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Bike SLO County’s Bike Valet program celebrates 10th anniversary

The Bike Valet program has served multiple Amgen Tour of California events, including this race stop in Paso Robles.
The Bike Valet program has served multiple Amgen Tour of California events, including this race stop in Paso Robles.

As a way to encourage cycling and reduce the number of cars parked at a busy event, San Luis Obispo County bicycle enthusiasts volunteered to host a valet bike parking program for the first Amgen Tour of California event in 2006.

From there, the idea took off.

This month marks the 10th anniversary of the program, operated by the nonprofit Bike SLO County (formerly SLO County Bicycle Coalition).

The Bike Valet program is for free to those who use it at events such as the Downtown SLO Farmers Market and Concerts in the Plaza.

The initiative has contributed to the parking of about 49,000 bikes at local events since the idea was implemented, said Barry Lewis, the program’s historian and one of its founders.

Bike Valet is a tremendously simple way to get more people riding.

Dan Rivoire, Bike SLO County’s executive director

The valet progrem has been offered at every Downtown SLO Farmers Market since May 18, 2006, except on days when rain canceled the market, Lewis said. Bikes are parked in temporary racks Street next to the Apple store on the corner of Morro and Higuera streets.

Bike SLO County has also provided bike valet parking at events including the Fourth of July Bike Parade in Morro Bay and the Strawberry Festival in Arroyo Grande.

The routine works like a car valet: Ride your bike to an event, receive a check tag that matches a tag attached to your bike, attend the event and return with your assigned tag to retrieve your wheels. A temporary fence is set up around the bikes to help secure them while attendants monitor them. No locks are necessary.

“Bike Valet is a tremendously simple way to get more people riding,” said Dan Rivoire, Bike SLO County’s executive director. “The happy greeting of ‘Thanks for riding your bike’ and secure parking can turn an event bike-friendly in an instance. ... We’re proud to have helped so many people make their lifestyle a little healthier.”

We work hard every day to make better bikeways a reality for people of all ages and abilities to enjoy.

Barry Lewis, Bike Valet historian and co-founder

Bike SLO County received $16,000 from the Downtown Association this year, said Steve Akers, the nonprofit’s communications director. Over the years, the program has mostly been funded through sponsorships. Just recently it received a grant from local development company Coastal Community Builders Inc.

“The funding goes to staff time, administration and equipment, purchase and upkeep,” Akers said.

Bike Valet events have a staff person on hand in addition to volunteers. The program provides mobile racks transported by bikes with electric motors capable of hauling a trailer.

“The racks we use are the fantastic invention of a Santa Cruz-based company called Moved by Bikes,” Akers said.

In addition to Bike Valet, Bike SLO County has other programs that serve to educate and promote safe cycling in the community. They are Bike Kitchen, helping people build and fix bicycles; Bike Education, offering workshops to students and others on safe riding, as well as bike maintenance; and Kidical Mass, educating families on the rules of the road and how to maintain visibility and safety while riding.

“We work hard every day to make better bikeways a reality for people of all ages and abilities to enjoy,” Lewis said.

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