When the weather is warm enough, many people like to walk or bike to work or school every day, either to reduce carbon emissions from a car and reduce air pollution, or simply because they enjoy the exercise. A few adventurous souls travel by bike on vacation, bicycling across the United States, Europe, or Asia. The challenge is where to put your bike when you are not using it. Not all destinations have convenient bike racks. In a few cities, though, bicyclists are turning to self storage units to hold their bikes temporarily -- while they are at work or school, or while they spend the night in a hotel. Not only are self storage units more readily available than bike racks in some areas, but shoppers or travelers can leave parcels or luggage with the bikes in storage and know that their belongings will remain secure. Best of all, a bike can be contained in a very small storage unit.
Storing a bike in a small self storage unit is a new solution to the bike parking problem that has begun to arise in most major cities. In 2008, New York Times reporter Colin Moynihan wrote about a bicyclist who he said was the envy of most New York bicyclists: Carlos Martinez, who worked for an environmental group that allowed its employees to store bikes in a walk-in closet in their office. “It’s one less problem for me,” Martinez told Moynihan. “At least I know my vehicle is O.K., so I’m pretty sure I can get back home safely.” Moynihan described having a safe place to park a bike at work in New York City as “an urban amenity that ranks somewhere with having unfettered roof access or a key to a community garden.” In the two years since Moynihan wrote his article on biking parking problems, secure self storage facilities have become more widespread and easily available to commuters in large cities. Self storage may become the modern urban bicyclist’s solution to one of his or her biggest obstacles in getting to work: finding a place to park.
Here are a few of the places bicyclists are storing their bicycles around the world:
- New York City apartment residents have begun to tire of taking their bicycles up and down in an elevator to their apartments -- or worse yet, lugging a bicycle up and down several flights of stairs. But at the same time, bicycles are becoming more popular in New York now that bikes are allowed on the subway. The number of people commuting to work by bicycle in the Big Apple has increased by 45 percent over the last three years. Now that self storage facilities are becoming more available in the city, a few New Yorkers have begun to store their bikes in one storage unit near their workplace, and a different storage unit near their apartment buildings when they arrive at home. StorageDeluxe, which calls itself “New York City’s Walk-In Closet,” even offers tiny locker-sized storage compartments which can be rented for $1 per day. The mini-storage units can be used by shoppers to park a few shopping bags while they complete their errands, or to hold seasonal wardrobes, a few boxes, documents and records, or folding bikes.
- Gainesville, Florida, like many towns which are trying to be more environmentally-friendly, is renovating its Main Street and adding bike lanes. The project will be complete next summer. When it is, bicyclists may want to park their bicycles at Affordable Self Storage, which is located just south of Depot Avenue. Owner Pat Murnane told The Gainesville Guardian recently that the construction has left him with several vacant units.
- Legendary Self Storage of Frisco, Texas, noting that many Frisco residents do not have a garage or shed that they can use for bicycle storage, began offering mini-storage units, or small to extra large sports equipment storage units, to support families who just need space to hold the family bicycles. Legendary also offers mini-storage units that are sized for collections of tennis rackets, golf clubs, fishing rods and reels, skis, snowboards, skateboards, bats and balls, and in-line skates.
- Three bicyclists traveling by cycle through Spain wrote to Barcelona Tourist Guide about their experiences trying to find a place to store their bicycle boxes for a two week period. The tourists, who were American, said that they ended up storing the bike boxes at City Self Storage near the Barcelona airport. They paid 35 euros for two weeks of secure bicycle box storage. City Self Storage is located in Norway, Denmark, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Spain, Italy, and Poland.
- In Europe, some airports and train stations also offer bicycle storage. Seattle’s Sea-Tac airport has bicycle storage available for up to 60 days through Ken’s Baggage & Frozen Food Storage, which also provides copy and fax machines, a notary public, and rental carseats, strollers, and wheelchairs.
- In Japan, it is common for bicyclists to park their bicycles in a storage unit while they are working or shopping in downtown Tokyo. A robotic parking facility right outside Kasai Station contains enough storage platforms to hold 9400 bikes. Bicyclists have only to ride up the station, put the bike on a platform, and an automated system moves the entire platform to a storage berth. On the bicyclist’s return, the automated system will return the bike within 23 seconds. Bicyclists can pay 100 yen to park once, or buy a monthly pass for 1,800 yen.
If you are looking for a storage facility that has units which are just small enough to hold a bicycle, you may want to focus your search on facilities that say they offer both ordinary storage units and mini-storage units. A unit that is 4’ x 6’ x 4’ or 5’ x 5’ (two commonly available storage unit sizes) can easily hold a bicycle, while a smaller unit, such as a 3’ x 4’ x 4’ may be able to hold a folding bicycle. Another way to focus your search for a bicycle parking place is to obtain a map of the bike routes in your area. Often bike route maps also list area businesses that are near the bike route -- you may well find a self storage facility along the route that is in a location that would be convenient to your home or workplace. For example, AA Self Storage can be found on the bike route map for Granville County, North Carolina.
While temporary storage -- storage for just a few hours -- may be a more common need of bicyclists, a few other small vehicle travelers are taking advantage of self storage’s ability to provide secure parking as well. Most self storage facilities also offer storage units that are just the right size for an ATV, Segway, dirt bike, motorcycle, or snowmobile. For example, a 5’ x 10’ storage unit, which many facility owners say is their most popular size, is just the right size to park a motorcycle. Boat, car, and RV owners have been taking advantage of secure self storage parking facilities for decades -- now owners of small vehicles are beginning to see advantages to this system as well.
One last tip: if you are traveling by bicycle, many seasoned bicycle travelers recommend that you bring along an international cell phone and a GPS device. That way, if you need a temporary place to park, you can use GPS and a program such as Mapquest or Google Maps to find nearby storage facilities -- and you can use your phone to call them. If you plan to fly overseas with your bicycle, many cyclists recommend that you pack your bicycle for the flight in a bicycle box. However, bicycle travel cases are likely to earn you extra luggage charges.
Many cities are revamping their transportation infrastructure in order to become more bike-friendly and reduce congestion on streets. A few are setting up bike rental and bike sharing networks, so that tourists and city residents can bypass the bike storage problem entirely. Several cities worldwide are committed to offering bike storage inside major buildings, inside hotels, and inside workplaces. But in places where neither bike sharing networks nor secure indoor bike racks are available, self storage facilities provide a creative way for travelers to solve their parking problems.
AA Self Storage, Granville County, North Carolina.
Barcelona Self Storage. Tourist Guide Barcelona.
City Self Storage.
“Did you know: bicycle self storage.” The Big Yellow Self Storage Company Self Storage blog. July 27, 2009.
Ken’s Baggage & Frozen Food Storage.
Legendary Self Storage, Frisco, Texas.
Moynihan, Colin. “For city commuters, same old story for another vehicle: parking is scarce.” The New York Times. July 1, 2008.
StorageDeluxe, New York.
Storage Mart. “The most popular storage size.” Self Storage Blog.
“Store wars: the best bike storage solutions.” The Independent. June 27, 2010.
Swirko, Cindy. “Plenty left to do on Main Street.” The Gainesville Guardian. Sept. 2, 2010.