A bike parking victory in the workplace

By Charvak Karpe

The NYC Bikes in Buildings law guarantees a secure location for bikes in the work place.

Recently my office moved to One Boston Place, a CBRE owned property, from a location an Faneuil Hall, also owned by CBRE. Bikes were officially banned at my old office, but the policy wasn’t enforced. I’d wheel my bike into my office, while another tenant would keep hers in the women’s room.

The first time I tried bringing my bike to the office at One Boston, a security staff member stopped me. He said the building didn’t want to be liable if someone stole the bike, which didn’t make any sense to me. I asked him who set the policy, and he answered:

“There’s nothing you can say to [the building manager] that would change her mind.”

He said the rack outside was completely safe, and monitored by guards.

“If someone takes parts off my bike, we’ll have it on video, but I won’t have my parts,” I said.

“No, we’ll stop them while they do it,” he promised.

I looked up at the monitors above his desk.

“Nobody’s watching the rack now,” I said.

He told me that the camera was being monitored on another screen behind the desk, that I couldn’t see.

So, I bought an old beat up road bike and locked it outside.

A few weeks later, someone took the front wheel and security didn’t know about it until I reported it stolen later in the day. The guard on duty then told me that an entire bike had been stolen there a month before.

Thinking that I could maybe sue the building for guaranteeing the safety of my bike at the rack, lying about that safety, and then having it stolen while guards were supposedly watching, I figured I had a pretty good position to work from. I met the building management and listened to their concerns around bikes causing damage to the building. I presented the building management with information on the NYC Bikes in Buildings law and proposed the building charge a fee for permits to bring bikes in. That way, only people with nice bikes would bring them in, and it might assuage their paranoia about messengers and beater bikes. Also Bike Lids, a product I found that protects bikes from theft, might be secure, look much better, and serve tenants.  Considering that in the fall of 2002, One Boston Place completed a $6 million lobby renovation featuring polished green onyx, African cherry wood and mahogany, spending around $12,000 on dramatically improving the exterior appearance with some Bike Lids would be cheap and make a lot of sense since it would earn more LEED points. The building is up for LEED renewal in a couple years, and the existing rack was installed with the last LEED renewal, so my proposal may have some hope yet, but apparently they’re not chomping at the bit to install them.

The building manager said she appreciated my professional approach, agreed that bikes are the way of the future, took materials I had printed on the NYC law, but said she would have to check with the owners and couldn’t promise anything. I had an escalation plan floating around in my head that involved first suing the building for the stolen wheel and then bringing my bike in despite of the policy because the use of force continuum prevents the security staff from physically stopping me. The legal process for enforcing the building’s policy would be a hassle for them and either they would ignore the problem or they’d contact my company about the issue. Then it would be my company’s problem instead of mine because they would either have to fight the building policy or let me go (I can easily go work someplace else that better supports my lifestyle choices).

Several weeks later however, the building manager instituted a policy allowing bikes to use the freight elevator, just like in NYC. When I started bringing my bike in, the security guard who first told me I couldn’t bring my bike in the building high fived me with a smile and said, “the battle is won.”

I saw the head of security as I was leaving one night and he was very friendly, telling me how his friend was into racing bikes and was going to participate in the Mayor’s Cup race.  Everyone seemed happy with the outcome and showed no ill will towards bikes. A colleague of European origin agreed that it was absurd that bringing a bike in was even an issue and that I had to use the freight elevator instead of the passenger elevator. Like, do people in wheelchairs have to use the freight elevator too?

One problem that I encountered was that the freight elevator is unstaffed part of the evening and used for garbage disposal the rest of the night. That means I have to go downstairs, wait five minutes for the freight elevator, interrupt the trash disposal to go all the way back up and pick up the bike. Instead, I began using the passenger elevator to leave the building in the evening because most tenants leave before I do, but one night the building manager saw me and reiterated that I absolutely had to use the freight elevator. I’m a little surprised she didn’t pretend she didn’t see me instead. Using the freight elevator in the evening is an inconvenience. I’m still being treated unfairly, but I’ve won a little progress and I figure it may not be worth fighting until I really want to quit my job.

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Do you have a story about bike parking in your home, school or workplace? Please send it to the Bike Union at info@bostoncyclistsunion.org. We’re collecting stories for our indoor bike parking improvement campaign. Your story could help inspire a city ordinance or other action to correct the many problems we hear about.

1 comment to A bike parking victory in the workplace

  • Gary C

    Nicely achieved victory. I get queasy when people talk about suing to get things changed. In this case you were professional and got (mostly) the desired result. A perfect example of getting more bees with honey.

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