Sunday, December 19, 2010

Good Racks, Bad Racks and New Fangled Racks

On a couple of recent bike outings I had the chance to ponder bicycle rack design and placement. While poor design and placement can't compare in urgency to questions like the tax cut deal (unlike), DADT (like), or events in the Middle East, when I can't find a decent place to lock up my bike it hurts my feeling just a little bit.
Barnes and Noble's bike rack.
I always find this grill rack at Barnes and Noble very unsatisfactory. Here, I 've locked by bike to the outside of the rack in the interior of the sidewalk, which is the only way to securely lock my Expedition to the rack. I prefer not to lock my bike in this manner especially when the sidewalk is narrow since it can limit accessibility for sidewalk users who get around in wheelchairs or are pushing baby carriages. I could roll the front wheel into the grill but only the wheel would be locked. I could also lift the front of the bike over the top of the rack, and I've done that before, but it's clumsy and awkward for a petite woman like me to hoist up a 35 lbs bike over the top of the rack. The fact that the rack is up against a tree doesn't really help either since it limits the number of bikes that can be stored in that manner to precisely two. The other side of the rack is at the edge of the sidewalk and the curb, rendering that side of the rack completely useless.  A more functional rack could be installed at one of the islands in the parking area and be a huge improvement for customers arriving on bicycles.


A very serviceable rack on Aspen Avenue in downtown Flagstaff!  Assuming some cyclists are traveling in pairs up to six bikes could easily be locked to this rack design.  The extra wide sidewalk, of course, makes this a good location for this type of rack set up.


These ring racks at City Hall have always seemed pretty functional, primarily because they provide stability and they are spaced widely apart allowing bicyclists traveling in grops of two or more to lock their bikes together.  Their placement also makes access and removal easy.  And again, a U-lock can can attach the frame to the lock.  Finally, they are set under a covered walkway right next to the front door of City Hall, which I appreciate because of the added security and protection from the elements.

NAU bike racks on North Campus.
My favorite racks in Flagstaff can be found all over Northern Arizona University campus. I like these loop racks are a stable base and the any bike frame can easily be locked to the rack rather than just the front tire. I also like the fact that the loops are spaced to house multiple bikes without them becoming crammed together so tightly that removal is difficult. The loop rack is also placed in an open area making it easy see and simple to access from any direction.

Impromptu bike rack outside of Diablo Burger on Heritage Square.
Often times, fences and posts become racks. The decorative iron fence rail outside Diablo Burger on Theater Square is very serviceable as a bike rack, and I always like the romantic look of bicycles secured next to alfresco dining areas.

Street signs are popular bike racks in most cities and towns. Sometimes I worry about whether or not I can get ticketed for locking up on a No Parking sign but so far it hasn't happened so I'll probably just keep doing it.

Ultimately, when no rack space is available cyclists will use whatever is available.


A very popular impromptu bike rack outside Pay n' Take on Aspen Ave.
For the past several months, the Southside business district has been getting a facelift - new sidewalks, benches, protective tree irons and - decorative bike racks.  I'm always a little suspicious of decorative  bike racks because often they are more decorative than functional.  Here are a few.


I'd probably be more inclined to use the protective tree iron than the very short semi-circle rack, cute though it may be.  Using my U-lock, I'd only be able to lock my wheel to the rack rather than the frame.  The low-to-the-ground design doesn't allow a much stability for a bike either so if one locked a bike with a cable the bike could easily get knocked over on to the street or across the sidewalk. I suppose I could lock my Dahon to the rack if it were folded.  I suppose that I could lock a BMX or a Big Wheel, too, not that I ride either.


This new bike rack resembles the wheel of a sailboat and looks like it would accommodate a maximum of two bikes or four bikes if two bikes are locked together side-by-side.  Bob and I usually lock our bikes up in this manner when we secure to a rack in order to free up space for more cyclists.

Perhaps it was unclear to the owner of the cruiser that the blue object is indeed a bike rack.  Oh, well poles and signs work well, too.
Another decorative rack with a star pattern.  Looks like this rack could accommodate a single bike at the curb side, a bike in the middle section, and up to two inside the sidewalk area (although sidewalk accessibility would be compromised).  I hesitate to use the curb side of bike racks because of the difficulty it creates for people getting out of the driver's side of a car.  No, I'm not supposed to worry about accommodating car riders on a bike blog but sometimes it pays to keep the peace.

Shipping Container House Update 

Progress on the shipping container house on the Southside continues.  Recently, my husband has also taken an interest in recycled shipping containers as a future affordable housing solution for us.  They offer a very low cost per square foot, as compared to traditionally built homes.  In a town like Flagstaff where high priced land adds significantly to the cost of homeownership, the shipping container house could help lower housing costs for both low and middle income residents.  Interestingly, research has shown that "upscale" homeowners have also chosen to build with shipping containers for reasons of sustainability.  Anyway . . . .
Side view of the shipping container house.

Street view of the shipping container house.





13 comments:

Sinbad and I on the Loose said...

That was a very good post on bike racks. The owner of the pink bike should have looped the cable through the frame. I think a determined thief could work the bars and forks through once the wheel was removed. Shipping container housing, that is a new one for me. Although I see a joke there (I'll let that one go) I think it is a pretty cool idea. Good post Karen.

Keith said...

I've thought about emailing you to ask about this exact topic. Bike Racks. I always refer to the local bike rack scene by the title of the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. The Ugly sometimes get the job done and sometimes they do not. I've got my own favorites as well as those racks that make me want to send a stern note to the neighboring shops asking them to kindly put a usable bike rack up instead of the hand-me-down rack that came from an elementary school.

She Rides a Bike said...

Keith, feel free to seek my bikey wisdom any time. As a blogger, you understand the thrill of being given a forum to express one's opinion. I am a public employee and thus routinely discouraged from self- expression. Bookmarked both your blogs as I find your bitterness and griping refreshing - also frowned upon traits of public employees.

mattyfab said...

are you looking for a bike rack fabricator to consider easy of use and interesting design?
i don't know if this is kosher but, http://www.cartwrightdesign.com/fabrication.php

She Rides a Bike said...

Sorry Mattyfab, I don't have any role is rack selection or purchasing. I just fill out the occasional public survey and bend the ears of urban planners.

K said...

Thanks for the fab post Karen! As you know, I am very interested in and have strong opinions about bike racks. It often seems like there are a lot of good intentions in the design and placement of racks, but sometimes not enough knowledge of how bicyclists actually use those racks to guide the process. I appreciate all your great photos!

Cori said...

First, thanks for the comment on Urban Girl at 6990, it is always a pleasant surprise to find that a blogger you enjoy reading has taken a peak at your own blog! I started laughing when I saw the B & N rack as your first one. Hubby and I HATE that rack and agree it is the WORST in Flag. I have had mixed feelings about the new artsy ones downtown. I like the aesthetics, but wish they were more functional. I also wish they had tapped into the artist vibe here more and had public works of art commissioned like Louisville did: http://www.ldmd.org/Bike-Racks.html.

She Rides a Bike said...

Of course, I love the downtown racks in the 'Ville, where they are also getting the B Cycle bike share program. I should find out who partnered to fund them; maybe PapA John or the otherwise evil Humana (you never hear a single person say "oh, I love working for Humana).

Velouria said...

All the bikes I ride for transportation are enormous, and I have yet to meet a multi-bike rack where they will fit into the slots. I end up tethering my bikes to fences and poles most of the time.

She Rides a Bike said...

Velouria, I have no idea how one would lock a Dutch bike to most of the ones I see in town although, I just found a shot of a rack in Louisville I took earlier this year that might work. I'll post a bike rack admendum and include. See what you think.

Ms.Ding said...

Great post on bike racks! Really good summary with excellent examples. And yeah, like Velouria, I can't lock my Oma up to any grill-style racks, as you've seen on my blog. (Thanks for reading and commenting!). You should be cautious about locking your bike to a street pole by the way. In Chicago most street sign poles are anchored into the ground by one and sometimes two bolts. If the sign is at all loose, it's not hard to loosen the bolts, lift up the sign, and take your bike. Some bike thieves have been known to set traps, basically loosening sign poles ahead of time.

She Rides a Bike said...

Thanks for the warning, Ms. Ding. The lengths toat some bike thieves go to in order to steal bikes always surprises me and I had not heard of that one.

303aee28-d467-11e1-8d21-000bcdcb471e said...

I never thought shipping containers could look so good! I wouldn't mind living in one of these.