Monday, February 9, 2009

Time To Catch Up

Today I stumbled into a bicycle story I wrote nearly 10 years ago for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. It was about the Seattle Mariners baseball team creating a valet bicycle area at its stadium parking garage across the street from the M's ball park. The year, I repeat, is 1999. It gives you a sense of how Tampa is behind the times and behind the rest of the country when it comes to bicycling. Maybe the Rays can start a program like this at their St. Petersburg stadium?

Saturday, August 7, 1999
Section: News, Page: B1

It's the best parking deal in Seattle: Free valet service, a covered area and an attendant keeping a watchful eye.

It's Safeco Field's bicycle area in the ballpark's $33.5 million parking garage, a unique bike-parking zone where an attendant will assign your two-wheeler a number, escort the rig into a fenced-off cage and make sure it stays safe and dry.

``That's very cool," Seattle Mayor Paul Schell said. ``That's the best way to get to the game."

And here's the kicker - the bicycle-parking policy that works like a coat-check room, was literally the result of an accident.

Several days after the $517 million ballpark made its July 15 debut, a bicyclist rode into the area and smacked his head on a low-hanging concrete beam.

That prompted garage officials to scrap their initial policy of allowing fans to park their own bikes. Now an attendant places two-wheelers behind the fence, which has room for 165 bicycles.

``There is a likelihood that bicyclists would bonk themselves in the head," said M's spokeswoman Rebecca Hale. ``Now, a bicyclist gets a tag and has an attendant watch the bicycle."

Fans are allowed to lock their bikes, with the attendant carrying the immobilized ride to the rack, Hale said.

``I guess you can thank that fan for smacking his head into the concrete," quipped bicycle mechanic and M's fan Pete Reynard of North Seattle. Pedal power is seen as an advantage by many fans because of traffic congestion before and after games. It takes at least 45 minutes for cars to clear the ballpark's neighborhood, while a bicycle can zip away in just a few minutes.

But apparently, few fans who cycle to the games know about the free service.

On Wednesday, when the M's played the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, only about eight bikes were garaged, while about 20 were locked to an outdoor rack.

M's fan Lisa Collins, a two-wheeling political consultant from Madrona, wished she'd known about the parking service.

``I locked my bike to a parking meter way the heck down First Avenue. I heard people saying, `Where are the bike racks?' " said Collins.

``It was hard to unlock it amid the crowd of people walking on the sidewalk, and I'm sure the pedestrians didn't appreciate me getting in their way," she said. ``But it was counter-intuitive to think people can leave their bikes in a garage because garages are designed for automobiles."

David Krattli, assistant service manager at Gregg's Greenlake Cycle, liked that irony just fine.

``It would be a novelty having your bicycle valeted and knowing an attendant is watching over it," he said.

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