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Valet Bike Parking

Valet Bike Parking is a great service to the community and advertising tool for community bike shops and advocacy organizations.

What is it?

Simply put, when attending an event instead of leaving your bike chaining up a post, you leave it with someone who is going to keep an eye on it. This not only ensures the safety of their bike, but it creates a centralized gathering point (aka social spot) for all the cyclists attending the event -- this encourages people to ride. The event itself benefits because to the decreased demand for car parking and the organization running the valet bike parking has great exposure to the local cycling population.

Liability

Chances are the people that would take the time to sue over a small scratch are not apt to use your service in the first place. Regardless, you should have insurance, and if the event has really high end bikes showing up, a waiver form never hurts.

Setting Up

Again, this is an opportunity to advertise what you do so make it look professional, safe, and informative.

Rope it off

With enough volunteers watching the bikes you don't really need a border. HOWEVER, it gives people piece of mind to see that their bike is in a protected area with borders. Use caution tape, or to be more environmentally friendly use a re-usable brightly colored nylon rope.

Keeping track of bikes: Raffle Tickets

Raffle Tickets

Raffle tickets are a cheap and easy way to do it. Buy a roll of 2,000 from Office Depot for under $8. For larger events buy different colors of raffle tickets where each section has its own color -- this makes bike retrieval much easier.

Instructions

  1. Tear off a pair of tickets.
  2. Give one raffle ticket to the bike owner (usually the one that says "Keep this Ticket").
  3. Wedge the other one in between the spokes. If they have radial spokes, aerowheels, or spokes that don't touch (high end wheels and old schwinns) just tape it to the frame or wedge them somewhere else like a brake hood.
  4. When they come back to retrieve their bike make sure the numbers match.

Pros

  • Inexpensive
  • Compact, less to carry.
  • Ideal at events where people are NOT drinking.
  • Requires little to no effort for volunteers to keep a count. If you keep track of the number on the first ticket, and subtract it from the number on the last ticket, you have a count of how many bikes you parked for the day!

Cons

  • People can lose raffle tickets because they are small.
  • Numbers are small and can be hard to see in the dark.
  • Not as professional looking.
  • Raffle tickets are not reusable.

Keeping track of bikes: Coat-check system

Wrist Band with Coat Tag

Coat-check system is a more polished version than raffle tickets, but also more expensive.

Order coat check numbers on the Internet: these are paired numbers printed on plastic disks with a hole in the top for placing on a coat hanger. Also get some plastic wrist coils from IDWholesaler. Put a number on each wrist coil, and use some sort of loop (we started with elastics) on the corresponding number. Attach the matching numbers together.

Instructions: Used / Unused Method

  1. Take a pair of numbers out of the "unused" bin or rack (by having a unused and used bin, we know at the end of the day how many bikes we parked).
  2. Give the wrist coil to the cyclist.
  3. Attach the matching number to the bike: with a loop or elastic you can clove hitch it to the handlebar.
  4. When they come back, verify the numbers match and give them their bike.
  5. Attach the two numbers together and dump in the used bin.
  6. When you've finished parking bikes, count either the used or unused bins to see how many bikes you parked. This may seem tedious, but it is important information for seeking funding or selling this service to other organizations.

NOTE: You must have more tags than you will need, if you have to reuse tags, it becomes hard to keep track of and will throw off the final count.

NOTE: It is also very helpful to have separate types of storage for used and unused tags, when things get crazy it helps with less error by a flustered volunteer.

Instructions: Sequential Method

  1. Keep the numbers in numerical order on a pole (a bicycle rim suits this purpose very well, and is an excellent way to recycle with a bicycle theme).
  2. Pass out the numbers in numerical order.
  3. As you have people return, put their numbers into a used bin.
  4. When you've finished, the last number on the pole or rim is the number of bikes you parked plus one.

Pros

  • Professional looking.
  • Tags are harder to lose -- since they are strapped to their wrist.
  • Ideal at events where people are drinking.
  • Easier to see and match larger numbers, especially in the dark.
  • Tags are reusable, eliminating waste.

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Quantities over 250 have to be custom made.
  • Bulkier, more to carry.
  • No replacements for single numbers, lost numbers can throw off counts permanently so they need to be accounted for.
  • Counts are more labor intensive.

Storing the Bikes

Trisport Canada Inc. uses this saw horse rack at their races
Feedback Sports PSS-80BT Portable Storage Stand
Bottom Bracket Type Display Stands
DIY Plywood and Conduit stands from the Ann Arbor Art Fair
close up of DIY Plywood and Conduit stands from the Ann Arbor Art Fair


  1. Build a tall saw horse out of either metal or wood and hang the bikes by their seats.
  2. Cycle-Safe has a professional version of a saw horse called the Bike-Check™ Portable Bicycle Parking System.
  3. Triathlon Bike Rack Two different versions of a rack that have bicylces hang by the saddle or handlebars. Used at many triathlons. The distinguishing feature of this rack is that the legs store inside the main beam. This makes for a very compact package for storage and transport.
  4. Feedback Sports (aka Ultimate) has a PSS-80BT Portable Storage Stand
  5. Pedal & Park published their tri-pod design online for bike racks.
  6. Use Bottom Bracket Type Display Stands. NOTE: These will not work with over-sized down tubes. Also, these should not be used with fixed gears, as it lifts the rear wheel off the ground, creating a hazard for children who like spinning wheels, and could catch their fingers in the drivetrain.
  7. Use kickstands. If you are parking bikes on grass, you might want to grab some small blocks of wood or crushed aluminum cans to put under the kickstands so the bikes don't fall over.
  8. Flip the bikes upside down or on their side. DO NOT FLIP OVER THE FOLLOWING:
    • Bikes with lights on handlebars
    • Bikes with computers on handlebars
    • Bikes where all the weight would be on the shifters.
    • Older road bikes where brake housing comes out of the top of the brake hood may damage the cable.
    • Children who grow with bikes in the house have a natural propensity to spin wheels. Since fixed gears create a hazard when the wheel is spun, it is not recommended that you flip these upside down either.

Types of Events

In addition to community participation and fundraising for our youth programs, we also provide valet bike parking as a means to employ select graduates of our programs. We are often contracted by other groups to do Valet Bike Parking for events that are expected to attract large numbers of cyclists. Frequently, we are able to employ a few youth for credit hours or a small hourly rate and a share of any tips collected.

Even trickle all day

This is more of your fair, farmers' market, or conference where people come and go all day long. There are no scheduled events, so people just come and go at their leisure.

This also means you need a steady supply of volunteers / staff to handle the steady flow of bikes.

Mass dropoff and pickup

This happens when an event starts and ends at certain times, like an outdoor concert.

For these events, you need lots of volunteers in the very beginning and at the very end, but not as many inbetween -- just enough to watch the bikes.

Valet Bike Parking Services

Active Transportation Alliance

They provide Valet Parking at many down town events through the summer, night time movie nights, food, cultural events, triathlons, and the end of family bike ride. Simple snow fencing, for the outside barrier, three staff, metal racks for 500 bikes, and paper claim tickets for the patrons and their bikes, a repair stand if you want to get fancy.

Bike Pittsburgh

A service that Bike Pittsburgh offers for large events is Valet Bicycle Parking. As any event organizer knows, finding a place to put all the cars is a difficult and expensive task, to say the least. So why not encourage people to ride their bicycles to the event? Not only does it relieve the parking crunch, traffic and associated costs, it lowers pollution and adds a “greening” element to the event.

The Bike Root

The Bike Root in Calgary, AB provides bike valet parking at the weekly market in Hillhurst-Sunnyside. Two saw horses are currently used to store bicycles. Laminated, reusable tags of varying colours and images which are used to make finding a bike easier. There are two copies of each, one is given to the patron and the other is clipped to his or her bike. A donation jar is also commonly provided for those that have change to spare and has been fairly successful usually working out to an average of $1 per bike.

Wrenching

The Hillhurst-Sunnyside market holds a 'car free' day once a year and on this day the Bike Root has provided basic tune-ups for free. Two portable stands were brought in along with a basic tool-set. For more complicated issues the bike owner was directed to the Bike Root.

Community Cycles

Community Cycles in Boulder, CO provides weekly small scale valet bicycle parking for our local Farmers' Market, and several large events per year, including one overnight event where bikes are parked near the finish line the night before a 10k run, kept secure by volunteers, and returned to race participants/spectators once they finish the race.

Neighborhood Bike Works

In addition to community participation and fundraising for our youth programs, we also provide valet bike parking as a means to employ select graduates of our programs. We are often contracted by other groups to do Valet Bike Parking for events that are expected to attract large numbers of cyclists. Frequently, we are able to employ a few youth for credit hours or a small hourly rate and a share of any tips collected.

Ohio City Bicycle Co-op

This is one of our most effective outreach avenues. We charge event organizers for the service, and provide as much extra service to users as time allows: safety checks, oil and air, helmet fit, where to ride, etc. Our outline of this service is here:[1]

Pedal & Park, Indianapolis, Indiana

We just completed our 11th year of parking bikes with a sponsor, whose support allows us to make the service free. We are all-volunteer, with workers coming from two bicycling organizations, one greenways group and the city parks department, as well as from many of the events we serve. In 2011, we parked a little more than 5,000 bikes at 27 events and have parked more than 28,000 bikes over the life of the program.

We use numbered wristbands with perforated numbered stubs. We tape the stubs to the bikes and put the wristbands on the people. A lost wristband is VERY rare. We also ask people to sign in on a liability form, leaving a cell number where we can reach them. The form also includes optional demographics/marketing checkboxes and the option to sign up for email newsletters. You may download the 2011 form as a Word document or as a PDF file.

For years, we have used racks that are pipes suspended between 2-x-4 tripods. You may download the plans as a Word document or as a PDF file.

in 2011, we used savings and locally-sourced grants to purchase manufactured racks from Cycle-Safe in Michigan, as well as an enclosed trailer to store and transport the racks and our other equipment. We are working on a "bike corral kit" program to allow events to rent and check out equipment to stage their own events.

Pedal & Park web site

Recycle-A-Bike

They have done this for bike auctions and other fundraisers and public events.

Salt Lake City Bicycle Collective

Does this for downtown Salt Lake City events such as the Downtown Farmers' Market and the Twilight Concert Series. In the summer of 2008 they parked over 5,500 bikes.

San Francisco Bicycle Coalition

They do this all the time at major events, and have lots of answers for anyone interested in setting up a bike parking program at your location.

San Luis Obispo County Bicycle Coalition

Operated by the San Luis Obispo County Bicycle Coalition. Offered weekly (about 50 weeks per year) at the Thursday night San Luis Obispo Farmers' Market. Parking is free and operates using a coat-check like system and has parked over 15,000 bikes since its inception in 20xx when the Tour of California passed through San Luis Obispo. The service is available for hire at local events.

The Toronto Cyclists Union

The Toronto Cyclists Union can provide valet bicycle parking on demand.

Urban Bike Project of Wilmington

We have and will continue to do so. Big race in Wilmington last year, we parked about 200 bikes...It was a bit of a mess (most of these bikes parked in a half hour immediately following a bike parade) but our first time and plenty to be learned from the experience.