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04/24/08
Meanwhile, Closer to Home
Filed under: general
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 10:31 pm

It’s part of the requirement that when you live in California, you must visit a Whole Foods once at least every 7 days.  This keeps a significant amount of the currency flowing and active in the economy, as opposed to quietly gaining interest.  I follow this requirement by periodically buying a sandwich and an Odwalla from them during my lunch break. 

Historically, the local Whole Foods have had a squiggle-tube bike rack right out front, so you lock up in a visible area, where theoretically you can even keep half an eye on your ride as you shop (sandwiches and Odwallas being close to the front of the store). 

However this week, things changed. As I rolled to the front of the store, much to my suprise, the bike rack was gone.  After a bit of glancing around, I noticed a laminated sign telling me that the bike racks had been moved to the other parking lot. As there was nothing solid to lock to at the old location, I couldn’t flout the rules, and so eased back through the breezeway to find the newly christened parking oasis - a facility that Whole Foods must have put a lot of thought and concern into planning, being as how they are so oriented to low-impact solutions and such an integral part of the current green revolution.

Whole Foods Faulty Rack Placement

Or, maybe not.

The first thing you might notice is the bike-and-a-half tall wall that separates the west parking lot from the main lot and entrance to the store.  Nothing better than a nice visual curtain to let a bike molester work behind.  It’s also quite well located away from foot traffic moving between the lot and the store.  Presumably, anyone legit or otherwise can have a very private moment or two in this location.   But, wait!  There’s more…

Whole Foods Rack Debacle

Now, I like squiggle-tube racks.  They are hard to compromise, easy to use and look kinda Dr. Suessian.  But, they do have an implied mode of use. Specifically, the bikes are supposed to be inserted perpendicular to the rack. When the rack - this specific rack design - was in its original location, you could fit three bikes in easily, and another two with a little bit of trickery. Everyone I ever saw use them tended to put the bike through it so that the vertical bar of the rack was more or less near the seat tube. This will be difficult to achieve in this location, without ending up with the strong scent of rosemary on your gear. As it was, I ended up with this solution:
Parallel is the New Perpendicular
Which no doubt makes it reasonably problematic for the passeneger in the  car that parks there.  And it kinda messes it up for the next cyclist who arrives. In short, it’s really a flippin’ stupid choice by Whole Foods to poorly execute a flawed concept.

Now I do understand that space is important for your typical retailer. And I do understand that it’s even more so at this high traffic location. I’m sure having the bike rack in front of the store was a possible obstruction.  But - it was an obstruction because it was typically being used! 

Why not take one of the front lot parking spots - how about the one in the corner, with easy visibility to a number of people - you know, the one that always bottlenecks the rest of the traffic when someone tries to exit from it?  - yeah.  That one.  Why not take that one, put a couple of concrete corner bumpers and locate the bike racks there? Y’know, so it would appear that you are trying to encourage non-motorized patronage. 

Just a thought (yeah, a cranky thought)…

6 Responses to “Meanwhile, Closer to Home”

  1. Carlos D Says:
    I would print this page and take it to the store manager. They need to be aware this is a bad solution to a simple problem. Moving those racks is not that hard/expensive. I bet most riders feel the same way you do.
  2. gordonzola Says:
    hahaha!
  3. beth h Says:
    Better yet, print the photos with a polite letter of explanation saying something to the effect of, “Please put the bike rack back in a more sensible location, so I can park safely at your store and shop there.” Or something like that. Suggest better locations for the rack. Be polite and informative, but clear.

    I took this approach at two different stores over a five-month period two summers ago. Of course, I got a bunch of my bike buddies to follow suit. Both stores received letters from bike-riding shoppers. Here’s what happened:

    Store 1: Did not reply to my letter. Multiple requests to speak with management politely but firmly rebuffed. I gave the name and address of the business to the local bike advocacy organization for follow-up. They got nowhere either, and highly effective word-of-mouth has gotten around that this is NOT a bike-friendly business. I don’t shop there anymore, and neither do quite a lot of other bicycle riders I know.

    Store 2: Did not reply to my letter. Management would not meet with me until I asked a second time. Conversation was polite and informative, but nothing was promised by management. Further requests over the next six weeks were ignored by store management. I gave the bike advocacy group the name and address of the store. The following week, I got a call from store management saying that they would move the bike rack back to its original location but that they did not appreciate my “playing hardball” with them. Apparently they’d heard about Store 1 and the advocacy organization’s word-of-mouth campaign, and had gotten direct calls from the organization as well. Whatever. I live in Biketown and stores here need to get wise to just how many customers they’d turn away with little or no bike parking at their establishments. So go ahead, make a [polite] little stink. And keep us posted.
  4. Tarik Says:
    Bummer, our local (45 miles away in santa fe) whole foods has a pretty good bike rack system that has only gotten better over the years. Whole foods used to be really responses to the suggestion box, posting replies to suggestions on a bulletin board. I would start there and talk to the manager, usually they are pretty good about reasonable requests. They get their share of conspiracy theory tin foil beanie wearing organic nutzos accusing them of genocide if they happen to stop carrying some product they like. The whole foods in Oakland was great for the wingnut crunchy set. “you stopped carrying organic monkey pellets, the ones you carry now causes severe rashes in both my monkey and child, I would hope that you understand you are killing your customers, buying into the agrobusiness complex and supporting the death of thousands of below minimum wage monkey pellet makers, die you capitalist scum”. So politely worded stuff with a name and way to contact you goes really far in comparison. Corporate types like complaints with actionable items in them. So make it clear what you don’t like, but how they can make it better… If that fails I am with beth, get Joe Breeze and the Marin Bike coalition on them. Bwa ha ha ha ha!
  5. Rick R. Says:
    My wife Gina had a similar experience with Whole Foods, which resulted in an article (http://www.bicyclefixation.com/bikeparking1.html) and eventually our Bike Rack Contest (http://www.bicyclefixation.com/rackhunt_results.html). I have had stores put in a bike rack after just one suggestion (this was a Safeway), but our local Whole Foods I think still doesn’t have decent parking.

    They need to hear they’re losing business because of their obstinacy. Most businesses won’t do it to help the world, only to help themselves. Whole Foods, for all its faux-progressive image, is just another union-busting, asphalt-spreading supermarket at its core. Can you spell “greenwash”?

    Our local Trader Joes did recently install a bike rack.
  6. Rob M Says:
    At the stores down here in San Diego area, Trader Joes, Henry’s, Home Depot, and others . . . haven’t tried at a Whole Foods; I just walk right in with my bike. I usually ask the first time if there’s a manager-type desk close to the door and haven’t been turned down yet. A bike is no larger than a shopping cart and the wheels no dirtier. I use my Quickbeam with an Adams Bag usually once or twice a week for a shopping run to Trader Joe’s (60 mi round trip). There’s a much closer Trader Joe’s, but I like the longer ride and the return with a loaded bike over the coastal hills is a good workout. The Trader Joe’s people always greet me and ask how how my ride is and enter me into the weekly contest for not using a disposable bag.