Everyone who heard about the bike situation last weekend at Hardy Strictly Bluegrass had the same thought: "what went wrong?"
What was supposed to be an upgrade in bike parking turned into a repeat of last year's deficit: With bike racks overwhelmed early in the festival, concertgoers were left to chain their bikes to anything they could find: trees, fences, even roots protruding from a hillside. It's a good thing the festival wasn't happening down by the windmill, or bicyclists might've been forced to chain their rides to the cruisy men lurking in the bushes.It was disappointing turn of events, given that the Department of Rec & Parks had bragged beforehand that an increase in bike parking would obviate the need for attendees to get creative. Alas, it was not to be.
But, it turns, out, it's not for lack of trying.
Although Rec & Parks spokesman Elton Pon wouldn't return our repeated calls, other folks associated with the concert were happy to explain what happened. "Every year I've increased the bike parking," said Eliote Durham, Operations Manager for Hardly Strictly, "and every year our bike volume goes up."
Durham's a cyclist herself, and said that she's glad to see more folks on bikes -- but she's not exactly sure how to deal with them. "We've worked for years with the Bike Coalition, and for years I have asked them to create a bike parking plan," she said. "I've never ever been able to get a bike parking plan out of the Bike Coalition. ... We're doing our best to figure out the bike parking on our own without any feedback from the only organization that handles bike parking in the city."
The Bike Coalition operated a valet parking lot, Eliote explained, but otherwise wasn't involved in bike planning. Likewise, the city didn't provide any bike parking either, she said. All of the racks at the event were supplied by Hardly Strictly.
Left to their own devices, Hardly Strictly organizers set up three lots for self-parking, as close to the stages as they could manage, and assigned monitors to keep an eye on the lots. They planned for as many as 6,000 bikes, but clearly that turned out not to be enough.
And what about those mysterious "BIKE HAZARD!" signs, which popped up along JFK Drive and seemed to be designed to let VIPs park close to the music while preventing bicyclists from getting any closer?They're a safety feature, Durham explained. JFK had to be closed to bike traffic because it's a dedicated emergency lane, or what she called a "chute."
"We've had to come up with that rule because several years ago, the only accidents that we experienced at the festival were when bikes zoomed through the chute, hitting pedestrians and not stopping," she said.
Cars designated "Friends and Family" (probably meaning friends and family of concert bankroller Warren Hellman, Durham guessed) were allowed through the gates, but parked on Middle Drive West -- far from the emergency chute.
Okay, that sounds fair. Although "BICYCLE HAZARD!" is maybe a funny way of explaining it on the signs.
So how about it, Bike Coalition? Why don't you want to work with the Hardly Strictly organizers?
"We would certainly like to talk with the promoters about how the bike parking as a whole could be improved," said Bike Coalition Acting Director Reneé Rivera.
She went on, "we'll be working with the event producers and Eliote to come to them with a proposal for next year, to expand the valet portion of the bike parking. ... We would definitely talk with them about self-parking as well."
Well, okay. Fine. Problem solved! It sounds like each group has been waiting for the other to make the first move. Clearly, the only solution is for somebody to call them both and tell them that they won a contest, and to pick up the prize they have to come to a fancy restaurant this Saturday night at 7p.m. Then we'll set up a real nice fancy table with candlelight and a violin player and fireworks, and bam, they'll fall in love!
Or negotiate a parking plan. Whichever.
Paul Zachary, a student who recently moved to San Francisco to work on a Ph.D. in political science, is getting a little fed up waiting for organizers to act. So he's become an organizer himself: Zachary recently formed the Golden Gate Park Bike Coalition to advocate for better, safer bike travel through the park.
"It's a little embarrassing situation all around," he said of the parking at the concert. "There was a security fence that got so overladen, it tipped over and crushed the bikes underneath it. I don't think that's the image the organizers and the city want to portray."
Although bicyclists' numbers are steadily increasing, Zachary pointed to numerous cases of organizers and the city failing to take their needs into account. For example, he didn't see any signs directing bicyclists to parking. (Although according to organizer Durham, the concert doubled its signage over last year.)
Another example: During the days of preparation for the event, a detour in the park redirected traffic onto Crossover. That's fine for cars, but Crossover's lousy for bicyclists. Transverse, just a few yards away, would have been preferable. And making matters worse: a sprinkler had sprayed standing water into the roadway, and as Zachary negotiated the detour he nearly hydroplaned into traffic.
"It seems as though the city isn't considering bikers one of the primary methods of conveyance, and it seems like they ought to be, from the number of people who showed up on their bikes," he said.
Or maybe everyone's just waiting for someone else to reach out.
For example, the Bike Coalition's Reneé Rivera told us, "We would certainly like to talk with the promoters about how the bike parking as a whole could be improved. One of the things that we'd love to see is monitors in the self-parking."
That's a great idea, which is probably why there were monitors in the self-parking.
In the grand scheme of things, that's a minor quibble, but those gaps in knowledge point to the organizations' need to bridge an obvious lapse in communication.
And that bridge can't come soon enough -- for anyone.
"I'm a member of the Bike Coalition. I support them," Durham said. "It's a little bit of a frustrating situation. My hands are tied."