World Gym's solution to bike parking after a year of reflection
My first job in Taiwan was working for a media company that worked mainly for the Taiwanese machine tool sector. We would make websites, catalogues, CD-ROMs and attend trade shows on behalf of the industry.
When I was brought on board my task was simple: To identify why our clients where dropping off the search engines and come up with a solution. I did just that. I discovered that our crack team of web designers was making inefficient websites that would not be effective for internet promotion and our clients would suffer. I drew up a 10 part solution that, unfortunately, meant that we would have to redesign each page for efficiency and staying power on the web.
In the mean time, my supervisor was busy collecting all the different sites a webmaster could use to submit a URL (this is back in 1998/1999) when that was real important. The guy had compiled a list of 140 websites where you could submit URLs. These sites included, along with Google, Yahoo, AltaVista, small sites like Susan's Puppy Pages, Porno Pages, Dom's URL Engine... etc.
We met for a big meeting with the boss to discuss this serious matter as he had promised our clients that they would be at the top of Yahoo.com when a potential customer ran a search for a particular machine tool. I was first with the presentation and I explained that it might be painful at first, it was a good start to remedy the situation. My supervisor was next and his plan was simple and brilliant... to add a page to our website with all his URL submission links that he'd been doing nothing but gathering for the entire month of March, and then leave it to the client to submit their own URL. If they couldn't find their website on Yahoo... it would be their own problem. Wa ha ha ha ha!!!!!
The boss was delighted.
What does this sad but true tale have to do with bikes and World Gym?
A couple years ago when it was time for me to renew my membership, the gym moved to a new location next to Sogo. The location sucked, there was no more parking, most of the gym was left unused most of the time as it had been converted into a giant, GIANT dance studio. The entrance is on the ground floor and the card check is on the second floor. The men's locker room is on the second floor and the women's is on the 14th floor. The gym is on the second floor completely away from street view.
Before I signed the membership I asked about bike storage. I could foresee myself training on the bike and swinging by while still warmed up for some light weight training and stretching on the mats. My account rep assured me I could safely store the bike inside, so I signed. I was later told I would have to leave the bike outside on the first floor... on the street... sandwiched between the motor scooters. I thought it was no way to promote fitness and periodically asked if they had come up with any other solutions. I offered a few of my own and I was promised they'd get back to me on the issue. They never did. I waited and eventually quit going. She never really tried to follow up as promised as she had made her commission.
I went back for the first time in 11 months as biking doesn't quite hit all the spots, and I asked again about the bike situation. Still the same answer, "You must put it outside with the scooters, if we let you bring your bike in then everyone will bring their bike in." I suggested racks inside, rentable bike boxes, and they assured me that no bike would ever get stolen and I was even told that some customers bring NT 150,000 bike in and leave them. I called bullshit. I know several people with expensive bikes and any serious rider in Taiwan knows that you don't leave a bike outside for 5 seconds unattended... even if it is locked. It is another case of putting the onus on the customer rather than helping find a suitable solution to a customer's problem. I was told that I am the only customer that has a problem leaving his bike unattended. I figure the rest just don't go to World Gym anymore.
If I want to ride and go to the gym I have to ride to and from work, change, drive to the gym, exercise, eat, go home, change back into biking gear and then ride again.
There should be a solution to this problem if people are willing to work at solving the problem. As it stands, I will not leave my bike there and so I will waste my money because I would rather be riding.
- My rep promised to call me after she talked to he manager. She never called.
- The manager, Vincent, promised his boss would call me and he never called.
- At no point has anyone ever explained why this is such an unreasonable request.
My Letter To World Gym:
When I signed my current membership contract my Gym rep promised I would be able to bring my road bike inside for safety. I signed and since then I have routinely been told I must leave my bike outside or in other unsecured locations. I have suggested some better alternatives, and I have been promised repeatedly that the gym representatives would get back to me on the matter. It never happened. If I want to train for my cycling races, I can not go to the gym if I have to stop home and drive to the gym, only to drive home, change and ride again.
The weather has been rainy, so I thought I would go in again and see if things had improved. They had not. When I asked my rep, she said she would phone me. She never did. I brought the issue up to the manager, Mr. Vincent Chen, and he promised I would be contacted by an individual who had the power to change policy. I have not been contacted.
I feel a solution could be inexpensive, easy and beneficial to everyone.
In recent years the number of cyclists in Taiwan has seen a rapid increase. Between 2007 and 2008 the number of recreational cyclists doubled to 360,000 riders and the number has been steadily increasing since with the only decline seen in folding bikes. With the highest concentration of bicycle manufacturers and OEM/ODMs led by Giant Manufacturing, Taiwanese have taken a real sense of pride in cycling and incorporated the sport into Taiwan's national identity. The success of the hit movie Island Etude clearly demonstrates the Taiwanese love affair with the bicycle.
Unfortunately, for active, athletic people who cycle for recreation or competition, if we want to incorporate a workout at World Gym into our schedule, we have to either drive or leave our bicycles left in unsecured areas. It is no secret that bike theft in Taiwan is rampant with most Taiwanese children having had a bicycle stolen at some point or another in life. With the more sophisticated bicycles there have even been cases of entire crime rings devoted to bicycle theft. It is widely known among riders that you do not leave your bicycle in a location that is not secure; locked or not. Especially in a high traffic area like Sogo. Furthermore, with the high number of people entering and leaving the area, the possibility of damage increases significantly.
People who cycle are active and athletic people, the kind of people who join gyms and especially spinning classes. A proactive cycling policy could attract and retain membership rather than reduce the number of potential users.
A proactive cycling policy can reinforce the ideals of good health and better integrate and maintain a lifestyle that leads to sustained health and fitness resulting in renewed memberships rather than forcing customers to choose between activities.
A proactive cycling policy would fit with current trends in cycling infrastructure planned by the central government under a new set of "green initiatives" promoted by special presidential advisor and Chairman of Giant Manufacturing, King Liu. This plan seeks to increase the number of bicycle friendly services to and promote alternative forms of transportation that do not rely on fossil fuels. By the end of the year all trains and many busses will be equipped for bicycle transport.
It has been expressed to me by Manager Vincent Chen that if customers were allowed to bring bicycles into the gym, then everyone would bring their bikes in and it would be chaos.
I understand his concerns, but I feel these concerns are misplaced fears that are not rooted in reality. World Gym may have many active riders, but not everyone goes to the gym at the same time. A more realistic estimate might be no more that eight bicycles at the gym at any one time. These fears could be further put to rest by charging a small fee for storage. A fee would reduce the likelihood of rusty and dirty bicycles taking up space in the gym. Mr. Chen then made the comparison with scooters and cars. I do not feel this analogous to bicycles as bicycles can be pieces of exercise equipment and not simply transportation vehicles. Cars and scooters have ignition keys and serial numbers to deter theft and bicycles do not. There are parking spaces allotted for scooter and automobile use, but not bicycle use. The street is simply not a safe or secure option for cycling gear.
There have been concerns regarding the limited space available in the gym.
I agree the gym has limited space. I also feel there is a lot of wasted space at the moment. Furthermore, a system of wall mounted racks would place the bikes up and out of the way, within the safety of the gym.
Cost may be another motivating factor behind the current policy. Bicycle storage is expensive and only serves a few members of the gym.
First, I do not think a solution has to be expensive. A set of wall mounted bike racks can cost as little as NT 1000 each. If the World Gym purchased 10 wall mounts and charged for their use, the cost would be easily mitigated. Not everyone uses the bench for leg extensions, but it is available for those who choose to use it. The same could be said for bike racks.
I was further told that I was the only customer with a problem.
I think this may be accurate, but I know for a fact that there are others who share my feelings and that is why they have discontinued their memberships.
Since I have found the staff at the World Gym unable or unwilling to discuss this issue in a creative or constructive way, I have publicized this situation among members of the cycling and athletic community. The reaction has been a mix of dismay at the unrealistic policy and disinterest by World Gym staff, and interest in allowing a secure space for bicycles in World Gym. These athletes have expressed interest in the facilities, but are turned off by the negative response I have received.
I wish I could promote your facilities to my network of active people, but that can not happen until we can work together in creating a better policy toward bicycles.
I am looking forward to working with the World Gym to resolve this issue in a positive and constructive manner that serves to benefit all parties and I am looking forward to your response.
Andrew D. Kerslake
Blog Post: http://taiwanincycles.blogspot.com/2010/06/absurd-bike-policy-at-world-gym.html