Here’s one of those
small details that architects, city planners, and designers often overlook, but
they impact the quality of urban life: bike racks.
Philadelphia has a
shortage bike racks in Center City. This is an entirely new problem. When I
lived in Philly in the 1990s bike riders in Center City were so rare people
would look at you like you were riding a goat. Now the city needs 10,000 new
bike parking places. (And, I might add, one good Mexican restaurant.) The
Inky’s architecture critic Inga Saffron reports the city has ordered 1,500 new
upside-down "U" racks, which are stolid and effective, but they only
accommodate two bikes and they’re minimally designed–just a brownish tube.
Saffron describes a
"perfect" bike rack: it should allow the bike to stand upright,
resist thieves, and close up using a cyclist’s own U-lock. The CTA station I
bike to has just such a rack. I think it’s made by Graber, but I don’t see it
on their website.
It’s locks up tightly and even secures the box into which you can store your
helmet–a nice touch. On the downside, it only holds one bike, takes up a lot
of space, and looks like your bike is incarcerated.
Here’s my proposal:
with the high-end design business tanking–at least that’s what I’ve heard
anecdotally–designers should forgo creating yet another Charles sofa ripoff or
another weird plastic dog thing and design something with real use value. This is
the kind of design task Philippe Starck used to do with flair, albeit with a
rinky-dink romanticism we could do without.
Bike rack design
ideas should be submitted to the Philadelphia Planning Commission, which is
working on a a pedestrian and bicycle plan for a city that aspires to be the
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The city of New York has already sponsored a contest to discover a handsome new bike rack. The ten finalists were announced not too long ago, and while I don’t think any of them will elicit oohs and aahs, all of them are practical and would look sharp on the street. Take a look: