If riding a bike to the Logan Square Farmers Market on a Sunday, there’s no need to worry about finding nearby bike parking. Thanks to the group known as Logan Square Bike Valet (and Chicago Bike Valet), you can find free bike parking at the western entrance of the market — the southwest corner of Kedzie Avenue and Logan Boulevard. Three of the Valet volunteers include Minku Sharma, Beth Binkovitz and Derek Ward, who are all avid bikers involved in the cycling community.
Minku Sharma, a local Logan Square resident and a pedicab driver, decided to continue RoadieCab’s bike valet parking service in May 2015 when he learned that company would be discontinuing its service. Sharma had friends in the RoadieCab company, though he was not an employee of this company; he operates his own pedi-cab independently.
Sharma decided to make parking free (or bicyclists can offer a suggested donation from $1 to $5 dollars or offer vegan food). This is in contrast to RoadieCab, who had operated the bike valet as an additional means of earning money at the Farmers Market and charged a small fee and also offer rides on their pedicabs. RoadieCab was a small company based in Logan Square and Avondale with a fleet of six pedi-cabs, who were put out of business as a result of new and costly pedi-cab licensing requirements introduced in Chicago in 2015. It was simply cost prohibitive for the company to insure and license all six of their pedi-cabs.
During RoadieCab’s going-out-of-business sale, the company donated its supplies and equipment for the Bike Valet at the Farmers Market — wood stakes, plastic wrap fencing material, velcro slap bracelets and wooden sawhorses — to Sharma for use of the Logan Square Bike Valet. Sharma stores these supplies at his garage, and he and other volunteers set up the Valet at the spot that RoadieCab had used. This is usually starting around 9:30 am before the Farmers Market starts at 10 am.
Donations to the Bike Valet are spent on providing equipment costs to maintain it, notably, this summer’s purchase of a new tent that provides much-needed shade for volunteers staffing the Bike Valet, along with the occasional refreshments and treats from the Market. The remainder of the donations go to local charities and activist causes still to be decided on when the Market ends.
When you park your bike at Logan Square Bike Valet, you are given a velcro slap bracelet to wear around your wrist, and a matching bracelet is attached to your bike. The bracelet colors vary and feature a name of Chicago street, such as Cortland. You only need to return by 3 pm to make sure you get your bike back. So far, the Bike Valet has had a perfect record of no stolen or missing bikes. There was one minor incident of damaged bike at their bike corral: a children’s bike tipped over, and its bell on the handlebars broke. A replacement was offered by the Bike Valet.
There is enough space for around usually 30 to 40 bikes to be parked at the Valet, and people come and go throughout the Market hours. According to Sharma, 150 bikes was the highest amount of bikes counted for a day at the market. The number of people and bikes surge upwards at the beginning of the Market in May and towards its end in October. People can bring not only bikes, but also any non-motorized means of transportation on wheels, such as, according to Sharma, “baby strollers, scooters, skateboards, even Divvy bikes.”
Beth Binkovitz, a friend of Sharma’s, is one of many volunteers. She helps to staff valet bike parking and occasionally donates her time to Chicago’s bicycle and pedestrian advocacy organization, Active Transportation Alliance, helping out with online web work. Binkovitz observes that she volunteers at the Bike Valet because she “loves bikes and being around bikes on a nice day and to sit around outside on a Sunday afternoon.”
Cyclists or anyone who would just like to spend some time at the Logan Square Farmers Market on a Sunday is encouraged to leave their bike at the Valet. New volunteers are also welcome.