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Check Your Bike: Bike A2 Offers Valet Service

Krysia Hepatica and Catherine Boyle at Ingalls Mall

Catherine Boyle and Krysia Hepatica at Liberty Plaza

Krysia Hepatica and Catherine Boyle at Ingalls Mall

Krysia Hepatica and Catherine Boyle at Liberty Plaza

Krysia Hepatica and Catherine Boyle at Ingalls Mall

 Krysia Hepatica and Catherine Boyle of Bike A2

Summertime in Ann Arbor brings plenty of warm-weather events within comfortable biking distance. But for some of those goings-on, finding a safe place to park your bike can be a challenge.

"For the big events, like Top of the Park and Sonic Lunch, there"s not much bike parking there and you have to worry about locking up the bikes," Catherine Boyle says. "Just like if you don't bike and you drive, you have to worry about finding a parking spot."

Boyle is the outreach director for Bike A2, a recently formed Ann Arbor cycling advocacy group. Last summer she and Bike A2 executive director Krysia Hepatica hatched a novel solution for those cyclists seeking safe, close event parking: a bicycle valet service. 

The service works more like a coat check than a traditional automobile valet service: Hepatica and Boyle set up their own bike racks at the event and then mark parked bikes with a tag matching one worn on the cyclist's wrist. When the event's over, bicycle and cyclist are reunited, free of charge.

"It's just an easier way to make the event more accessible," Boyle says.

Last summer Bike A2 offered valet service at the weekly Sonic Lunch outdoor concerts, where Boyle says the service was modestly well received. About 12 regulars checked their bikes per week, in addition to many more infrequent users.

"A lot of people were surprised to see it, but in a good way," Boyle says. "I didn't hear any demand for it prior to, but once it was there they were totally impressed and totally excited that it existed."

In addition to 2014 Sonic Lunch shows, Bike A2 will introduce weekly valet service this summer at the Ann Arbor Summer Festival's Tuesday Bike Nights. Boyle says the Summer Festival will be Bike A2's biggest event thus far, and while she and Hepatica will still be mostly running the show, they may have to rally some volunteers to help manage the larger crowds.

"Whoever's willing and wanting to help out, we're always open to that," she says.

Founded last January, Bike A2 is still a rather small organization taking its first steps. The group's mission is "to make Ann Arbor an even better place to ride than it is," and Boyle has both praise and criticism for the city's current level of bike-friendliness.

"Parts of it are amazing," she says. "The steps our community has been taking, getting the new bike rental service going up and the bike repair stands going up around the area, it's awesome that that's actually existing. It's definitely something that I never grew up with the pleasure of having."

However, she says, there's always room for improvement.

"Driver awareness is definitely something that needs to improve," Boyle says. "I hear all the time about people who have been hit by cars just because we're not as aware of bikers as we should be."

Bike A2 attempted to address that problem last summer with an event called Lite Bike, a procession of illuminated bikes culminating in a party. While the event was partly in good fun, Boyle says it was also intended to raise awareness of nighttime bikers and safe biking. Lite Bike will return this summer, but Bike A2 is still taking small steps towards expanding its efforts. As the organization grows, Boyle says she could foresee more valet service at other local events, as well as other new initiatives.

"I'd definitely be up for that," she says. "It's been fun and it gets you in the community and that"s mostly what it"s about: bringing the community together for a like-minded cause."

All photos by Doug Coombe
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