Last night I went for dinner at a restaurant in Marylebone called Cafe Luc. A very nice PR woman had invited me, via Twitter, to go and check out this country's first Biclycle Valet service. It's a flipping brilliant idea-and one I really hope will catch on. No sooner had I pulled over in front of the chic french awning than a smartly dressed maitre de appeared and whisked Trusty off to a safe parking spot underground. There are very few actual cycle racks in that area (in fact I must request some at the brilliant Cycle Parking 4 London website) and so I would usually have spent a faffy five minutes looking around for a secure bit of metal, not to fat for my lock and not so flimsy as to be breakable. I try not to worry about Trusty being rustled (see here), but it was just lovely to know beyond all doubt that he was safe and sound while I was wined and dined**. Apparently there is space for eight bikes underground, and the manager could "cram a few more in the office if needed", so unless you are going with your local bike club there should be room. The owners of the restaurant, one of which is actually called Luc, are really keen cyclists and as fed up as the rest of us with the dismal cycle rack situation in central London, so decided to be part of the solution.
Bike Valet is pretty established in some of the more cycle-friendly cities in North America (San Francisco and Vancouver especially, both of which strike me as pretty hilly) but a fairly new concept over here. I think we should all start mentioning it while out for dinner at other establishments. If it was a widespread service it would be one step in tempting more people onto two wheels. I cycled from the meal onto drinks with another friend, and Trusty was distinctly put out to be left chained up on the cold dark street. He does get spoiled fast.
** In case you are wondering about the food, there are lots of restaurant reviews online. I really enjoyed it, but I am not a food reviewer and as the meal was free would feel a bit compromised by bigging it up. Blogalistic ethics, y'see? Tricky.