How do I get a bike rack?

We get a lot of questions about bike parking. Dero, a company that makes racks, has a really great summary of how to do bike parking right. You can read it here:

If you are wondering how to how to have bike parking installed somewhere, here’s a quick breakdown:

To request bike parking in public space:

  • In Alexandria, use this web tool.
  • In Arlington, use this form.
  • In Fairfax County, call (703) 877-5600
  • In Montgomery County, use this form. Find more info on this page
  • Prince Georges County does not have a way to request bike parking, but some of the cities and towns within the county do. We recommend calling your city hall directly.
  • In DC:
    1. If the space is in a Business Improvement District, start by calling your BID.
    2. If you’re not in a BID or your BID doesn’t help you, submit a request through 311 for Bicycle Services. Include a a photo and detailed description of the location.
    3. If you are a business and want to install your own racks in public space, you’ll need to purchase your own racks (be sure they comply with DDOT’s design guidelines), get a permit for each installation (like any other public space construction/installation), and find a contractor with the necessary tools (a hammer drill) to do the installation.

WABA repaired & installed rack

Regulations and guidelines for bike parking in private space (which includes things like store parking lots and apartment buildings) vary across jurisdictions.

  • DC – Regulations and requirementsBike Parking Guide (PDF)
  • Arlington – Bike Parking Specifications (PDF)
  • Alexandria – Bike Parking Standards
  • Fairfax County – Bike parking guidelines are written and in the process of being approved. Check here for updates.
  • Montgomery County – Bike parking requirements depend on size and zoning. They are described in section 6-2.4.C of the recently approved zoning code (very large PDF). Bike parking standards are in section 6-2.6 of the same document.
  • Prince Georges County’s bike parking requirements and design guidelines are in section 27A-707 of the Zoning Code, which you can find here.  Note: because of the structure of the site, we can’t link directly to the relevant section. You’ll need to click through the table of contents (Zoning > 27A > 707), and the actual Zoning Code is provided as a Microsoft Word file. :/

Historical Note: In 2013, WABA was the contractor that installed bike racks for DDOT. This is no longer the case.

Preventing Bike Theft

Step 1: Register your bicycle with The National Bike Registry, or Bike Index. Without a paper trail, the Police Department can’t do much to help you recover your bicycle in the event of theft. These services need your bicycle’s serial number, which is usually engraved on the bottom of the bicycle. Sometimes the serial number can be found on other parts of the bicycle as well. If you are having trouble locating the serial number, stop by a local bicycle shop to have a professional find it for you.

Also, take a few good pictures and keep them in a safe place in case you ever need to use them down the road.

It’s also a good idea see if your homeowners’ or renters’ insurance covers your bicycle. If so, make sure your insurer has the documentation they need to replace it in the event of theft.

Step 2: Purchase a U-Lock or heavy duty chain lock. Cable locks are easily cut. Any lock can be defeated by a determined thief with the right set of tools and plenty of time, but a good U-lock presents a substantial challenge.

Step 3: (Here’s hoping you never have to deal with step 3.)
If your bicycle still gets stolen,

  • Immediately file a police report. Call your local police department and provide the date, location, and approximate time of the theft. Give the police officer a detailed description of the bike including serial number, make and model, general description of its aesthetic, and any small and noteworthy details that might distinguish your bike from someone else’s (ex: parts, add-ons, flare, stickers). It’s important to take note of the officer’s name and contact information and the case number.
  • Register it as stolen with whichever registration service or services you signed up for in Step 1. If you have the right info, allows you to register your bike even after it has been stolen.
  • Notify your network. push a picture and a description of your bike to your friends who can help be on the lookout. Send out an email, post an update on Facebook, and tweet to #bikeDC.
  • In DC, the Metropolitan Police Department maintains a Flickr page of recovered stolen property. Check it periodically to see if your bike has been recovered.

If you or someone you know sees your bike on the street, notify the police immediately. If the bike is locked up outside, lock it up with your own lock until the police arrive. For your safety, we do not recommend confronting the person riding your bike. Anecdotal evidence indicates it’s entirely possible that the person riding you bike has purchased it from the person who stole your bike.

Are Trails Safe?

Trails are great—free of cars, filled with beautiful views, and often the most direct bike route between places in the region. But trails can also be concerning. They’re cut off from the street grid and some are unlit at night. But are trails unsafe?

Safety is complicated. How and what makes you feel safe is likely informed by your safety requirements and how your body is treated by society at large. Sexism, racism, transphobia, and more impact safety in ways that make answering this question far from simple. However, trails are part of our region, and generally as safe as everywhere else.

Bodily Safety

Overall, people driving cars and trucks cause a lot of serious injuries and fatalities. Trails are pretty much car-free with a few exemptions for city services and a few confused people. This common risk of vehicles is what makes trails so much safer. 

Street Harassment/Profiling

Since trails have people, they’re a place where harrassment and profiling occur, and could happen to you. Because these people are going places, it reduces the time span and likelihood of street harassment. If you are harassed you have a number of options, including just keep going! There is no right or wrong way to respond to street harassment, because it isn’t your fault. 

If you see someone being harassed, and it’s safe for you, there are ways to be a helpful bystander. You can stay on scene and observe, or directly intervene.

For more information, check out options for responding to harassment and strategies for bystander intervention.

Finally, there are ways you can contribute to reducing street harassment and making trails safer. First and most obvious is don’t catcall or shout at other people. Also, give others adequate space on the trail—biking too close to someone can come off aggressively. Be careful what assumptions you make about others you see. Stereotypes are built into our society and cause immense harm. 

Physical Violence

Physical violence is rare on trails, no more likely there than anywhere else. Even still, having a plan can make you feel better and be helpful:

  • Learn how the trail connects to the street grid on your route so you have options for leaving the trail earlier.
  • Generally pay attention to your surroundings, if you had to call 911, could you tell the dispatcher where you are? 
  • Making sure you have enough food and water to keep your brain going.

This plan is a “just in case.” You’re very very likely to be absolutely, totally okay and are likely in greater risk from something that is so common you don’t think about it (use sunscreen!).

What about at night?

Not being able to see things in the dark is scary! But sometimes you need or want to ride when it’s dark. Fewer people on the trails can feel worrisome, but also has its positives: there are far less people with the potential to harm you. The bigger risks for riding trails at night are the mundane hazards you might miss in the darkness. These include puddles, potholes, tree branches, and the occasional wandering deer. If you are going to ride at night, make sure you have good front and rear lights. The goal is to both see and be seen. Many trails are unlit so it is up to you to bring lights. For more on this, be sure to check out our tips for Riding at Night!