Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Sunset Valley parking (or the lack thereof)

Seth and I recently purchased a couple of inexpensive bikes complete with a bike rack and panniers on Craig's List to ride around town and not worry about the bikes being stolen. Each of us have invested significantly on our beloved mountain bikes and have been a bit paranoid about using them as our sole transportation. What if someone cut the lock and stole them. It happens - one only has to peruse the posts on Craig's List to back up that claim. We would be devastated. Worse, we simply cannot afford to replace them with similar bikes. We would have to start all over again. Hence the purchase of the cheap bikes. If you will recall, I posted earlier about riding around San Antonio tracking our marathon running friends. It was our first ride on the bikes and it was wonderful riding and throwing our bikes down without constantly checking to see if they were still there. Now on to the reason for this post.

A few days ago, I was driving around my local neighborhood mega shopping center and freeway interchanges trying to map out a way to ride our bikes to and from our house on simple errands. I mapped out a course for the farmer's market which of course happens on the busiest shopping day of the week. And we must travel through the biggest shopping area in South Austin - Sunset Valley - to reach the farmer's market. It will not be an easy ride as there is a lot of traffic congestion that is reticent of mega shopping areas especially now with all the Christmas shopping. Let me give you a visual of our "neighborhood". We live in an apartment complex off at the interchange of South Mopac/290 West/Southwest Parkway and have to cross Mopac/290 or utilize the North Mopac turnaround by going against the traffic to reach a parking lot and sidewalks that will lead to the other shopping centers or we can go with traffic and use turning lanes and hope to God someone doesn't rear end us. As scary as it sounds, I think we can manage by using the turnaround. At first blush, it seems like the easiet ie safest route. There's also some question as to bike parking at the market which I didn't think was that big of an issue until I made it a point to start looking for bike parking. It's an issue.

I began this impromptu search while stopping for a sandwich at the Chik Fil A next to the Walmart on 290. I noticed immediately that Chik Fil A had a bike rack which I thought was interesting. Kudos to Chik Fil A. As you can see, there was plenty of parking available (note sarcasm) although if you've ever been to a Chik Fil A, you know how trafficky it is. There's usually a parking lot full of cars waiting in the drive thru. It could be a little tricky. This pic was taken on a weekday at about 3pm. There wasn't many ppl out. Saturdays ARE CRAZY and I guarantee you there will be ZERO bikes parked at the rack come Saturday.

After finishing my sandwich, I drove on over to Walmart to look for a place to lock up a bike. There was zero bike racks and really nowhere to chain up a bike near the entrance. One possible solution is to chain up a bike on the buggy returns. However, when considering how people "return" their buggies or park next to the return, I don't know if that's a good idea.

I then ventured further down 290 toward Brodie Lane where I stop often at Starbucks, TJ Maxx and Academy Sports. There were zero bike racks however there were a couple of bikes locked up on a handrail outside the Bed Bath & Beyond. Whoops.

Afterwards, I headed to HEB on Brodie Lane for some grocery shopping and ta da! There was an impressive amount of bike parking. Fancy bike parking near the entrance! A fancy contraption that has a cable you can use with your own lock. HEB is my new favorite.

Still, I can't help but wonder who makes the decision about having bike parking at shopping centers. And why did Chik Fil A have one? Seems strange considering its location in a not so bike friendly area without bike lanes. I am planning to write each management company in my neighborhood requesting dedicated bike parking and maybe even a bike lane within their center's parking lot or bike/pedestrian crossings. Most likely, it won't do any good, but then again, it might.