Bicycle-Unfriendly Businesses?

Cody G sent in the following tale:

I know many cyclists out there already avoid Wal-mart for the terrible things they are doing to the world and our neighborhoods, but times are tough and sometimes you find yourself trapped into having to go to their vision center because you don’t have vision insurance. I rode to my appointment this morning as I do not have a car and commute 250+ miles a week by bicycle. Upon arriving I noticed they didn’t have any bike racks or anywhere to lock up a bike so I proceeded by visiting the garden center to ask if I could leave my bike by some empty shelves in the corner. Of course the answer was “no, and it has to go outside of the gates.” with no further explanation. I thought why not try Customer Service? Upon arriving to the counter I asked if I could place my bicycle out of the way by the edge of the counter during my eye exam I received a “no, its against policy.” I explained that there was nowhere else to lock up a bike; their response was to [lock it to] a pole outside that all you had to do was lift the bike over the pole to steal it. I explained I wasn’t comfortable with that as I have no other forms of transportation — I quickly received another “no.” I asked to speak with a manager for an opportunity to give me a solution in which she had none and told me I had to leave and could not keep my bike in the store for “liability purposes” from a store that sells bicycles and lets kids roll around with Heelys. No one offered any solutions, no one offered to help, they had no options for cyclists and told me to lock it up at Best Buy. Apparently you need a car or ride the bus to shop at Wal-marts.

I’m sure many of you have experienced similar situations…and God help us if we try to go through bank or restaurant drive-thrus on a bicycle! I don’t think these places actively discriminate against cyclists, but it sure feels that way sometimes. Mostly, folks just don’t get it: “why would you ride a bike instead of drive a car?” and those store policies reflect this ignorance and shortsightedness.

One suggestion I had was to file a complaint with the store manager, or even the corporate headquarters, of any business that doesn’t offer some type of bicycle-friendly amenities. Obviously, not EVERY store can offer such a thing as a secure bike rack, but surely any place (grocery stores, big-box retailers) that has two acres of parking lot can set aside some space, right?

Offering a solution as part of the complaint is always a good tactic, too. Simply relating the incident and then suggesting a “fix” such as adjusting store policies, providing input on a suitable rack location, or offering to meet with and speak with management can work wonders. This way, you’re not just some cranky nut but someone who might be able to offer a real solution!

Also, we can vote with our wallets — shopping at stores who offer reasonable solutions like bike racks or no-questions-asked “bikes-inside” policies and shunning those stores who refuse to help accomodate transportation modes other than cars. Let those “bad stores” know exactly why you won’t be shopping there anymore (and that you’ve told all your cycling buddies about the situation) and see how fast solutions might pop up!

We’re interested to hear if any of you have had run-ins with bike-unfriendly shops in your areas. If so, how did you handle the situation? Any success stories to share?

About the author

Bicycle commuter since 1989, bicycle enthusiast for 30+ years. I am a Bookmobile/Books By Mail librarian at a large library system and the proud father of two wonderful boys.