Trail Ramblings: The Best Bike Racks Are Simple- A Guest Post by Sarah Knight

I was talking to fellow bike commuter and usual BicycLincoln blogger Janine lately about bike parking, lamenting the fact that so many items sold to well-meaning business owners as “bike racks” appear to have been designed by people who have never parked a bicycle – when the best racks are often the simplest. I wondered aloud why more people don’t know about this, and that’s how I volunteered myself to be a guest blogger.

If you’re a business owner interested in adding bike parking, you already know the value of inviting people to arrive by bike. We bike folks appreciate you, and we want to reward your efforts by filling your bike parking spots as a group ride stop, making your business a stop on a bike errand, and choosing your business over others where it’s harder to park. We want you to succeed in having good bike parking. If you already have racks and have heard suggestions for improvement from people who ride bikes, we see your good intent and want to help you be an even better biking destination. 

Saro Cider embraces their location on the N Street Cycle Track, and my bike group takes note. 

I have good news: It’s really simple to choose good racks. This is the style. And when the City of Lincoln has racks available – as it does right now – these racks can be professionally installed for free. Just apply on the City’s Complete Streets page:

And if you want to know more about what makes a bike rack good, read on! The more of these criteria your racks have, the better.

I ride to Canopy Street Market to get snacks when I don’t even need snacks, because it’s pleasant to park there. (Image from Google Street View)


It supports a bike.

One reason that the u-shaped racks work so well is that they contact bike frames at not one, but two, spots. Fully-supported bikes look nicer when parked and help us avoid bent wheels and frame damage.

It allows for proper locking.

The type of rack that holds a bike by its wheel is nearly impossible to successfully lock to. Here’s why: Bike wheels are easy to remove, so someone who wants to keep as much of their bike as possible needs to lock at least through the frame. If we’d like to keep either or both of our wheels, it’s a good idea to catch those in a lock, too. The beefier a lock is, the heavier it is, so we prefer shorter/smaller locks like u-locks or short, heavy chains. The frame contact points on the u-style racks make perfect locking points for short, sturdy locks. There also needs to be a sturdy loop shape in the rack, so the locked bike can’t just be lifted off. 

It’s solidly attached to the ground.

It doesn’t do much good to lock to a rack that isn’t even attached. Bike thieves have been known to take entire racks, bikes and all. And, for that matter, if bolts are accessible to thieves and easy to remove, they will remove the bolts to take the rack. Security nuts are a great option.

There’s enough space.

Even the best racks, if they’re too close to each other or too close to a wall, are unusable. It’s better to have a few truly good parking spots than the appearance of many spots. There are technical guidelines out there with spacing suggestions, but know that adults’ bicycles are at least six feet long and the handlebars can be almost 3 feet wide. Think about how a bicycle will sit in the rack, and if it helps to visualize it, grab a bike and put it in the spot. 

There are eyes on the bikes.

Bikes are very stealable, and many of us who ride them have been victims of bike thieves (or know someone who has). The best spots allow people to glance out and see their own bikes, they are close to the main doors, and they have lots of foot traffic, good lighting, and maybe even cameras. 

There’s protection from weather.

This is more of a “nice to have” than an essential, but if you have a good spot that also happens to have a cover over it to protect parked bikes from rain and snow, that’s a bonus.

More Resources

Bike Lincoln: Plan Your Trip (web map) – zoom in to see Lincoln bike rack locations; click on a bike rack icon to see more details about each one.

Shifter: Bad bike racks are suppressing bike friendliness in our cities. It’s time to improve bike parking. (YouTube)

Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals: Essentials of Bike Parking (PDF)

Guest Author Bio

Sarah Knight is a former BicycLincoln board member (2016-2019) and has been a member of the Lincoln Mayor’s Pedestrian Bicycle Advisory Committee since 2021. She has been riding bikes for transportation for 15+ years and commuting year-round by bike for 10+ years. 

3 thoughts on “Trail Ramblings: The Best Bike Racks Are Simple- A Guest Post by Sarah Knight

  1. Steven

    Thanks, Sarah, for explaining this clearly and simply. There are a lot of poorly designed bike racks out there.

  2. Emily

    Man, if I could be in charge of things around Lincoln I would just make this a mandatory thing for all businesses within X feet of the main bike trails. Imagine what you could do with 1-2 parking spaces filled up with bike parking at all of these locations. Not only would it encourage people running errands while biking, you’d only give up minimal space for car parking.

    • Janine Copple Post author

      Yes, and the city has bike racks available for businesses, they just need to request them, and they go on city property.

Comments are closed.