Monday, June 29, 2009

Bike rack design for aesthetic and function

Ken Gray links on his blog to some prototype Bike Arc bike racks in Palo Alto, published in the online edition of the Architect's Newspaper. These are like luxury versions of the vertical bike racks long produced by local company Bike Up.

In fact, we don't have to look too far to see some interesting bike rack designs. And as I described in a post earlier this month (Bike Rack Blunders), it's fairly easy for site builders to provide insecure bike parking, despite good intentions.

But first let's look at the fancy racks.

Here's one right in Centretown, at the Museum of Nature. It's a fence-style bike rack with the word "NATURE" integrated into the design:

Next is a rack outside the BMO building on Laurier, hidden behind the underground parking access on the Laurier side. Designed by Dobra Design, it has both aesthetic and functional value:

This one's a bit of a head-scratcher. Designed by VELO-RACK of Montreal, they're installed (or at least they were in 2004) in front of the former Dennis Coolican building, now behind the Amica at Westboro Park. Can you figure out how they work? Think about it. We'll get back to that one later.

Some designers, site managers, and architects like the "ribbon" (or "wave") style bike rack, because it only requires two connections to the ground (saving installation casts) and because it occupies little space when not in use. Unfortunately, it doesn't support the bike in at least two spots, as recommended by the Bicycle Parking Guidelines published by the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals. The unfortunate result is this:

When I encounter such racks, I park my bike along them, as though it were a fence.

Bike rack design is, however, a very important issue. Not just from an aesthetic standpoint, but from a functional one, too. Many times, bike racks are designed to fit as many bikes as possible into them. But this design only works when they're used as intended, which often isn't how they're used.

For example, Bike Up ring racks and Cora triangular racks are designed for a large number of bikes, but the bikes must be backed into the rack in order to get this maximum yield. As you can see here with this Cora rack, most people park them in front-wheel-first. Not only because it's intuitive to do it that way, but also becase it lets you lock your front wheel in addition to the frame:

Then there are racks designed for high yield, but are, again, head-scratchers. I encountered this one outside the Cancer Centre at the Civic Hospital. It's obviously designed to hold a lot of bikes, but how?

Like other cyclists, I just hitched my bike to the familiar post at the end of this device and left it at that.

Still wondering how that red thing is used? Well there are two arms that stick up and hold the bike like a claw. There's a hole in the middle for you to put your lock through (my lock was too thick to stick through the hole, which defeats the purpose if you need an easy-to-cut lock to hold it secure), which holds the two halves of the clamp together.

This person got the clamping part right, but couldn't fasten the two clamping bits together. The person whose bike is partly out of view on the lower left, meanwhile, gave up and just hitched their bike to the contraption as they would any other thing that's bolted to the ground:

Of course, you can only design bike racks for so much simplicity. People will invariably find ways to display new forms of stupid:

For more on bike parking, have a look at the article I wrote for CfSC's Better Bicycling newspaper in 2004 (page 9, PDF).

1 comment:

  1. Opposite Mambo in the Market, on the wall of a parking garage is a vertical bike rack. It is pretty cool, provided you are strong enough to hoist your bike up there.