Bike Repair Racks and Other Ways to Make SoCal More Bike Friendly

David Murphy is President of Angelenos Against Gridlock (, Twitter: @EndingGridlock). 

Lately, thanks to years of hard work by groups like the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition and an increasing cadre of bike-friendly elected officials and staffers, it seems like SoCal is edging towards being a more bike-friendly place. But there’s still much to be done as we work towards this extremely important goal.

Self Service Bike Repair Stations

But in the meantime, and for places throughout Los Angeles where the density may not make staffed bike repair shops practical, these self service bike repair racks make a lot of sense.

Lately, self service bike repair stations — racks with repair tools and an air pump attached — have been sprouting up in enlightened communities around the world, from Brisbane, Australia to UCLA. If you’ve ever found yourself stranded with an easily fixable broken down bike but no tools or supplies, you’ll appreciate what a huge difference something like this would make. I found myself stranded in Century City when I got a flat tire and didn’t have anything with me to repair it. It ended up taking an hour round trip to inch along on a bus in gridlocked traffic to get over to one of the closest bike shops, in Westwood, because there were no bike repair shops in Century City.  Some day, perhaps a Century City developer will build a full, staffed bike center similar to Santa Monica’s awesome Bike Center.

Indeed, JMB Realty Corporations’s website for its planned new Century City Center skyscraper talks about having a mobility hub that would, among other things, “rent or store bikes”, and we encouraged them to take a look at Santa Monica’s Bike Center as they flesh out what their plans would look like.)

Daily Bruin article last fall noted UCLA has installed a repair rack and plans more, and quoted a grad student who loves being able to easily fill up a tire that’s low on air. Cities around the world from Hoboken, N.J. to Brisbane, Australia, have started installing racks, too.

But Minneapolis (named “Best Bicycling City” by Bicycling magazine in 2010) has done one better — it’s installed a bike repair station plus a vending machine selling tire tubes at a transit station. Wired’s Gadget Lab blog says it is so useful that “there should be one in every transit station.” (Imagine if every LA Metro rail station had these!)

Imagine if in Los Angeles, these bike repair racks started popping up in office and residential skyscrapers, in business districts (thanks to BIDs and TMOs), at transit stations, and along major bike routes.

Safety: the Ultimate Amenity

But who cares about flat tires if you’re worried about being flattened by a driver who runs you over! Bike safety improvements are the ultimate bike amenity. While bike infrastructure improvements such as those inspired by the Netherlands, perhaps the ultimate example when it comes to being bike friendly, are critical for improving bike safety, driver education plays a role, too.  While the DMV Drivers Handbook happily does call for drivers to give three feet clearance when passing bicyclists (regardless of last year’s SB 910 “Three Foot Passing Law” fight), who knows what kind of education existing drivers got on safe driving around bicycles — and who knows what they remember, anyway. Efforts to remind drivers about safe driving around bicylists are important. Santa Monica’s Big Blue Bus deserves credit for having run ad public service ad campaigns on its buses:

Photo: Jonathan Weiss

It’d be great to see more transit agencies and transportation departments step up their driver education efforts. Biker education is extremely important, but since physics means that drivers pose the greater threat (be it in an eco-friendly Nissan LEAF  or a two ton monster SUV), drivers need to be reminded to do their part, too. (Mayor Villaraigosa, whose arm was famously broken while biking after a taxi cut him off, might want to see his cabbie “friends” receive flyers similar to these!)


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