UMD’s First Bike Valet – How-to

I.                  Introduction

 Bicycle valet was first introduced to the university campus at the 13thannual Maryland Day on April 30, 2011, an event where a record 97,000+ visitors attended. The bicycle valet service was set up across campus at three different locations: Terp Town Center, Arts Alley, and Ag Day/Science & Tech Way. The service was not only an all-day feature (10 AM – 4 PM), but doubled as a bicycle information and repair center as well. This summary report will cover the planning, marketing, and execution details for the event and provide suggestions to be implemented in future bicycle valets. 

Bike Valet on Maryland Day at the University of Maryland

II.               Bicycle Valet: Definition 

Bicycle valet is a free, easy and secure way to store your bicycle and bicycle accessories at an event. The service operates just like a coat check, in that the patron receives a claim ticket after handing over the bicycle. The service not only promotes cycling and reduces bicycle theft, but also helps to keep events more tidy (fewer bikes locked to poles and fences) and helps aid traffic congestion relief. 

As the Washington Area Bicyclist Association describes it: 

A bike valet is a cordoned-off area with sturdy, portable racks. You show up, hand the bike to the valet staff, sign your name and cell number, and we watch your bike for the duration of the event. You don’t need a lock, you don’t need to compete for rack space, and you know someone is keeping an eye on your bike.

III.           Maryland Day Planning

 As the University of Maryland’s largest annual outreach event, the Maryland Day Planning Committee begins as early as mid-October, when the first kick-off meeting occurs. Many deadlines, such as deadlines for event submissions and marketing materials, take place months before the actual event. Therefore it is crucial to become involved in the early planning stages.

 The Maryland Day Planning Site can be accessed at this web address: http://www.marylandday.umd.edu/mddayplanning/overview/

 In 2011, the Bicycle Valet event was introduced fairly late in the Maryland Day planning process. Though it was briefly introduced at a Planning Committee Meeting in March, bicycle valet was not written into the printed program nor did it receive as much marketing outreach—print and digital— as other Maryland Day events due to its late entry into the planning process.

 The key Maryland Day program contacts who were involved in the 2011 Bicycle Valet planning process were Pat Perfetto, the Maryland Day Logistics Chair and Director, and Holly DeArmond, the Maryland Day Marketing Chair and Assistant Director.  

 IV.             Precedent: WABA Cherry Blossom Bicycle Valet

 The Washington Area Bicycle Association’s annual Cherry Blossom Bicycle Valet was studied as a model for UMD bicycle valet. The bicycle valet operated between 9AM and 6PM and was fully staffed with volunteers (4 – 6 at a time) who chose between an early shift (9AM – 1PM) and a late shift (11AM – 6PM). The WABA Bicycle Valet was offered as a free service and also offered free bicycling promotional materials and maps as well as discounts to join the WABA organization. They also had a donation box.

 The UMD bicycle valet was closely modeled after the WABA Bicycle Valet’s system—a system that is used for many bicycle valets across the nation—with regards to its corral system and tabling materials. Volunteering at the WABA bicycle valet was an invaluable experience to see not only the bicycle valet set up, but also to witness what a busy bicycle valet looks like—in other words, a future image of Maryland Day bicycle valet.

 V.                Benchmarks

 Bicycle valet has been widely adopted by many universities, most of which are large mid-west and west coast state schools at home football games. Maryland is one of the leading east coast universities to implement bicycle valet. The following is a list of universities using bicycle valet:

  •  University of Arizona – Free bicycle valet for registered bicycles (M – F; 8AM – 6PM)
  • University of Colorado – Free bicycle valet for football games
  • Boise State University – Bicycle valet for football games (optional donation; more than 700 bicycles were parked and generated more than $500 in donations)
  • Oregon State University – Nearby high school offer bicycle valet at OSU football games as a fundraiser
  • UC Davis – Free bicycle valet
  • Stanford University – Free bicycle valet for football games
  • Ohio State University – ‘Pedal Instead,’ a bicycle valet project unaffiliated with the university offers bicycle valet during OSU football games
  • Emory University – Offers bicycle valet at certain festivals

 VI.             Maryland Day: Bicycle Valet Locations

 Bicycle valet was offered in three different locations across campus on Maryland Day.

Maryland Day Bike Valet Map

 Activity hotspots were first identified through the Maryland Day program through an activities tally. Whichever area had the most activities tallied was deemed an activity hotspot. The top activity hotspots included the McKeldin Mall, the Kim Engineering Building, the Animal Sciences Building, and the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center.

Bicycle valet locations were then decided upon through a two-step process. It was very important that the bicycle valet be located very close to an activity hotspot. First, the area around the hotspot had to be physically assessed in person to check for suitable terrain, sufficient views, space availability, and desirable traffic flow.

 Second, the selected areas were then submitted to Pat Perfetto and Holly DeArmond (Maryland Day Chairs) for the final sign-off.

 Though the locations worked well for the 2011 Maryland Day event, during the day’s event, valet staff noted that there were more desirable spots available for bicycle valet. Since bicycle valet had a late start in 2011, it became more and more difficult to secure desirable locations.

 The 2011 locations included: the corner of Paint Branch parking lot, closest to Kim Engineering Building; the grassy field in front of the Music Education entrance of CSPAC; and the corner of Chapel Fields close to McKeldin Mall. The bicycle valets that were the most successful were located at Paint Branch parking lot and CSPAC. Next year, bicycle valet will hopefully be given a more central and visual location at Terp Town Center and a more central location at the Ag Day/Science & Tech Way area.

 VII.         Marketing and Outreach

 Marketing and outreach are crucial elements in the success of bicycle valet. The 2011 Maryland Day bicycle valet was very successful in terms of the number of people who were made aware of the bike valet service and the plans for its continued implementation in the future years. Many people, however, expressed the wish that they had known about the service beforehand so that they could have cycled to the event.

 Therefore it is absolutely crucial that bicycle valet information and valet locations are incorporated into the printed Maryland Day program.

 Though there are multiple methods of outreach, on Maryland Day 2011 most cyclists were drawn to the location as a result of strategic on-site banner and sign location.

 Other marketing methods included: 

  • Flyers put up around campus and bicycle shops (campus bicycle shop, REI, Proteus, and College Park Bicycles)
  • Stake-in signs at major cycling
  • Windmaster Signs entrances (Paint Branch Dr./Trail, in front of the Route 1 underpass, Stamp Student Union entrance, and next to the bike racks at McKeldin Library)
  • Providing information under the ‘Getting There: By Bicycle’ section on the Maryland Day website
  • Email

 In the future, it is highly advisable to do marketing outreach to nearby apartments (Seven Springs, Grand Mazza, The View, Varsity, etc.)

  VIII.      Materials/Staffing

 Setup Materials

  • Three staff members per table

 Nine staff in total for three locations

  • Tent, chairs, & table at each location
    • Must obtain necessary Work Order forms
    • Two banners(one advertising bicycle valet; one advertising bikeumd and other services)
      • Provided by DOTS Marketing Dept. Can reuse existing banners
      • Barricades(for corral and bicycle racks)
        • At the 2011 Maryland Day, fourteen French Barricades were used at each location.
        • In total, forty-two galvanized barricades were rented for the day from Rent-A-Guard (www.rentaguard.com)
        • Hollow Swimming Noodles(put over top rail of barricades to protect bicycle paint)
          • We have fourteen leftover from the 2011 event
          • Zip-ties
            • To strap noodles on to top rail. Three zip ties per noodle.

 Location Materials

 Brochures/Cycling Maps

    • The Anacostia Tributary Trail System map, Maryland bicycle map, Campus Connections Booklet, Bicycle Safety pamphlets and booklets, Maryland Official Highway Map
    • Bicycle Valet Binder
      • Contains valet sign-in sheets which require patrons to sign in with their name, phone number, and ticket numbers
      • ListServ Sign-Up Sheet
        • For joining the bikeUMD listserv
        • Giveaways
          • bikeUMD stickers (aimed at kids)
          • bikeUMD snap bracelets
          • bikeUMD water bottles
          • Supplies
            • Scissors
            • Stapler
            • Pen
            • Valet Tickets (provided by DOTS Marketing Dept.)
            • Repair Stand (with basic bicycle mechanic tools)

 

  1. IX.            Valet Instructions

 

  1. After location set up is complete, staff members are to display brochures and maps on the table top with the repair stand/tire pump visible to passing cyclists 
  2. When cyclist wants to check in his/her bicycle, have him/her sign-in to the valet sign-in sheet with their name, phone number and ticket number. 
  3. Wrap valet ticket around bicycle handlebar with numbers facing out. Staple ticket ends together. 
  4. Wheel bicycle into the corral. Lift bicycle up and over the top-bar of the foam-protected barricade. 
  5. When patron returns, collect ticket stub and return bicycle. 
  6. Cross/check patron’s name off from the sign-in binder.  

X.                Final Summary 

For the limited amount of planning and marketing— planning started mid-March 2011—the first bicycle valet event was a modest, but promising success. Maryland Day 2011 racked up thirty-four cyclists, with one repeat where a cyclist utilized two different bicycle valet locations. This year’s event was most valuable in spreading awareness of bicycle valet with the promise of the service becoming an annual part of Maryland Day. It was received with great praise by many visitors, who expressed their appreciation that such a service existed. If planned in advance, with more outreach and marketing, we will most likely see an increase in the number of people cycling to Maryland Day and the number of cyclists parking their bicycles at the valet in upcoming years. 

Bicycle valet at Maryland Day, as a whole, operated very smoothly. Barricades were set up the afternoon prior to Maryland Day, with tent/table/chair dropped-off the morning of Maryland Day. Banners were also set up at that time. John Brandt oversaw most of the set-up and break down for each of the locations. Barricades were picked up an hour after the Maryland Day closed. No bicycles were left unattended. 

The Paint Branch Parking Lot (Ag Day/Science & Tech Way) valet location and the CSPAC (Arts Alley) valet location were the most successful. The corner of Chapel Fields (Terp Town) was the least successful because of visibility issues. In the future, it is highly recommended that the Paint Branch valet be moved towards a more central location between the Animal Sciences Building and Kim Engineering. The Chapel Fields valet should be moved to the Engineering Fields or onto McKeldin Mall. The CSPAC valet can be kept at the same spot. 

It is highly recommended that bicycle valet be utilized for other events as well—the most notable being the annual Art Attack event. By creating bicycle valet for other high-trafficked events, it will soon become a staple service of campus and encourage more and more people to ride bicycles to events; people who would otherwise be fearful of theft issues or be discouraged due to having to carry bicycle helmets/bicycle computers/etc. with them during the event. Bicycle valet also helps to “tidy” up event appearances by reducing the number of bicycles locked up to fences and light posts.

Key Areas for Improvement for MD Day Bicycle Valet 

  • Relocating the Terp Town valet and the Ag Day/Science & Tech Way valet locations 
  • Starting bicycle valet planning in advance—check the MD Day timeline and attend the MD Day meetings early on in order to secure locations, marketing materials and setup materials. It is very important to make it onto the printed program in future Maryland Day events 
  • It is very important to remind people that the valet closes at 4 P.M. with the rest of Maryland Day and cyclists are expected to pick up their bicycles at that time. It is also very important to take down their contact information so that the staff may call them if they are not at the valet station when the time arrives
  • Doing market and outreach well in advance to the wider College Park community 
  • Looking into options of bicycle day-rentals for Maryland Day 
  1. XI.            Contact Information

 DOTS – Related

 DOTS Assistant Director : Beverly Malone | bmalone@umd.edu | 301 – 314 – 7275

DOTS Bicycle Coordinator: John Brandt | jbrandt@umd.edu | 301 – 314 – 9914

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3 Responses to UMD’s First Bike Valet – How-to

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