Bike storage negotiation
March 1, 2011 8:49 AM   Subscribe

What's the most polite and likely-to-be-successful way to ask my new neighbors if I can continue to store my bike on the landing outside their apartment?

I live in an apartment on the third floor of a house. I've had a bike for a few months, and I've stored it in a sort of window bay across from my second-floor neighbors' apartment, because it's difficult for me to lug it up and down the stairs. The second-floor people were fine with this arrangement when I asked them--they already knew me by the time I got my bike. They've now moved out and apparently the new neighbors are coming in today. I'm wondering when and how (and whether?) to broach the subject of letting my bike stay on their landing. It seems to me like it'd be rude to introduce myself with this in mind; on the other hand I don't want to ask after they have already put their own stuff there. Right now the bike is in the landing of my own apartment, making it pretty difficult to get in the door (it's an old house with narrow entryways).

I recognize I might be overthinking but I do want to get this concern resolved, and start things off right with my new neighbors, since I plan to stay in my apartment for the indefinite future. (And, um, I want to be able to get inside my own door.) Thanks in advance for your help.
posted by mlle valentine to Human Relations (19 answers total)
A box of chocolates and a politely-phrased query, imo. And if they say no, or they want to think about it, don't pester them.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 8:55 AM on March 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

I'd just ask them when you introduce yourself. You're not asking for something that's going to be a big inconvenience to them (probably), so you don't need to soften them up for it, just ask straight up.
posted by MsMolly at 8:57 AM on March 1, 2011

Best answer: I would wait till they seem settled in (or maybe while the move is happening if it's a protracted, relaxed process and they seem like they're in good spirits), and then go knock on their door. Introduce yourself, maybe welcome them to the building, and then say something like, "I had an arrangement with [Previous Tenant] that I could keep my bike on your landing. Is that cool with you guys?"

A bottle of wine wouldn't be a bad thing, but honestly I don't think it's strictly necessary unless you're usually very chummy with your neighbors.
posted by Sara C. at 9:11 AM on March 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

Best answer: You could leave them a note to welcome them and to bring it up. That way they can deal with the question when they have a break from the hectic scene of moving in. It also gives them time to consider whether or not they're OK with it, without being put on the spot.

Including a bottle of wine or something is up to you. I would probably offer to pay them $5 - 10 every month, but that's just me.
posted by corey flood at 9:29 AM on March 1, 2011

Best answer: Meet them. Bring them a box of cookies. Then I might say something like, "Hey, when you were checking out the apartment, you might have noticed the bike in the window bay - the blue one? Yeah, that is mine. Susan and Robert, the old tenants, let me store my bike there because it is a real pain to get it up the stairs to the third floor. Would you be open to letting me do the same thing? I didn't want to assume it was ok, so my bike is currently upstairs."

Expect them to possibly say no, but then change their minds after a few months (or say yes, and change their minds after a few months...if it were me, I'd like the window bay across from my apartment door to be free so the hallway wouldn't feel crowded). Think about possible alternates for bike storage. Maybe all of you can go in on a bike rack to be mounted on the front porch?
posted by arnicae at 9:32 AM on March 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

Most people don't know how to carry bikes. If this arrangement doesn't work out, try carrying your bike by the stem and left chain stay, instead of by the handlebar and saddle. You'll be amazed at how much easier this is.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 9:52 AM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

I did this at one place I lived with a motorcycle and the neighbours' carport. I just said—I prefer not parking on the street, and I see you've got an empty space where a car goes, would it inconvenience you a lot if I were to park my bike in your driveway in return for $x (it wasn't much) towards your rent? They were fine. Didn't even take the money.
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 11:29 AM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Best answer: When you ask them, preface the question with "I don't need an answer right now," so they don't feel put on the spot and give you an answer without considering how it might impact their needs.

Personally, I'd be a little uncomfortable with moving into a brand new place only to have someone immediately ask for a favor that might be an imposition on my space. It's nice that your previous neighbors helped you out, but the fact that you have a bike and a third floor should not be something for your new neighbors to solve. Especially since you're not asking for a short-term favor, but an arrangement you expect to continue indefinitely, offer to pay them, and assure them that they can terminate the agreement if they find it isn't working for them.
posted by sageleaf at 11:50 AM on March 1, 2011 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: PareidoliaticBoy: Thanks. I meant to ask at the end of the post for carrying tips, if this doesn't work out (and even if it does, since getting the bike down from the 2nd floor is still a problem). My big difficulties are that a) the stairs are narrow and windy and it's hard to maneuver and b) I'm pretty small (5' woman), don't know if that makes a difference.

Thanks to everyone else for responses so far, too. Giving the neighbors time to decide is a good idea. Also, because it's a house, not an apartment building, the way stuff is set up along the stairwell can feel pretty communal, but I will try not to lose sight of the fact that I'd be imposing on their space.
posted by mlle valentine at 12:11 PM on March 1, 2011

If it's a house that has been formally separated into apartments, it's not really their space. Of course, it's not your space, either. It's possible that your bike being on the landing might impose on them in some way, so definitely ask permission. But I don't think you should assume that you're encroaching on their space (at all, because you're not) or imposing unless they tell you that you are.
posted by Sara C. at 12:24 PM on March 1, 2011

You could always offer to put out the building's trash in exchange. A box of chocolates is eaten and forgotten, but a weekly task that makes their life easier will make is also easy to look upon your bike.
posted by cior at 12:46 PM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'd also offer to remove it if they give notice when they have parties or other more formal social gatherings.
posted by cior at 12:47 PM on March 1, 2011

Also also, keep your bike clean. Make sure not to track up dirt, mud or other grime. You should put yourself in charge of keeping that landing clean, unless there's a cleaning service for communal areas.
posted by cior at 12:48 PM on March 1, 2011

Best answer: If there's a chance you could introduce yourself by helping them move in, I would get right on that.
posted by mhoye at 1:05 PM on March 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

On the getting your bike up and down the stairs front: what sort of frame do you have? It's easier to carry a men's frame than the standard ladies' with the sloping top tube.

I have carried my bike(s) up narrow stairs and other than sometimes slamming into walls, it's not hard. Assuming you have a a men's frame which is diamond shaped, slink low so your right shoulder is beside the inside of the diamond, in front of the seatpost. When you stand up straight after putting your right hand through the diamond you'll be holding the bike. Then grab the handle bar with your left hand, tilt the entire bike in the direction you're going (If you're going up stairs make the front tire higher than the rear, lower if you're going downstairs). For a ladies frame, just try to hook the seat on your shoulder.

The weight of your bike is ultimately what decides how easy it is to get up and down stairs.
posted by loriginedumonde at 3:22 PM on March 1, 2011

Response by poster: Update: Neighbors were not home (and perhaps have not come today at all; I can't tell) so I left them a note to explain where the bike lives now, ask if it can stay, and tell them that I can move it if need be. I think the idea of getting them cookies or something is great, but it'll have to wait 'til they actually appear--for now, I settled for offering to help out with the moving in if they want. Thanks to all for the suggestions.

lorignedumonde: Unfortunately, it's a ladies' frame bike and it's pretty small since I'm so short, making it a little hard to get hold of. It's not so heavy that carrying it is impossible, but going up another flight of even-smaller stairs considerably dents my biking enthusiasm. I did try PareidoliaticBoy's suggestion when I got home and it seems to help. I probably also just need practice going up and down stairs--I got the bike a few months ago and have taken it out only a handful of times
posted by mlle valentine at 3:42 PM on March 1, 2011

Yes at only 5' you're not going to be able to swing it over your shoulder very easily, which is where the biggest assist to using that chain-stay grab works. Most people are quite surprised at how much difference this makes, but many smaller women I've shown trick this to do find they can't get the leverage. Coming down the stairs you might be able to walk it in front of you on the back wheel depending on how much noise/ disturbance this makes.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 4:00 PM on March 1, 2011

Response by poster: Just holding from the wheel instead of the saddle is a big help, even if I can't herculeanly carry the whole thing over my shoulder. Man, I am a bike neophyte.
posted by mlle valentine at 4:10 PM on March 1, 2011

Is there any chance you can ask the landlord if you might be able to install one of those pull up bike racks? The pulleys attach to the ceiling and you attach the bike and haul it to the ceiling of the stairwell.
posted by Drasher at 5:58 PM on March 1, 2011

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