Sunday, December 2, 2007

TIKIT ON TRIAL 2 of 3: Getting our front tire in the door of NY's toughest gatekeepers


... with a little help from our Friday friends
NEW YORK CITY-- by Lynette Chiang, Bike Friday Customer Evangelist
This story reproduced from the Bike Friday blog
The BMW Building: a naked Brompton gets the nod ... will a fully clothed tikit also?


OFFICE BUILDINGSBelow is a list of buildings with an insider who has offered to let me put the tikit to the test, and if we proceed, the results. Missing information means the appointment is yet to be confirmed. Please email lynettec@bikefriday.com to supply more information or help with the test by offering your building. See the blue box on page 1 for the test procedure.
UPTOWN

SUCCESS! BMW Building, 555 W57th @ 11 Ave, NY | View clip
Date of trial:
Wed Dec 5, 2007, 5pm
Insider: DH, Bike Friday Club of NY member, owns 2 folding bikes and a recumbent
Type of building: Secure office building
Known policy/insider statement: "The official policy is that folding bikes are allowed.They let me take my Brompton in folded unbagged, but I take the freight elevator. There are secure bike lockers at the entrance." My approach: Remove helmet, balaclava, fold and cover bike, carry it in, suspend my opinion about BMW drivers being the most intolerant of all drivers when it comes to cyclists.
Result: Success. Showed ID to security desk, staffed by black male and female guards, who were cheerful and didn't bat an eyelid.

FAILED: NY Central Research Library, 42nd and 5th | View clip
Date of trial: Thursday Nov 29, 2007, 1.30pm
Type of building:
Public building with imposing entrance, revolving door.
My approach:
Attempt to take it inside folded and covered.
Result: Failed.
Stopped at security desk, "No bikes allowed - folding or otherwise". At side entrance, same policy, despite a large empty cloak room. I was shown a shape about 21" x 14" (roughly measured by my handspans) that all packages must fit inside - baby strollers are exempt. Guard said "A baby doesn't ride a bike, and an adult doesn't ride a stroller."

SUCCESS! Pfizer World Headquarters Building, 235 E42nd between 2nd and 3rd | View clip
Date of trial: Dec 12, 2007, 12 noon
Insider: Bike Friday Club of NY member, has never tried to take a bike inside.
Type of building:
Secure office building with X-ray machine - folded bike does not fit through this machine.
Known policy/insider statement: I can bring my Air Glide and Swift Folder (both unfolded) into the building via the freight elevator at any time and can go out via the main elevator and lobby in the evening after "rush hour" (security department comment: in order not to bump into other people and possibly soil their clothes). Pfizer is a health-conscious company that encourages employees to exercise."
My approach: Dress to impress, fold and cover bike, carry it in.
Result: Two security guards were good natured about the bike, but differed in their opinion. The black guard said "the policy is no bicycles allowed, you might not get in tomorrow," and interestingly, "there is a [unsecure] bike rack around the back, no one steals bikes, my triathlete friend locked her bike up out front [a long time ago] here and it never got stolen." The white guard said "It's small, it's covered, we can see it's not an issue!" They recommended that prospective folding bike commuters "get management permission." I took a shot - with permission - of the folded bike against the corporate logo "Pfizer: Working For a Healthier World." Very apt.

FAILED: Price Waterhouse Cooper, 42nd and Madison | View Clip
Date of trial: Thursday Nov 29, 2007, 3.30 pm
Insider: 5BBC member
Type of building:
Several levels of security.
Known policy/insider statement: We've been trying to get the building to let us park/lock our bikes in a secure indoor area since we moved into the building but they have rejected us at every step or pedal.
My approach: Dress nice, stow helmet, attempt to take bike in folded and covered.
Result: Stopped at lobby where you are asked for ID. Guard said "is that a bike?" and asked to see it. "No bikes allowed, folding or otherwise, no matter how small. Baby strollers are OK. Bikes belong outside. No-one rides a bike to an office. Lock it up outside, no one steals bikes, no one touches them, who'd want to ride a bike in NY anyway?"
Later, an outside security guard told me to remove it completely from the entrance where a handlebar was peeking around the corner.
Discussion: My physical size compared to the size of the package might have been an obstacle. A taller person with ID would have possibly had an easier time, and we might try that variation in a separate experiment.

SUCCESS! GM Building, 767 5th Avenue, cnr W58th | View clip
Date of trial:
Dec 5, 2007, 4pm
Insider: BF Club of NY member
Type of building:
A brutalist architectural edifice directly behind the glassy Apple Store entrance box. Main entrance on 5th Avenue. Big, white, imposing security desk and cavernous lobby. It has the FAO Schwartz toy store on the lobby level, and the CBS Morning News studio as well. There’s a new Apple store in the plaza in front of the building.
Known policy/insider statement:
I have a colleague who successfully brings a Brompton in. I think the official policy of the building is no bikes but I have never seen that written down.
My approach: Insider has informed security that he will be expecting a visitor at 2.30pm. Folded and covered bike, removed helmet and balaclava, stashing them under cover.
Result: Asked for ID. Note that desk is higher than package. Young guard twice said, "Is that your age????" then quickly composed himself, which I took as a compliment (even though he as too young for me). Then was pointed upstairs! On reaching oak-paneled doors of office in clouds, was let in and made welcome by receptionist who invited me to put my 'luggage' near the desk.

SUCCESS ... just ... Park Avenue Atrium, 466 Lexington Ave, between E45th and E46th | View clip
Date of trial: Dec 5, 2007, 3pm
Insider: BF Club of NY member
Type of building:
Impressive glassy atrium with escalators similar to Price Waterhouse Cooper building. Has its own website.
Known policy/insider statement:
I used to be permitted to bring my Friday up provided that I folded it and encased it in a large bag. After 9/11 they installed new security gates in front of the elevators, so for a while I just stopped using the Friday to commute. When I started up again the building management had changed and I was told the bike wasn't permitted. Good news may be coming, though. The NY City Council is apparently preparing a bill to force landlords to allow bikes. They tried this 2-3 years ago without success. Knock wood.
My approach: Dress to impress, left helmet strapped to my backpack in view of guards, remove balaclava, fold and cover bike, carried it in.
Result: Success - just.
Guards at desk joked "you wanna put that helmet on and take a rocket to the roof?" I decided, for some reason, to ask if my folded bike was OK. He shrugged and said, "it's folded it's small, no problem."
Then, a guard standing at the entrance stepped forward and said, "that a bicycle? Not allowed, building management policy." A convo ensued not unlike the nightmarish Price Waterhouse Cooper trial.
I reasoned until they called Mundy's, the building manager, who said, "As long as it's completely concealed." Since a pedal was showing, the guard watched as I stretched the cover over everything so nothing was protruding. Then he showed me to the elevator. Whew! On reaching the floor, I was met by my insider and a circle of wide-eyed admirers (of the bike) who emerged from their carpeted cubicles to joke and trade bike-security horror stories - just for a moment. Back to work!
DOWNTOWN/FINANCIAL DISTRICT

SUCCESS! Thompson Financial, 195 Broadway cnr Fulton | View clip
Date of trial: Dec 7, 2007, 4pm
Insider: 5BBC member, owns Swift folding bike and takes it inside bagged.
Type of building:
Secure office building with imposing Acropol-esque lobby forested by Greek columns.
Known policy/insider statement: Must flash your building ID to get past them. Without ID you will be given a visitor pass in the lobby and asked to visit reception on the 4th floor. I have brought my folding bike into the building, bagged. I sent a written request to building management every year or so requesting bike parking in the building but am always put off.
My approach:
Dress to impress, carry it in covered and folded.
Result: Glided all the way to the 7th floor. On leaving the building I asked the guard if folding bikes were OK - did I have to cover it? He shrugged and said he didn't even notice it.

SUCCESS! 7 World Trade Center, Vesey St between Washington and Greenwich | View Clip
Date of trial: Dec 5, 2007, 7pm
Insider: Inc.com, FastCompany.com
Type of building:
Landmark secure office building with frosted emblem on the door claiming to be 'Green'
Known policy/insider statement:
Appears to depend on the person behind the desk. The 2nd in charge claims that folding bikes are not problem. We shall see.
My approach: Dress to impress. This was an invitation to Inc.com's 30 under 30 - America's Coolest and Youngest Entrepreneurs. What was I doing there anyway? Stash helmet under folded bike cover, remove balaclava, carry bike in.
Result: Success.
Guard joked "That looks very dangerous" but didn't ask to see it. So I asked him if my folding bike was OK. He said no problem. We asked the guards after the party (different shift) about bike policy, who said folding bikes were tacitly allowed, that there was a bike rack outside (unsupervised, unsecure) for bikes, and whether you'd actually be let inside with it regardless of the tacit policy would depend on the day and the supervisor. Hell, thank Buddha Amtrak now has a 'folding bikes allowed at all times' policy.

SUCCESS! J.P. Morgan Building, Cnr Broad and South | View clip
Date of trial: Dec 7, 2007 1pm
Insider: 5BBC member, owns folding bike, but rides and locks regular beater bike up outside
Type of building:
Secure office building, bike rack outside where a lonely Dahon folder was locked
Known policy/insider statement: Contact was not 100% sure.
My approach: Carry it in, folded and covered.
Result:
Showed ID, given pass, glided all the way to my insider's 12th floor carpeted cubicle.

SUCCESS! AMEX @ World Financial Center Complex, (WTC 3) Vesey/West/Liberty/Hudson | View clip
Date of trial: Dec 13, 2007, 1pm
Insider: tikit fancier
Type of building:
New secure office building
Known policy/insider statement: I ride a Brompton to work on days when I'm not expecting precipitation or major winds. American Express in the World Financial Center complex (this is very close to the 7 WTC building you already filmed), is like a mall attached to several office buildings. I'm very tempted by the Tikit because of its rolling capability. From the point I have to fold my Brompton, I have to carry it (I estimate) 100 yards, and it gets heavy!
My approach: Dress to make a killing on the stock market
Result: With all the ground zero construction going on it took forever to find the right entrance. I entered through the Wintergarden and took it up a narrow escalator that as marked "No strollers or hand carts" - for once, the shoe was on the other rim! At the x-ray machine, I was asked to put it on the belt, but not uncover it; when it was clear it would not fit in teh hole, the guard asked: What, is it a bike? Then told me to just take it through - he even looked exasperated that I even asked.

UNION SQUARE AREA

SUCCESS! Con Edison Building, Union Square NYC | Clip not approved - see photo gallery instead
Date of trial: Dec 5, 2007, 12.30pm
Insider: Bike Friday owner
Type of building:
Older style building with separate reception room. Show ID, wait until called.
Known policy/insider statement: Unknown. There are secure but uncovered bike racks in the secure parking compound.
My approach:
Left helmet and balaclava on, folded and covered bike, wheeled it in.
Result: Showed ID, waited with bike in lounge listening to people arguing the pros and cons of leaf blowers on the adjacent sofa. When insider came down, was issued barcoded ID, then wheeled bike (semi covered) through security turnstiles and up to office. A co-worker in the building wrote: "I work in the building too. I don't think they will give you a problem with folding bikes as long as you fold it. I take my Xootr to work all the time. We even have bike racks in the secured parking lot right next to the building."


RELATED LINKS

Despite our majority of "bike-and-entry" successes in the above buildings, this image kindly exhumed by bikedummy of Brooklyn, NY, is a fitting post script in the light of this 2007 article.

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