One of the major selling points for visiting the Freedom Plaza pit stop during Friday’s Bike to Work Day? You can ditch your bike. While you’re enjoying refreshments, scoring freebies and socializing, Jonathan Weidman will keep an eye on it for you.
The 25-year-old is the owner of Two Wheel Valet, which he believes is the first mobile bike valet business in the country. The company’s motto is “We rack up events!” And since its launch in D.C. in December, Two Wheel Valet has already handled six, including the recent Kingman Island Bluegrass & Folk Festival. (Weidman estimates he and his team checked 400 bikes in and out of their secure perimeter that day.)
There’s nothing exactly new about this concept — the Washington Area Bicyclist Association had handled bike valet at events previously, and advocacy groups in other cities run similar operations. Weidman got introduced to working as a bike valet through the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition.
But viewing the service as a for-profit venture has made Weidman realize the potential for turning bikes into bucks, particularly in D.C. The city has a sizable cyclist population, a lot of bicycle theft and plenty of people who’d rather not lug stuff around when they’re not riding.
“I always have bags, rain gear, my helmet,” says Weidman, noting that he always has to remember to pop the lights off his bike and take those with him too. “I don’t want to carry it all with me like a nerd.”
With bike valet service, cyclists don’t have to. They can leave everything on the bike attached — including kiddie trailers and other pricey accessories — and just walk away with a ticket. Weidman is considering switching to an electronic check-in system. That way, when folks are gearing up to leave, they could text Two Wheel Valet, and their bikes could be retrieved and ready to go at the exit.
Weidman has been selling this vision to event organizers as something they should foot the bill for as a way to simplify logistics. Paying to host a valet, he says, will soon be a basic essential: “I look at it like porta-potties or trash cans.”
And then there’s the greatest untapped market: commuters. The Willis Tower in Chicago offers office workers daily bike valet service for $250 a year, which includes an annual tuneup and quarterly washes. A similar setup could prove popular here, Weidman says.
The next step is finding locations. Even though Union Station has the Bikestation, which provides parking for 100 bikes, the area around the train station is still overwhelmed with cyclists, Weidman says. And he’s been in talks with the Rosslyn Business Improvement District to pilot a pop-up near the end of the Mount Vernon Trail.
Have an idea where you’d put a bike valet? Weidman, of course, is also accepting tips.
Behind Closed Doors
None of D.C.’s office buildings provide bike valet — yet. But a growing number of buildings are making arrangements for bikes. What do these arrangements look like? That’s what the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (waba.org) wants to find out. They’re compiling a list of what facilities are available and how many cyclists use them. The goal is to build a case for building managers that there’s demand (and several potential solutions) out there.
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