The bike rack is one of those urban features woefully in need of a redesign. Thanks to NYC DOT and Cooper-Hewitt, who joined forces in creating the City Racks Design Competition, New York just might continue to lead the way in making cities more bike-friendly. As many people have noticed, the city has been making great advances on behalf of the cyclist, adding miles of bike lanes and even experimenting in Chelsea with a protected path modeled after European lanes. However, currently there are simply not enough racks to go around, and with the city replacing parking meters for the more efficient Muni Meter, bikers have few options for alternative locking.
The competition to build a better bike rack will be overseen by a seven-member jury that includes David Byrne (an avid rider), Steve Madden (who designed the recent award winning NYC bus shelter) and Ellen Lupton, curator of contemporary design at Cooper-Hewitt. To help inspire potential applicants (the deadline to register is 30 April 2008), what follows is a brief survey of what we feel to be the best in bike parking design today.
Arlington Bike Rack
What if, after removing the thousands of parking meters that dot the New York cityscape, these were replaced with similar, but equally functional forms for bike locking? The city of Arlington, VA first experimented by replacing the tops of old meters with lacquered steel bicycle icons (above right). The racks were easily legible and worked so well that the city has started rolling out a manufactured version countywide.
Patrick Jouin: Velib
The rampant use of bollards fronting government buildings and corporate lobbies suggests a lingering sense of insecurity. Perhaps the city might coordinate a wholesale replacement of these smoke break stools with functional parking systems. While the parking design by Patrick Jouin for the lauded Paris Vélib system is clearly specific to the purposes of the rental program, its elegance is worthy of emulation (above left).
The Cyc Bicrac™ by Madrax is likely too stylized for the streets of New York. After all, the competition brief calls for submissions to consider the new bus stop shelters, newsstands and public toilets, all of which are rather restrained. Nevertheless, Cyc Bicrac conveys the pace of the city without sacrificing functionality, two factors to consider when designing a New York rack (above right).
The car shaped bike rack by Adrien Rovero received a lot of attention a couple years ago. Although the rack doesnât provide the capability of securing both bike wheels making it less suitable for New York streets, it's an ideal symbol for the repurposing of city street space (above left).
The Horseshoe Rack by Creative Pipe is simplicity at its best. The circular shape clearly alludes to a bicycle wheel, can accommodate two bikes and is sturdy enough to withstand the rigors of New York. This is the kind of functional design the city needs and likes (above right).