Bicycles may never become a primary means of getting around in the United States, at least not to the degree that they are in, say, Denmark or Netherlands. Our cities are too spread out, cars have (at least until recently) been comparatively cheap and easy to own, and—perhaps most important of all—a majority of Americans perceive bicycling as a recreational activity, not a utilitarian one. It’s something to do for fun or exercise, not as a matter of routinely getting from A to B….a condition no doubt exacerbated by the spread-out nature of American urbanism and the comparative affordability of cars. While younger workers may be more likely to bike than older ones—a product of young people’s physical abilities more than changing values—most US Census estimates still only indicate about .6% of all persons in the labor force typically commute by bike. Even if bicycle use in the US lags most other western countries, it’s not for lack of supportive infrastructure, which is growing just about everywhere: painted bike lanes are old hat, and every urban bus system worth its weight has racks for people who combine bus and bike. Protected bike lanes have increasingly become the status quo for new construction, and bike parking options involve custom racks that are increasingly ubiquitous and aesthetic. Take this series of racks in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood of Philadelphia, for example:
I’m not sure if they’re supposed to look like unicycles or the big wheel to a penny farthing. Or they’re just orange rings with faux handle bars on top. Either way, they seem to function as an aesthetic installation, but they also offer a respite for bicyclists patronizing the brewery/restaurant cluster nearby. They’re custom racks so that spandex-clad caravans can wet their whistles at a popular venue after deviating from the Cresham or Wissahickon trails nearby.
But bicycles aren’t the only cherished possession that both the public realm and private businesses are accommodating more and more as time goes on. Two wheels are good, but four legs are better. Yes, we’re all aware of the increasingly omnipresent dog parks. I’m surely not the only one who has noticed that outdoor seating has increasingly offered water stations for people’s leashed doggos, a lot of businesses far beyond the usual Petsmart have turned a blind eye if a customer totes their terrier in the interior. As long as food intended for humans isn’t within a canine’s reach, many businesses will fully tolerate if not welcome a furry friend. And a growing number of coffee shops have even started offering a glass jar filled with doggie treats, usually at a very reasonable price, if not free.
The link between bicycles and dogs is still pretty flimsy, I’ll confess. But maybe it won’t seem that way after unveiling the photo below—just a few dozen feet away from those orange bike racks.
The pink poodle has a carabiner protruding from its abdomen. It is, as the lettering indicates, one of a few new custom racks for dog parking! Maybe this isn’t a novel idea in some parts of the country, but I hadn’t seen this sort of thing before. And it wasn’t the only one under the generous canopy at the beer garden of Chestnut Hill Brewing Company. Here’s one in use.
Leash your beast! What a thoughtful idea. And so simple! Why aren’t these everywhere? They can’t be expensive. And, while they may not be true custom racks, until I see another pink poodle or blue greyhound (or blue borzoi?), these doggie amenities are a striking addition.
Given the design and size of the carabiner, I have a sneaking suspicion that bigger and stronger dogs could rip the blue greyhound off of its moorings if they spy a tantalizing squirrel. But it works for a cockapoo-sized one like in the photo. And, truth be told, these custom racks might also be a signal that certain businesses do not want the dogs in the interior of the premises, which is an understandable concern in restaurants or other retail establishments that serve food. An unmonitored Irish setter can snatch a scone from a display plate in mere seconds. Meanwhile, some localities and even states retain regulations overtly prohibit dogs (service dogs excepted) from entering restaurants and bars, including outdoor eating areas; states like Illinois and Iowa cite the FDA’s Food Code as the basis for their restrictions, and while they often grant variances for restaurants that actively seek to become dog-friendly, relatively few businesses in these states pursue it—too bureaucratic.
But those who can accommodate pets, especially in outdoor settings, find it can be very good for business. Who knows? Maybe Chestnut Hill Brewing Company has already seen a return on its investment in those custom racks for dogs. Between that and the accommodations for bicyclists, the owners clearly want people who might have a little extra baggage to stop by. If’s only a matter of time before we encounter people walking their dogs—on bikes.