Now that I’m all worked up about bike racks, I’ll serve up an idea for you to do with what you like. Take it and run. Swat it into the gutter. Spit on it. Raise your eyebrows and say, “meh.”
If cyclists are concerned that there is a shortage of places to lock up their bikes downtown (a notion I’m a bit skeptical of), maybe it would be possible to rally the troops to take some initiative.
What if we tried to launch a project that would not only provide more bike racks downtown, but that also, in its own small and humble way, would make downtown a more fun and interesting place: Bike racks that are also whimsical works of sculpture, that are essentially public art.
This is in New York City, and I was led to it reading a recent post about a bike rack fanatic in Portland on the fabulous BikePortland blog.
It was a coincidence that the parking meter issue arose here about the same time I noticed that post — and just as, for the past few weeks, I have been collecting a few photos of unusual bike racks around Eugene.
For instance, there is this one at the Lincoln Street Cornucopia:
It is made from what would appear to be old cam shafts from long-dead internal combustion engines. The symbolism ensconced in this project ought to appeal to even the most militant and car-despising breed of cyclist.
How about the rack at Pacific Winds music story on Monroe and Eighth?
They probably spent a little more money than they had to, but it adds a touch of charm, don’t it?
Then you have this more abstract, postmodern attempt at the Watershed building at Third and Mill:
Inspired by concrete reinforcement bar? Or is it concrete reinforcement bar? It’s simple. But different.
And over at the University of Oregon Athletic Department — where excellence is the aspiration and extravagance is the fall back — we have these humble and understated racks outside the new Jaqua Center, where student athletes can catch up on their homework.
Love it or hate it, the UO Athletic Department is not one to engage in the mundane.
So, back to the idea. The Portland blog post I linked to above mentioned a bike rack design contest that was held in New York, that was helped along by the involvement of one-time Talking Heads frontman and longtime cycling enthusiast David Byrne.
The racks Byrne designed himself are a little more arty and whimsical. The design contest was less an art project, I think, and more about industrial design.
Either way, why couldn’t we do this here?
- We put the call out to artists and designers to get thinking.
- We assemble a group of cyclist representatives, city employees and downtown business owners who would identify potential sites — say, a dozen locations.
- We have some kind of jury pick the 12 best designs.
- Then we make them and install them.
What could possibly be more simple?
I guess the first problem might be money — seemingly in rather short supply these days. But such a project might be open to art grants or city 1% public art funding. Maybe the city could be persuaded to kick in some bike-pedestrian money, too. And then, of course, there is private fundraising.
Perhaps you could have the bike racks installed on the streets. And you auction off the original artist’s sketches or even model-sized versions of each rack to raise a little additional money.
There is a sizable cycling industry in this town, too. Maybe some of these companies could be approached for monetary or in-kind donations. The racks would have to be fabricated, and I know that they do know how to weld at Bike Friday, for instance. I’m not sure if they know how to weld at Burley anymore.
I’m just thinking off the top of my head here. I don’t really have any idea how one would go about this. I have no idea how much it would cost, how many racks might be needed or whether the city would be open to such a project. I’m sure it would be a ton of logistical work.
But if some people sense a bike parking shortage — why not try to make downtown a little better for bikes and a little more fun and interesting at the same time.
Is this just a harebrained idea? Or would anyone else be on board with it?
And as long as we’re chatting here, do you know of other unusual and fun bike racks around Eugene? Point me to them, or e-mail me a photo with the location. I’ll post them later.