10 inches of clearance

Dear Walgreen’s facility manager,

How do I lock a bike to your rack when there’s only 10 inches between the bike rack and the wall?


Your Faithful Customer.

Those are kids bikes with 24 inch diameter wheels, and the riders had to angle their wheels to jam them in far enough to run a lock through their front wheels.

Walgreens bike parking

Wave racks like this are sucky anyway, but installing them 10 inches from the wall like this makes them useless unless you lock the bike parallel to the rack. Parking parallel takes away from the number of usable bike spaces here. I’m not sure a bike could even fit on the backside of this rack against the wall.

This is at the Walgreen’s store on Soquel Avenue, Santa Cruz, California.

Santa Cruz city code specifies bike racks “must not be placed close enough to a wall or other obstruction so as to make use difficult.” I don’t know the history of this code, and it’s possible that this building predates the current code. This pharmacy has a drive through, and Santa Cruz’s restrictive drive-through ordinance goes back about 20 years.


  1. Wave racks are one of the better styles when installed correctly.  Maybe you are just spoiled out there in CA.  🙂

  2. That’s not a wave rack, that’s an overstyled one-sided U-rack.  😉   The Specialized bike in that photo is using the rack as intended by the installer.
    These racks are apparently supposed to be installed flush against a wall or hedge, because that’s how I always see them installed.

    Instead of the usual U-rack with one bike on each side, this overstyled one-sided U-rack is intended to park two bikes on the same side, back to back.

    For bonus points, it appears this rack was installed as far as possible from the store entrance.

  3. Waves are common around here too. I prefer simple staple racks.  Parking meters and signposts are usable too, though parking meters are becoming harder to find with central paystations for street parking.

  4.  I disagree, no disrespect intended.  They take up so much space and only have two good parking/locking spots (the ends) and two or three marginal ones (the “saddles”) which are usually frustrating because in order to put my U-lock where I want it, my rear tire ends up ON the saddle and I have to hold the bike up there until I get the lock secured.  The spaces under the arches are useless unless you only want to lock up your front or rear wheel.

    Individual inverted “U”s (single arches) are so much better (when placed far enough from walls and curbs!); I wish architects and city planning types would get the message on this one

  5. To put a U-lock through your rear triangle, how else are you supposed to do it?

  6. The Walgreens rack is most likely owned by the company and on private property, so they are under no obligation to abide by the city’s standard for placement, unfortunately. City code only applies to city-owned racks on public property.

    I deal with this all the time where I live, and it often happens when the folks responsible for installation never use bike racks themselves. In some cases once the business owner is informed they will take responsibility and relocate the rack. If you haven’t already I recommend sending a courteous note, perhaps including a reference to the specific city guidance regarding installation.

  7. I respectfully disagree as well. If just one part of a wave rack is damaged the whole thing has to be trashed, whereas if three inverted-U racks are installed instead and one gets damaged the others are still useable.

    Also, an inverted-U rack gives the bike 2 points of contact so that it is much more stable when resting. Very useful when dealing with a bike loaded up with groceries or whatnot. The wave rack offers just 1 point of contact for each bike, which is why you often see bikes falling all over each other in them.

    My favorite style rack right now is the inverted-U with a galvanized, squared tube and a “no scratch” coating”. Those things last forever, are easy to install, fairly cheap, and really theft-resistant!

  8. • Same chain in Alameda, same issue. There’s an Office DepotMax in S.F. set.yp like this ad well.

  9. Calm down folks. I never said wave racks are the best, or perfect. Still better than “dish racks”.

  10. Wow, that’s a low bar.  😉

    In this case, it’s a wash.  With a dish rack, there’s usually a sturdy frame at each end that works with a U-lock, so you can securely lock two bikes to it.  That’s the same capacity as the wave rack in the photo.

    What I really want is on-demand bike lockers.  In the Bay Area we have bikelink.org which is mostly at transit stations.  A new Target near me has some lockers that work with a padlock, but the hole is too small to fit the U-lock I already have with me.

  11. Looks like you have the rear wheel attached to the rack but not the frame. Do you have locking skewers on your wheels to ensure that the frame is still there when you get back, or use some other kind of anti-theft tech to discourage tampering?

  12. Ok, now you’ve got me thinking about how somebody might go about removing a dish rack with the bikes still attached.

    Guidelines for good for bike parking are no secret: http://www.apbp.org/?page=Publications .  Yet even at brand new shopping centers, I often end up improvising with the signposts for the disabled parking spaces, rather than use the bike rack that was hidden in some out-of-the-way corner.

  13. What Mike wrote — lock inside the rear triangle = secure bike.

    This one gets a lot of people. I should make a video showing why this works.

  14. Rumor is there are thieves with trucks who will take the entire rack and then remove bikes at their leisure later on.  Can’t be too common, I think, because otherwise Darwinian selection suggests  we won’t see those unsecured racks anymore, right?

  15. That’s a good trick but wouldn’t work for my bike which has the carbon seat stays bottled to the aluminum frame (Specialized Sequoia). Unusual I know, but worth noting.

    I also wouldn’t put it past the thieves in my neighborhood to trash the wheel just to get to the frame, given enough time.

  16. “trashing the wheel” is another video on my TODO list.  The conventional wisdom says cutting a bicycle wheel is as difficult as cutting a lock. I’d like to test that theory.

     I know of bike thefts that have occurred using the “Sheldon” method with a Krypto Mini just like I use, but the ones I’ve heard about are bikes locked overnight outdoors. Cutting a wheel or a mini U likely takes longer than the quick in-and-out I did at Walgreens.

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