Exactly what is secure bike parking?

Published by Lyn on 3 June 2013

Just what constitutes secure bike parking when you're on the road? We look at what's acceptable (and what's not). By Lynette Eyb.

Following my recent blog about how accommodation providers in France can make their hotel, B&B, gite or campsite cycle-friendly, I received a bunch of emails from (mostly) hotel managers who said they welcomed cyclists and could offer bike parking. Here's a brief summary of some of the emails:

1) "Guests can store their bikes on the balcony off their room."
2) "We have a shared driveway with the neighbours, and it has a locked gate. Cyclists can attach their bikes to the railings inside the driveway. Our cycling customers have never had a problem with this solution."
3) "We have had a few customers arriving by bike. We allow customers to lock their bikes in our private courtyard. However it is small in size so please understand if we say that the bikes may be unmanageable."

Coutyards? Balconies? To me, 'secure bike parking' has always meant the following:

a) Indoors: inside a locked shed, garage or car park; or in a utility room, luggage/storage room or laundry etc if stored inside the actual hotel;
b) If none of the above is possible, then cyclists should be able to lock their bikes in their rooms (therefore adequate access via lift should be available in multi-storey buildings);
c) for self-catering apartments and gites, where the presence of the bike impacts on no other guests, they should be allowed to be stored inside the gite/apartment (obviously on the proviso that they leave no dirt or other marks).

After I received the emails from the hotels, I was beginning to wonder if my criteria – used to decide if a place could be included in our cycle-friendly accommodation section – was too harsh. Are bedroom balconies acceptable? Is a locked courtyard OK if it's (relatively private/secluded? Is a terrace/communal space OK if there's something to lock securely to?

I got chatting to cycling writer Richard Peace about what he thought was an acceptable bike parking when you're on the road. While researching his two guidebooks, Cycling Southern France (UK, US) and Cycling Northern France (UK, US), Richard probably spent more nights in hotels, hostels and B&Bs across Fance than he cares to remember.

Here's what he said:

"I would say all three [examples used by the hotels] were acceptable if turning up on spec. But if you ask a question in advance, then a place that says they have 'secure' storage for bikes to get your booking should have exactly that (as per your criteria). My big problem is that when places say they have storage, it's often hard to get them to say exactly what they mean: it could just be left in a common part of the hotel with no actual storage. I've never had a problem doing this in practice, but keep doing it and you'll come a cropper one day.

"Also for writers of guides and websites, it can be difficult to know whether to accept what the hotels say. I find recommendations from personal experience and other cyclists en route are the best sources of info.

"Having said all that, I haven't ever had a problem finding anywhere. If I have been in a spot (getting dark, hotels thin on the ground, etc), I've often just made a booking, turned up on a bike and wheeled it into the place with a smiley, innocent expression on my face. Can't recommend this approach, though."

I cast my net wider. Here's what author and former auberge owner Julia Stagg had to say on the matter. And, via Twitter, here's what came back from three people who have between them spent an immeasurable number of days cycling in France.
Cycling Challenge


France on Two Wheels

Cycling Europe

OK, from all this, I've concluded that courtyards, balconies and terraces are OK if you turn up on spec (or if you're a bit desperate), but they can't really claim to have 'secure bike parking' or win an official 'bike-friendly' tag. On this basis, I'm sticking with my initial 3-point criteria to decided whether or note to include a hotel, B&B, etc in our bike-friendly listings.

However, exceptions can be made: the balcony of your own room, for instance, is undercover and private. While not indoors, it's still arguably a safe and secure solution.

What other exceptions should be made?

One of our readers, Elan Homer, recently emailed me a full list of the places he stayed as he cycled from Santander, over the Spanish border and up to Roscoff. On the list is one hotel that stored his bike "in the restaurant, on partial view to other guests, but restaurant locked at evening’s end". It's indoors. It's in the actual hotel. The room is locked each night. The bike can be locked to immovable objects. But it's not 100% isolated/private or out of public view. Is it still "safe and secure bike parking". Your thoughts welcome below ...

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