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

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.


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.

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