A popular local non-cycling publication called The New York Times is reporting that the 34th Street Partnership is attempting to create a bike parking lot in midtown Manhattan, which they want to make “the premier bike parking facility in the country.” (Of course, I didn’t know about the article until it was read to me by the Canadian anchorman on NY1. If you don’t have cable or don’t live in New York City, every morning a Canadian reads the newspaper out loud to us on TV, complete with accent. Seriously.) Such a lot already exists in Chicago, which would make this concept that city's second-greatest cultural export after Pizzeria Uno. Proponents of the lot cite the fact that secure bicycle parking will encourage more people to commute by bike. While that would be nice, I think that’s short-sighted. In fact, the long-term benefits for cycling are almost immeasurable. Here are just a few:
Fantastic Sponsorship Opportunity
According to the article, all they need to make this parking lot a reality is “a corporation willing to pay as much as $200,000 a year to sponsor the idea.” Big American bike companies easily spend that much putting their misshapen lumps of plastic under the lycra-clad posteriors of professional European cyclists with penchants for house music and ungodly faux-hawks. Certainly at least one of these companies might consider instead using that money to sponsor a parking garage, which would in turn help them put their cheaper misshapen lumps of Taiwanese aluminum under the Docker-clad posteriors of America’s commuters.
New Subculture Potential
Let’s face it—the messenger subculture is largely responsible for many of the trendiest aspects of urban cycling today, and it has dictated the bike choice, bag choice, clothing choice, and lock choice of an entire generation of riders. But with the Apocalypse looming and the whole thing getting a little tired, it’s inevitable that a new subculture will arise to supplant it. But what will that be? Frankly, I’m not sure that subculture exists--yet. Tall bikes, tandems, and recumbents are all too unwieldy, and it’s very difficult to picture the forces of gentrification emulating food delivery people. (Unless thermal food containers become the new messenger bag.) However, if these parking garages employ bike valets, this could give birth to a new segment of the service industry that is ripe for appropriation. Bike valets will be fleet of foot as well as swift on the bike, and their wardrobe will be just the right combination of functional, durable, and irreverent. Furthermore, just as alleycats are designed to replicate the working conditions of the messenger, "valetcats" (in which participants are handed tickets and must quickly find and return with a bike) will evoke all the excitement, risk and glamor of working in a bicycle parking garage. Indeed, handlebar tags are sure to become the new spoke card.
Life Imitating Art
Another upside of having valets is the potential for reenactment of the garage scene from “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” only with bicycles. Just imagine the potential for comedy when a truant teenager must reluctantly hand over his father’s vintage De Rosa to a salivating attendant. He’ll be pedaling frantically on the rollers later that day with the front wheel on backwards, wondering why the excess mileage isn’t coming off the handlebar-mounted computer.
Art Imitating Life Imitating Art
We’ve all been waiting for it, and now it can finally happen. That’s right: “Quicksilver II.” Having regained his fortune, Kevin Bacon (with the help of Paul Rodriguez and Jamie Gertz) opens a chain of bicycle parking garages. However, a cadre of drug smugglers is using the oversized downtubes and bottom bracket shells of today’s carbon fiber and aluminum bikes to move vast quantities of heroin and cocaine through the city, and they’re attempting to wrest the garage chain away from our protagonists as it is vital to their operation. You’ll thrill to high-speed bike chase after high-speed bike chase, and you’ll cry as Tiny (Louie Anderson) is shot to death in a gruesome ride-by shooting, but in the end you can count on Bacon and his pals to triumph.
Elevation of Cycling Culture in General
A number of people have pointed out that fixed-gear freestyling has a lot in common with artistic cycling. (Slightly fewer people have pointed out that it also has some things in common with autistic cycling.) In fact, most bar-spinning, stem-humping, leg-over-the-bars-like-an-elephant-trunk tricksters are essentially bicycling Barishnykovs and are little more than a sequined tutu away (if that) from being bike ballerinas. Certainly then we’re at most a decade away from fully choreographed displays of artistic cycling at Lincoln Center, and we can look forward to a time when the cultural elite of this city leave their rides with the bike valet so they can go and enjoy the bike ballet.