The Ultimate Arlington Grocery Store Bike Parking Guide

Photos and text by guest author Brian McEntee,Tales From The Sharrows and Tim Kelley, BikeArlington.

As cycling continues its transition from recreational activity towards more utilitarian purposes, localities, including Arlington, are working to build and expand their bicycle infrastructure. Bike lanes, bicycle boulevards and cycle tracks are all seen as ways to encourage cycling as a means of transportation, especially for short and medium distances in an urban environment. While these enhancements are important, there’s an additional concern for the utility cyclist: adequate bicycle parking. Encouragement to take short trips to the store by bike is pointless if there is not anywhere to lock up when you head in to pick up your groceries. Securing a bike to a signpost or fence should be something thought of as a last resort and not an action demanded from a paying customer. And yet even a quick survey of bicycle parking facilities at some of the larger Arlington grocery stores reveals a mixed bag for utility cyclists, ranging from ample covered parking close to the main entrance, to inferior and poorly placed racks to a lack of bike parking entirely.

Before detailing the bike parking available at local grocery stores, it’s important to review the best practices for the installation of bike parking. The Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals (APBP) has released guidelines and recommendations for bike parking, including the best types of racks to employ and where to place them in relation to the building. The APBP advocates for bike racks that allow the frame of the bike to rest against the rack in two places (to prevent the bike from falling over) and that the rack also allows the user to attach the bike with a u-lock through the front or back wheel and the frame of the bicycle as this method of locking is considerably more secure than using a cable lock or only locking either the wheel or the frame. Inverted U-racks and post and loop racks meet these criteria and are suggested, whereas ‘wave’, ‘comb’ and ‘toast’ racks are not recommended. As far as rack placement is concerned, the APBP suggested that the bike parking area be within 50 feet of the main entrance and be clearly visible from the main approach a bicyclist would use to get to the store. 

Map of Grocery Store Locations in Arlington:


View Arlington County Grocery Stores Reviewed for Bike Parking in a larger map.

Sixteen grocery stores in Arlington County were surveyed to assess their bike parking (both bike parking provided by the store and bike parking facilities placed by the County) in terms of quantity, quality (type of rack) and location (proximity to entrance).  Each store is rated on a scale of 0 to 5 "gold bikes" with 0 gold bikes being worst and 5 gold bikes being perfect. Those three categories scores are added up and averaged for an overall score.  Below is a brief summary and photos of the bike parking available at each location:

Highest Possible Score: 5 Bikes

Lowest Possible Score: Zero


Food Star - 950 S George Mason Dr, 22204

 
Quantity Rating: 1
Quality Rating: 4
Proximity Rating: 1
Overall Score:

There is one rack along George Mason Drive, on the grass, down the hill and across the parking lot from the store.  There are some decorative metal barriers in front of the store that are also used for parking.


Glebe Market - 300 N Glebe Rd, 22203

 
Quantity Rating: 3
Quality Rating: 4
Proximity Rating: 4
Overall Score: 3.66
 

There are three decorative racks, at the corner of the parking lot, next to the handicapped parking spaces. Much like Whole Foods, there are some metal barriers in front of the store that can also used for parking, but aren't "official" parking.


Giant - 3115 Lee Highway, VA 22201

 

Quantity Rating: 3
Quality Rating: 3
Proximity Rating: 4
 
Overall Score: 3.33   

The store shares a wave rack with the bicycle shop next door. The lack of space between the rack makes locking the frame of the bicycle to the rack nearly impossible. In order to access the rack, one must ride across the parking lot, which can be hazardous. Note the poorly locked bicycle.  


Giant - 2501 9th Road South, 22204

 

Quantity Rating: 4
Quality Rating: 4
Proximity Rating: 4
Overall Score:

Inverted u-racks on the streets surrounding the store. No bike parking near the store’s entrance, but some bicyclists had their bikes locked to the railing. There is ample bicycle parking in the parking garage, accessible from the 9th Street N Entrance. There are additional racks on the sidewalk near the entrance to the parking garage. 


Giant - 2901-11 S. Glebe Rd, 22206

 

Quantity Rating: 2
Quality Rating: 1
Proximity Rating: 5
Overall Score: 2.66 

A rack too close to the wall of the store to be useful or properly secure a bicycle. It is also uncovered, exposing bicycles to the elements.


Giant - 3450 Washington Blvd, 22201

 

Quantity Rating: 2
Quality Rating: 2
Proximity Rating: 5
Overall Score:

A comb rack close to the store. Too close. One could only hope to lock up the bicycle’s front wheel as there is a mere foot between the rack and the store. One inverted u-rack can be found off the store grounds along Washington Boulevard. 


Harris Teeter - 4250 Campbell Ave, 22206

 

Quantity Rating: 3
Quality Rating: 2
Proximity Rating: 4
Overall Score:

Another rack too close to the wall. This one was full of bikes. However, many of them had been vandalized, which hardly inspires confidence for the potential shopper who arrived by bike. Also, vandalized bicycles are immobilized and, when left in place by the owner or the store, take up space and prevent use of the rack by other bicyclists. The rack is in the parking garage, close to the entrance of the store.


Harris Teeter - 600 North Glebe Rd, 22203

Quantity Rating: 3
Quality Rating: 2
Proximity Rating: 3
Overall Score: 2.66 

A rack on the back side of the store by the broken shopping carts and propane tanks. I’m not entirely sure how one is even supposed to use this rack. You can lift your bike and put its pedals between the smaller metal grates, or you can do as the bicyclist did in the picture and just lock the front wheel. This leaves your bike less secure. Placing the bicycles pedals between the grates makes for difficult extraction.


Harris Teeter - 3600 S. Glebe Rd, 22202

 

Quantity Rating: 4
Quality Rating: 4
Proximity Rating: 5
Overall Score: 4.33  

There is ample bike parking here, of the wave rack variety. It is located in the parking garage, near the main entrance of the store. However, bicycling through the park garage requires one to ride down a ramp and deal with an access gate with a lowering arm meant to impede the flow of cars. This might explain why the racks are empty.  


Harris Teeter - 900 Army Navy Dr, 22202


Quantity Rating: 0 
Quality Rating: 0 
Proximity Rating: 0
Overall Score:

No “real” bicycle parking, but plenty of places to lock your bike. When asked, one of the employees in the store told me that most bicyclists just lock their bikes to the barriers in front of the store, which actually share the characteristics recommended for bicycle parking. 


Harris Teeter - 2425 N. Harrison St, 22207

Photo: Harrison Street Harris Teeter Photo: Harrison Street Harris Teeter bike parking

Quantity Rating: 1
Quality Rating: 4 
Proximity Rating: 3
Overall Score: 2.66 

Updated February, 2013 via Chris S.: There is now a single wave rack installed to the left of the main entrance. It only holds a couple of bikes and it's not protected from the elements, but at least it's near the front door! No bike parking in the parking garage--you could also try to use one of the decorative fences, but that might spoil the ambiance.   


Safeway - 2500 North Harrison St, 22207

 

Quantity Rating: 1
Quality Rating: 4
Proximity Rating: 2
Overall Score: 2.33 

One inverted u-rack on the sidewalk in front of the store. After locking up the bicycle, one must cross a driveway to enter the store. This might be the loneliest bike rack in the world. Except for the one by the Food Star.


Safeway - 1525 Wilson Blvd, 22209

  

Quantity Rating: 4
Quality Rating: 3
Proximity Rating: 4
Overall Score: 3.66 

This subterranean store has a multitude of bike parking options. There’s a rack near the store, but it is a ‘comb’ style rack that is placed too close to the wall. There is also a comb rack in the caged, but unlocked, bicycle parking area. The Safeway is in the basement of an office building and presumably office workers use this rack during the week. There is also a bicycle rack in front of the entrance to the parking garage, through which one can enter the store. If you’re not afraid of dark tunnels, that is. 


Safeway -  5101 Wilson Blvd, 22205

Quantity Rating: 1
Quality Rating: 4
Proximity Rating: 3
 
Overall Score: 2.66 

One inverted u-rack sufficient for two bicycles placed on the Wilson Boulevard side of the store. Bicyclists frequently use the decorative metal barriers in front of the store for additional parking. The rack is out of the view from the front door of the store.


Safeway -  3713 Lee Highway, 22207

 

Quantity Rating: 0
Quality Rating: 0
Proximity Rating: 0
Overall Score:

No dedicated bike parking. There’s a railing in the back of the store, but this is not especially convenient.  There’s ample room in front of the store for parking. Furthermore, at the time of my visit, there was no County provided bicycle parking along Lee Highway. Essentially, this store is inaccessible to a bicyclist who needs to lock up before entering. Keep riding, buddy.   


Trader Joe’s - 1109 North Highland Street, 22201

 

Quantity Rating: 3
Quality Rating: 4
Proximity Rating: 5
Overall Score:

There are five shiny new u-racks on the sidewalk in front of the entrance.  If you’re going there on a weeknight, be prepared to share a rack with another bike as these get a good amount of bike traffic with people dropping by after work to pick up their comestibles.


Whole Foods - 2700 Wilson Blvd, 22201

 

Quantity Rating: 3
Quality Rating: 2
Proximity Rating: 2
Overall Score: 2.33 

An unsecured (to the ground) wave rack placed in the corner of the parking lot near the Clarendon Boulevard entrance.  Many customers prefer to take advantage of the metal barriers in front of the store as they have the characteristics of superior bike parking and are much closer to the stores entrance. However, doing so impedes the access of other customers. There are also a number of racks on the streets surrounding the store provided by the County. There is so much car traffic in this parking lot that Whole Foods needs to employ people to direct drivers to open spaces. A greater share of shoppers arriving by bicycle might help the situation.


Conclusion:

So, how does the bicycle parking at Arlington County grocery stores measure up to the ABPB ‘best practices’? Not well. Here are some summary observations:

  • Most of the larger grocery stores in Arlington County that I surveyed provide little bicycle parking, while simultaneously providing ample automobile parking. This encourages driving and discourages bicycling. Furthermore, much of the bicycle parking provided is of an inferior quality due to style of rack, placement, or both. This curtails the use of bicycles to access the stores and increases the likelihood
  • Access to bicycle parking in many grocery stores is difficult, requiring the bicyclist to ride through a parking lot or parking garage in order to access it. Needless to say, this can be quite harrowing for many bicyclists. 
  • Bicyclists will park wherever is convenient for them, regardless of whether this is “official” bicycle parking or not. However, this is in no one’s best interest. Bikes locked to barriers in front of the store create hazards to access for pedestrians. Additionally, this ad hoc parking doesn’t necessarily guarantee the security of the bicycles locked there. 

The lack of proper, high-quality bicycle parking creates a natural limit to the number of bicyclists willing to frequent any given grocery store. If there is an insufficient quantity of parking or racks that are difficult to find, people will be discouraged from riding there and either ride to another store, make the trip by another method, or simply skip the trip entirely. If the quality of bicycle parking is inferior (difficult to use, poorly placed, unbolted to the ground), people will not feel secure in locking up their bicycles in order to go in and shop. 

Parking lots for drivers can be miserable places, ones fraught with tension over desirable spaces, where visibility is difficult and where there is a limited amount of room for maneuverability. Assessing the deficiencies in bicycle parking and thereby allowing more individuals to access the store by bicycle will reduce the overall number of cars in the parking lot, freeing spaces and making driving to the store better for those who choose to do so. Better bicycle parking allows employees to bike to work and also frees a car parking space for a paying customer. Better bicycle parking will encourage more ‘passer-by’ bicycle traffic by commuters and recreational riders who might want to stop in for groceries on the way home from work or for a quick snack after a long weekend ride. In short, better bicycle parking is a low-cost investment that benefits both store patrons (bicyclists, pedestrians and motorists) and the stores themselves and these businesses, without having to be mandated by the County, should consider the comparatively inexpensive step of upgrading their bicycle parking accordingly. 

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11 Metrorail stops are located in Arlington.

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