ways, but a tiny bike dares to tie up to a sign and all bets are off.
This is why we advocate, not only for better transportation infrastructure and priority, but for a more inclusive mindset. We must continue to build a world where multi-modal transportation is welcomed and accepted, not condemned. Only then will we avoid this level of generational, car-centric hypocrisy.