• Thu May 04 2017
  • Posted May 4, 2017

If you’ve noticed an uptick in Des Moines public events that offer valet bike service, you’ve been paying attention. Already there are more than a dozen scheduled events—primarily downtown—that will provide valet bike services in 2017.

But before talking about this year’s events, a little history. If you’re really, really paying attention, you might remember that the first valet bike service for Des Moines sprouted up in 2008 with the first 80/35 Concert. Yes, 80/35 and the Collective's valet bike program celebrate their 10th anniversaries this July; we've been partners from the get-go.

The Des Moines Bicycle Collective was just fiddling with how to create a community bike shop when Amedeo Rossi suggested that free bike parking might be a good idea for this downtown concert idea he and the Des Moines Music Coalition were concocting. Amedeo, a bike enthusiast himself, thought that some people might want to pedal to the concert.

“We like to align ourselves with progress people,” Amedeo says of creating a good 80/35 vibe, which included the Collective partnership. "We like working with the early innovators that take chances. I think the 80/35 customers and the bike community are like-minded in many ways."

Kim West and Kent Newman, two Collective co-founders, embraced the task. With bike racks borrowed from the Bike World Warehouse, a cavalry of volunteers, and a roll of OfficeMax raffle tickets, they figured it out. Volunteers even pedaled the bike racks to the site with a work trailer.

The word spread quickly through the cycling community; we parked 250 bikes for that first concert weekend in a fenced area near the main stage.

Of course, 80/35 is now too big of a set-up and teardown task for a bike trailer. The valet bike corral grows a bit larger with each 80/35 concert and now consumes about a block of Locust Street. Last year, volunteers parked more than 640 bikes over the two days.

Downtown Farmers’ Market
In the winter of 2009, Ed Hagner, a Des Moines Cycling Club officer, planted the seed with this Collective co-founder about setting up a valet bike service at the Downtown Farmers’ Market. “I know it would be wildly popular,” Ed said (or words to that effect). Ed, you were spot-on.

After a couple of meetings with Kelly Foss, Farmers’ Market director, the Collective agreed to give it a try for the entire market season. But would people get the idea of how valet bike makes it so easy to visit the farmers' market?

Carrie Lane, a recent high school graduate, set up the racks for the lion's share of the first Saturdays before dashing off to college. Tim Lane, her dad, provided encouraging words and steady suggestions. We were off to a great start.

Fast-forward to 2016, when the Collective part-time staff and volunteers parked 4,495 bikes for the Farmers’ Market season, an average of 172 per week.There was a wide swing in bikes parked from a low of 37 (October 15; rain) to a high of 439 for the Labor Day Weekend, a record for bikes parked for the 26-week season. That morning’s log included 196 tandems parked as part of the Midwest Tandem Rally and 243 standard bikes. It was insanely busy but smiles all around.

Besides the standard two-wheel bikes, we sometimes have three or four tandems parked at once in the street-level ramp at Second and Court Avenue, along with bikes pulling trailers and tagalongs. Some families arrive with five or more bikes. It’s routine to accommodate group rides that roll in from Clive, Urbandale, and Ankeny.

Jen Veak, co-owner of Beaverdale Bikes, often arrives by 7:30 am to load up her panniers with produce. Says Jen:"Awesome to have something free and secure for those of us who bike to theFarmers' Market! The staff is friendly, and having this service encourages more people to ride down :)"

Des Moines Arts Festival and World Food Fair
Two signature Des Moines events—the Des Moines Arts Festival and the World Food Fair—also started free valet bike programs in 2009. Like 80/35, the space designated for the bike corral has grown each year. Dori Jansma organizes the volunteers for the Friends of Central Iowa Trails and reports that most volunteers come back year after year.

This year's Arts Festival corral could be a wee bit extra busy. The Collective, working with Stephen King of the Arts Festival, has volunteered to perform bike safety checks for the festival artists, many who travel with a bike or two in their trailer or van. We will see how it goes! We want artists to leave Des Moines with a great impression of our city. Jeff Bock will line up volunteer mechanics to check over the bikes.

Iowa Cubs: Pedal to the Park
All trails lead to Principal Park, and the Iowa Cubs organization embraces cycling as a fun way to attend games and reduce the crunch for auto parking. For the May 7 game, more the 230 fans parked it the free valet parking corral—a fabulous turnout with many families pedaling in.

For all Sunday afternoon games (1:08 first pitch), the Iowa Cubs provide free valet bike parking plus special deals for Cubbie Bear's two-wheeled friends: reserved grandstand ticket and water bottle for $8. Or reserved grandstand ticket, bike koozie, and 20-ounce beer for $15. Bike World sponsors the valet bike program.

Valet Bike Recommended for Public Events
But it's no longer just the biggest events—Farmers’ Market, Arts Festival, 80/35—with valet bike corrals. This year for the first time, organizers for Des Moines events with more than 2,000 attendees are encouraged to promote and set up a valet bike corral. Yes, there's a checkbox on the city’s application form.

Kandi Reindl-Sullivan, the special events coordinator for the City of Des Moines, believes in the value of valet bike corrals. “The bike valet service at our larger downtown events has proved to be a great asset,” Kandi says. “Bike valets provide bicyclists worry-free/convenient locations for their bikes while attending events. These bike valets also free up more parking areas for those who cannot bike to events.

“We have seen more and more event organizers offer bike valets during their events not only because of the convenience, but also to also promote health and fitness in our community."

Nicely said, Kandi. And a special shout-out to you, Amedeo Rossi, Kelly Foss, and Stephen King, plus all the dedicated volunteers who have helped build our community one parked bike at a time.

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