The glass is half empty

Or rather, the room is half empty.
I am lucky enough to work in an award-winning, eco-friendly, purpose-built research centre. It’s a huge step up from the converted bakery that the centre lived in when I first arrived in Vancouver (baker’s yeast spores in the wall of your tissue culture lab, anyone?) and is a pure pleasure to work in. The 15th floor roof-top patio with a view of the harbour, mountains, and the local bald eagles is a particular highlight.
On top of all this, the building is on one of Vancouver’s many designated bike routes. These are side streets with bike-activated lights at major junctions, and other favourable traffic calming measures. My door-to-door cycle to work is around 6 km, of which only 4 blocks are not on a bike route.
And there’s a bike storage room in the basement! Right next to the showers! Hooray for biking to work!

…at this time of year the fair weather cyclists start to come out of the woodwork. This is great for my daily racing scores, but not good for getting a spot in the bike room.
The building’s designers really missed an opportunity here. The design of the bike racks they used creates a huge amount of wasted space in the storage room:

The V-shaped racks are useless. You can get one bike on the outer side of each ring, but only one bike in the middle. Look at all that wasted floor space!

The central third of the room fits only 8 bikes max – if you lock one bike to each of the high racks.

The far wall is the biggest waste of space of all.

Here are the outside racks that I have to resort to if the storage room is full. A much better use of space, but bikes last way longer if stored inside, as I found to my cost in Glasgow (I went through two bikes in three years, whereas I’m only on my second bike after six years in Vancouver and the original one is still in service as a back-up).
Perhaps this problem is a fitting contender for Brian Clegg’s IgNobel challenge: design a bike storage room that makes the best use of available space and inspires the fewest online rants from its users.
Any mathematicians out there?
While you’re at it, you can calculate the odds that my images will display properly given that the preview function isn’t working.

About Cath@VWXYNot?

"one of the sillier science bloggers [...] I thought I should give a warning to the more staid members of the community." - Bob O'Hara, December 2010
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11 Responses to The glass is half empty

  1. Henry Gee says:

    While you’re at it, you can calculate the odds that my images will display properly given that the preview function isn’t working.
    It’s not just me, then…

  2. Cath Ennis says:

    Nope! I haven’t posted for a few days so I don’t know if this is a long-term problem. Luckily my image linking skills seem to have improved and it worked properly the first time.

  3. Matt Brown says:

    Hmm, preview’s working fine for me in both IE and Firefox. Is it just images that aren’t previewing? What exactly happens when you try? (Email me if you like.)

  4. Cath Ennis says:

    I get the following error message: “Application Error
    There seems to be an error on this page. Our apologies for this – our tech team will receive a notification. In the meantime, please visit our homepage to continue on Nature Network.”
    But only after I’ve saved the post. Previewing before saving seems to work OK.

  5. Matt Brown says:

    bq. But only after I’ve saved the post. Previewing before saving seems to work OK.
    Aha, that’s the bit I needed to help diagnose this. I’ll report it to the team.

  6. Jon Moulton says:

    Cath, you are close enough to Richmond for occasional Chinese food. I am deeply envious. From Oregon, the best Chinese food is north in Richmond or south in San Francisco (of course, east to Chongqing is the best option!). I’ve even found pretty good Sichuan food in Richmond, with enough hot peppers and Sichuan peppercorn to sharpen the memory of Chongqing hot pot. But, you are a fair trot to the north, so trips to Richmond only come every few years (about as frequent as trips to Chongqing).
    One problem with bike storage is that the tighter you pack the bikes, the more they get dinged by neighbors. And some folks ride strangely-shaped contraptions that won’t fit some racks designed for standard bikes (I favor a recumbent Vision R45, which parks in my lab on office days and my office on lab days). That makes a one-size-fits-all solution to bike storage difficult.

  7. Cath Ennis says:

    I take your point, but the only odd-shaped bike I’ve seen around here is the wee blue one in the first photo. (I’ve never been brave enough to try a recumbent bike – it looks like fun, but terrifying on steep down-hills in traffic). And I’ve never had much of a problem with bike dinging in the outside blue racks – they seem to work pretty well except for the occasional brake cable / handlebar entanglement.
    I’ve actually never been to Richmond for Chinese food, in fact I’ve only been to Richmond for Ikea or the airport! Shocking, I know, but there is good Chinese food throughout the rest of the city too. Is there anywhere in particular you’d recommend in Richmond? Once the skytrain extension is finished we might venture out there a bit more often.

  8. Jennifer Rohn says:

    Send your mathematicians to Amsterdam – they have multistory “car”parks just for bicycles. It all comes down to real estate, and priorities.
    The only problem is trying to find the blasted thing in a sea of ten thousand others.

  9. Kyrsten Jensen says:

    not often in Richmond? And you call yourself a Vancouverite? pfft! We were there for dim sum early on Sunday morning 🙂 I’ll still never be able to eat chicken feet, but I do fancy strange things like white radish cake…mmm.
    Richmond’s Yaohan center has a great food market there – sometimes I pop in to get all my ingredients for stirfry. There’s something just so daring about going down the candy aisle, where you can’t make out what the heck the candy is, but the anime characters on the package seem to be having fun….of course, that’s how I ended up getting squid chips once. Ick.

  10. Cath Ennis says:

    Jennifer, I’ll have to check that out some time! I guess people have to start marking their bikes with streamers, fluffy handlebar accessories etc. in order to pick them out of the line-up.
    Kyrsten, see, squid chips are not the way to entice me into these things. Sesame seed balls with the red bean filling on the other hand…
    I usually avoid Dim Sum like the plague. While I usually enjoy it while I’m eating it, I then feel terrible for the rest of the day and can’t do much other than lie on the couch groaning. The first time M took me for Dim Sum I almost threw up in A&B Sound afterwards.

  11. Jon Moulton says:

    Cath, I’m afraid what with the churn in the restaurant business, anyplace I remember from a couple years ago is likely gone now.
    Krysten, the chicken feet are the best part! At least, the best you can easily find in North America. The range of parts to choose from is more varied around a hot pot in China (pig esophagus has an intriguing mouth-feel). I agree about the radish cake though — and you can’t go wrong with ha gow, the shrimp dumplings.

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