Apple’s new Santa Monica store — beautiful for tourists, ugly for bikes

Bikes, skateboards, skates and cigarettes are banned from Santa Monica's popular Third Street Promenade.

Just because Santa Monica is officially bike friendly doesn’t mean everyone there is. Even the ones you’d think would get it.

For all its progress in recent years, there are still significant issues biking — and parking your bike — in L.A.’s city by the beach.

As Gary Kavanagh has pointed out, bicyclists are officially banned from riding on the sidewalk anywhere in Santa Monica. Yet other than a few new signs on 2nd Street apparently installed on a trial basis recently, and signs prohibiting bikes on the popular Third Street Promenade, there’s nothing to tell an uninformed rider coming in from another city that they can’t ride on the city’s sidewalks.

For instance, someone pedaling in from Venice, where riding on the sidewalk is legal, may not even know when he or she has crossed into Santa Monica, where it isn’t.

It’s a situation reminiscent of the infamous speed traps from the first part of the last century, where drivers might find themselves entering a small town with no city limits signs, and violating a speed limit that wasn’t even posted. And in some cases, may have been made up on the spot.

Despite the ban on bikes, Santa Monica offers secure bike racks on Promenade, almost always in use.

Santa Monica’s prohibition on sidewalk riding may be legitimate, and sort of available online, but without posting the law where two-wheeled out-of-town visitors are likely to see it, it seems to rest just this side of entrapment.

Hopefully, the signage installed on 2nd will prove successful, and be deployed throughout the city so bike riders can make an informed decision whether to observe the law, rather than unintentionally run afoul of a regulation they may not be aware of.

Although to be fair, Santa Monica isn’t the only area city that fails to inform riders they can’t ride on the sidewalk; West Hollywood is the only one I know that consistently offers signage indicating where sidewalk riding is banned.

Then there’s the question of where to park your bike when you get to your destination.

In that area, Santa Monica has made great strides in recent years, from the new bike corrals on Main Street to a proliferation of bike racks along the Promenade, where you’re welcome to park your bike as long as you don’t ride it.

While Gary Kavanagh is on a short hiatus, Ted Rogers and Juan Matute will cover the Santa Monica beat for Streetsblog. This column is supported by Bike Center and the Library Alehouse

Bikes are welcome across the street, but none in front of the gleaming new Apple store.

Another option is the city’s Bike Centers on 2nd and 4th Streets, where you can leave your bicycle securely protected inside as long and often as you want for $15 a month. And free yourself once and for all from the drudgery of carrying a heavy lock with you every time you ride, as long as you only ride to downtown Santa Monica.

Unfortunately, not everyone seems to get the message.

Take the new Apple Store on the Promenade.

Please.

It’s not that the new store isn’t beautiful. Graceful curves and gleaming glass entice tourists and locals alike to explore the company’s latest user-friendly technologies.

The only thing missing is bikes.

Unlike virtually every other store along the Promenade, the front of the Apple store is completely devoid of bikes, as well as the racks other businesses use to attract and accommodate their bike riding clients.

Apple offers a very polite way of saying park your bike where it won't mar our lovely facade.

Instead, they have a sign in the window informing cyclists they can hitch their rides in back of the building.

In the alley.

You can see where this is going.

Walking your bike back up and around the corner onto Santa Monica Blvd — because you can’t legally ride on the Promenade or the sidewalk — leads to an alley running the length of the block. And midway down, after making your way past the multitude of delivery trucks and squeezing past the cars squeezing their way past the trucks, you’ll find a handful of wall racks attached to the back of the building.

Probably empty.

In fact, despite visiting the site on three separate occasions, I’ve yet to see a single bike parked there. Even the store’s bike riding employees, assuming there are some, must park their bikes somewhere else when they come to work.

Nice racks, so why are they always empty?

The reasons for that seem pretty clear.

The four racks — yes, just four unattended racks for one of the most popular stores on the Promenade — require that you suspend your bike from one wheel, hanging down the wall, with a metal loop allowing you to secure your frame and the other wheel to the rack.

Which by my count leaves one wheel completely unprotected if you’re using a U-lock, as most riders do these days.

And in my experience, most bike owners prefer to find both wheels securely attached when they return to their rides.

Then there’s the other problem, which should be readily apparent to anyone who rides a bike. And doesn’t work for Apple, evidently.

It’s an alley.

The numerous bike racks on the Promenade offer the protection of being in plain sight, with countless  people passing by every hour. It would take a pretty brazen thief to think he could get away with it in full view, in broad daylight or brightly lighted night.

Why would anyone worry about leaving their bike here — especially after dark?

A bike rack in the alley, on the other hand, might as well be an engraved invitation to every thief in the area. Not to mention one offering the inherent risk of walking after dark through an alley filled with countless dumpsters, nooks, shadows and other assorted potential lurking points.

Granted, it’s a busy alley, as alleys go, and there are a few security cameras. But it would only take a modicum of patience to wait until the way is clear, whip out the bolt cutters, and roll off with a bike before anyone could respond.

Maybe your bike.

Leaving you to wish you’d locked it somewhere else. Or that you’d gone elsewhere to buy that new iPad Mini, as you glumly cart your all-too-briefly prized purchase home by foot or bus.

Which isn’t exactly what I’d call a good customer experience.

To their credit, I’m sure the designers of the Apple Store thought they were doing the right thing by providing any bike parking for their customers and employees, despite banishing them to the back to preserve the building’s clean architectural lines.

Contrast Apple's empty racks with the always busy bike racks in full view on the Promenade.

But as countless bike parking guidelines make clear, the key to installing successful bike parking is to place it where your customers want to leave their bikes — not where you want them to. Not to mention in a secure, clearly visible location where they feel comfortable leaving their bikes unattended.

In fact, LADOT recommends leaving your bike in an area frequented by foot traffic, preferably where it can be seen from inside, such as on the Promenade. Not in an unattended spot, in the back of the building, in an alley.

And on that count, Apple failed miserably.

Giving credit where it’s due, it was Richard Masoner of Cyclelicious and Bike Metro who originally called attention to Apple’s back alley bike parking problem.

  • Austin Brown

    Aren’t those bike racks at the promenade installed by the city of Santa Monica, and not by the businesses? The Apple store isn’t the only business without bike racks in front….

  • Anonymous

    I thought those ones out back were just for employees, assuming they entered via the back door. That sign wasn’t posted when I went in. Do the businesses have a say on where the racks go in the Promenade, or is that a city thing? No doubt a store like Apple has the ability to get the city to put them in.. but just wondering what the process is.

  • Anonymous

    Is there an email for corporate Apple where I can send a link to this story?

  • Anonymous

    Despite Apple’s slick image, they (like most of Silicon Valley) are really pretty typically corporate when it comes to this type of thing. Witness the many tech “campuses” (techie speak for “office park”) they keep building.

  • Joe B

    The other problem with wall racks, perhaps not apparent to the dedicated cyclist with an 18-lb carbon bike, is that many riders can’t lift their bike that high. Some riders have little upper-body strength; others are short; still others have 40-lb cruisers or grocery-getter bikes. Wall racks are a non-solution dreamed up by non-cyclists.

    Could somebody with good photoshop skills please demonstrate what wall racks for cars would look like? Perhaps then the drivers will realize how absurd they are.

  • Erik Griswold

    3rd Street Promenade?  

    Bicycles?

    Well, you know…

    http://youtu.be/T4-2NckEAGI

  • Maybe Gary or someone from Santa Monica Spoke can weigh in about that one. My understanding is that businesses can request bike racks in front of their building in SaMo, just as they can in other cities like L.A.; however, I’m not as well versed in Santa Monica policies as they are. 

    All I know for sure is that the Apple Store has no bike parking in front, and only racks I wouldn’t recommend in back. Now, if they wanted to install a fully staffed and monitored bike corral in the alley, that might be a different matter.

  • sour grapes

    Right.   I call bullsh*t on people who suggest there are ample bike racks up and down the Promenade.   There are bicycles locked to park benches and lamp posts and the occasional “staple” style bike rack.  Sure, Apple made a mistake putting racks in the alley but on the other hand there is no rack in front of Sephora, Abercrombie and Fitch, the movie theater, etc etc.  So you can go ahead and lambast Apple for their decision to put the rack in the alley but there are other businesses that haven’t made any effort at all.

  • Eric Weinstein

    Ummm I see that you write Biking in LA, not Biking in SM.

    The city of Santa Monica is in charge of the Promenade itself  (not the stores) and it’s bike racks. Also the parking structures across the alleys. Until recently the racks were all rather cool looking expensive stainless steel posts holding two bikes. Newer ones are standard rubber coated staples. Apple and the other stores have no particular say in what happens in front of their store on the Promenade. Everyone wants to find a way to make the allys nicer and more popular.

    Thus the bike racks are not out front, but on the back wall similar to where the car parking is. The current bike parking best practice is to park at the Bike Center (free in the same manner as the car parking structures) and walk down the promenade, where you might see something and buy it. Walking is good for you. OK, well, I usually ride the urban junker bike and just find a space somewhere, and lock it.

    The Apple store is (was) much too congested a space to think that one could take a bike inside.  This is brand new replacement store, and they could have made space for bike parking near the front. It will be outdated in three years, like all apple product, so maybe in the next one…

    Eric W

    PS: Riding on the sidewalk is a really unsafe and generally bad idea! Don’t, even if it’s allowed. Cars just seem to pop right out of driveways, and there is little chance they will see you before they hit you. Streets are for cycling!

  • Austin Brown

    I think Mr Weinstein did a pretty good job of saying what I was thinking, but I want to clarify a bit more.

    I think the fact they put up any bike racks at all is acknowledgement that there’s not enough bike parking around. It’s easy to chastise them for putting up shitty bike parking, but I don’t think most businesses know what good bike parking looks like.

    I know you’re pointing out the Apple store because it’s new, prominent, and easy to make an example of, but I think the problem lies with the city. There is a distinct lack of bike racks along the promenade. I just think you’re getting upset with the wrong people.

    And to fight your locking anecdote with one of my own, most bike owners I know don’t lock up both wheels. We use our U-Lock to lock up the front and the frame.

  • Anonymous

    It seems a little naive to suggest that Apple has no say in what happens in front of their store. Apple wouldn’t have built the new store there if they weren’t confident that they could get whatever concessions they needed. Apple is such an attractive tenant that most cities and landlords would bend over backward to get them.

  • JFW

    Most cities prohibit bike riding on sidewalks.  As drivers of automobiles must educated themselves on the rules of the road, so should bicyclists.

  • 29er

    had my 29er stolen while locked on the promenade. with a cop across the street. so yeah, pretty brazen. 

  • Steve Herbert

    While Apple may not have the racks, I think everyone is missing the obvious…that the nations largest secured indoor bike parking facility is located just a block or two away from the Apple store, with free valet parking.

    Admittedly not as convenient as parking in front of the store, but at least at parity with drivers who park in the same neighboring structures.  That’s in fact what I did when I had to go to the apple store just a week ago.

  • Steve Herbert

    And I see Eric said (in part) the same thing I just did.

  • Joe B

     If the Bike Center offers free secured bike parking, they should mention it on their website. Currently it says a membership is required at $15 per month.

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