01 October 2008

NYC Bike Rack Competition

New York City has now announced the ten finalists in their bike rack competition. Thanks to Tom in Tucson for sending us the link. The competition recieved over 200 entries from 26 countries. Above is one of the finalist designs by Ian Mahaffy and Maarten De Greeve of Copenhagen.

Looking at the photos of the designs, it wasn't hard to spot the Danish entry. Simple, sleek and elegant. I like that they chose a classic bike in the illustration. Sit up straight like your mother taught you.

There are many cool designs in the Final 10. Many elegant forms and shapes. Apart from my biased love of the Copenhagen entry, I fancy the simple racks like Middle Row, Left and Bottom Row, Left. Personal taste.

I'm wondering, however, if a bike rack competition is the right way to go. Sure, it is a positive, visual way to brand cycling in the urban landscape. Bike racks on the sidewalks are seen by all. Even better if bikes are actually attached to them.

New York wishes to double the number of cyclists in the city by 2015. By all accounts they are actually doing something about it by building bike lanes and what have you. Bicycling has a high profile in the city.

I don't know if chucking a lot of time and effort at bike racks is the wise thing to do at this stage. Wouldn't traffic calming initatives, more effective bike lanes, positive branding of cycling, among other things, be a better place to start? Get people to ride their bikes, achieve a certain level of success with that before the rest of it.

Fair enough, a bike rack competition is a low budget affair. Installing the racks is easy and inexpensive. It gets lots of press and the results are seen by everyone on the streets. Pedestrians and motorists see them and realise that bicyling is gaining ground. That's positive.

Yes, I'm having a conversation with myself.

Bike Racks and Wrecks
Parking for bikes is a big issue in Copenhagen. Ironically, the City of Copenhagen is now planning rackless bike racks in congested areas of the city centre. Painted zones for parking - you just use your kickstand and wheel lock - and no space-consuming racks.

If you harbour a secret bike rack fetish I have a whole set on Flickr about bike racks. Most from Copenhagen and some from other European cities.


JerzyUk said...

Bike racks are a big issue when bike theft is common. As far as I understand it, bike theft is a huge problem in New York. I don't think wheel locks (like the ones used on most bikes in Copenhagen) would cut it in New York; people would just throw your bike into a truck/van. So I think that people will be more inclined to cycle when they know they have racks to lock their bikes to.

kat said...

I want to back up what jerzyuk said. In New York, you absolutely must lock your bike to something, and even then, it's unfortunately not necessarily safe. (Transportation Alternatives gives a thorough explanation of how bikes should be locked in NYC to prevent theft here.)

I wish I lived in a city where I could just use a wheel lock, but I don't want to lose my transportation!

Zakkaliciousness said...

For the record I've never stated that anyone should use wheel locks outside of Copenhagen. I agree with you both and have often written it here on the blog.

On the contrary. As ever, I'm merely presenting how it is here in copenhagen.

Zakkaliciousness said...

by the way, roughly 16000 bikes are stolen in cph each year

JerzyUk said...

Yeah sorry, I didn't mean to imply that you were ignorant to the problem of bike theft. Looking at my original post it comes across a bit like that, so sorry about that.

16000 a year in Copenhagen, wow. That is lots more than I thought. What are the most common ways that bikes are stolen in Copenhagen?

Pierre Phaneuf said...

What do they use in Amsterdam? I hear that the bike theft rates are pretty high there as well, but I've never been...

It's not as bad here in Montreal as in NYC, but you definitely have to lock to something. The city changed the parking meters and introduced some that have rings for cable locks, which is nice (U-locks worked well on the meters, but obviously cable didn't, and those are all over the place, so they're very handy). Combining something they'd put in anyway for the cars with something that's useful for the cyclist is nice, IMHO.

Zakkaliciousness said...

no problem, jerzyuk. most bikes nicked here happen when people forget to lock their wheel lock. but then again most bikes here are nothing special. beat up old transport horses.

every bike i've had nicked was because i forget the wheel lock. but then you just go onto the police website, type in your bike's serial number, notify your insurance company and the cheque is in the post.

in amsterdam it's much the same. they use wheel locks, too, but they also use other kinds in addtion.

i've written about it before, but here in copenhagen it is all about ease of use. when the bike is such an integral part of your daily life, you don't want hassle. you just want to get on it as quick as possible. thus, wheel locks are preferred.

Pierre Phaneuf said...

@zakkaliciousness: I agree very much about the ease of use. I managed to convert my not-really-practical bike from needing a bunch of extra equipment and fussiness to being literally just a handful (my pants clips and small removable lighting), which I'm trying to reduce to nothing (I'm considering gluing the lighting on, but the lack of chain guard, argh)...

I was shopping for a bike recently, and it was so appalling how I saw so many bikes that were quite nice and very practical, with integrated racks, basket and fenders, but lacking chain guards, almost universally. I don't know what's wrong with these people.

Check out this ridiculous luxury bike, spot what's missing:


acline said...

Three of these designs are wheel-benders. I wouldn't use them.

Zakkaliciousness said...

pierre... yes, it's a mystery, that lack of chainguards.

wheelbenders? i always get a kick out of that. there are literally hundreds of thousands of 'wheelbender' bike racks in denmark and holland and yet it is only people from elsewhere who have this strange idea that they are 'wheelbenders'.

millions of daily european cyclists who use them seem to manage just fine. i've only ever heard of this myth from people from abroad. oh, and one german guy once.

it is truly fascinating how urban legends spread.

Amsterdamize said...

Pierre, in Amsterdam this number has been steady for years now..hovering around 75.000 bikes stolen a year. Like Mikael said, we use wheel locks and one or two chain/u-locks to attach it to anything solid, be it a rack, tree, pole, bridge, whatever.

I also don't agree with the 'wheel-bender' association. Yes, the model is old, but has not become obsolete. The thing is, every bike here comes with a kickstand, single or double. So you put the wheel in there and use the kickstand. Even without the kickstand I don't see problem, unless you talk of vandalism.

Besides that, only because of the sheer amount of bicycles contrasting the limited available space, designers had to think of maximizing volume, so in big cities like Amsterdam you'll see many parking garages and whole street blocks with the ordinary square shaped rack, which allows for multiple and safe hookups.


Pierre Phaneuf said...

Ah, so in Amsterdam, people do attach their bike to something solid, they do not just use the wheel lock. Seeing people just use the kick-stand and wheel lock in Copenhagen was the top item that made me realize it was paradise. ;-)

I use a single mini U-lock to the back-wheel, through the rear triangle (I have safety skewers for the wheels, so I don't fuss with multiple U-locks or silly things like removing the front wheel to put it in the back), so I'm not really worried about wheel bending. But I don't like those racks that involve just putting the front wheel in for that very reason (I can't lock my frame or back wheel easily). I can sometimes work them by rolling my bike backward, but not always...

Sean said...

There is a short and very nicely done video showcasing the NYC bike rack design finalists on the Street Films web site: http://www.streetfilms.org.

Zakkaliciousness said...

did you catch that marc? :-) It's CPH 1 - AMS 0 in the 'bicycle paradise competition' according to pierre... :-)

Robert P said...

Wheelbending is a real problem in some places, such as Dublin. But Yes, it's the deliberate rather than the accidental sort (and sometimes just general carelessness by other cyclists).

I saw this competition a few weeks ago on David Byrne's blog. Most of the entries seem to prioritise form over function. The most adaptable/flexible one, to my eyes, is the 'butterfly' one (top middle). If these are the top 10, I shudder to think of the ones that didn't make the grade.

But as you say, perhaps my perspective is jaundiced by the fact that I live in a city where it is almost essential to lock front and back wheels, and frame, to minimise the opportunity for drunk stag parties to jump all over the bike as if it's a trampoline.

Re parking in CPH- while the 'lock it anywhere' idea obviously has merit, what struck me was the difficulties this often presented for pedestrians, especially mobility-impaired and disabled footpath users. The footpaths are already quite narrow in many places (often thanks to space reallocation from footpath to cycle lane); when random bikes, freestanding cycle parking and cafe tablea are introduced, the footpaths become almost un-negotiable in places.

Also, the DK insurance culture - which is fundamentally different from ours - is crucial to the cycle parking culture. Without the first, the second can almost never exist.

So despite its flaws, I'll take my trusty Sheffield-Stand-and-two-locks combination over trust in my fellow citizens- for now. But I'll keep hoping... ;)

Pierre Phaneuf said...

@Zakkaliciousness: While CPH was quite marvelous, don't get too cocky, I haven't been to AMS yet! Maybe next year... But I'm told they also have flat terrain, canals, bike lanes and lovely people, so it might be a tough call!

I'm intrigued by robert p's comment about the Danish insurance system that would somehow help with that situation?

Pippi said...

They're all better than the racks we have in Vancouver which are a real pain if you have a basket. I so wish I could just use a wheel lock like when I live in Norway -- my stupid U-lock is such a pain. Even my beat up bike wouldn't last long, though, if I just locked the back wheel.

robert p said...


Z mentioned it above:

"every bike i've had nicked was because i forget the wheel lock. but then you just go onto the police website, type in your bike's serial number, notify your insurance company and the cheque is in the post."

There's a serial number, it's registered, there's a central police database, and the insurance companies pay out promptly. Even when the bike was not locked! ;)

When these elements are in place, locking the bike wherever you like makes complete sense.

Hmmm, I feel an idea coming on. I wonder would a Danish insurance company pay out for a bike bought and registered in CPH, but stolen in Dublin... :D

Pierre Phaneuf said...

Hmm, I think that in Canada, a bike up to a certain value can be part of the household insurance, even if it's stolen outside of your home... I'll have to look into that.

Let us know if your idea shows some promise, I'm planning another trip to CPH, since I got sick partway into my last one... ;-)

Pierre-Luc Auclair said...

IMO they all look pretty similar, and not very function oriented. Nice racks are... nice; and that's pretty much it.

Pierre, it's kind of annoying to know that the Montreal police does nothing to prevent bike theft too. It's not like Amsterdam where they have enforcement policies.

Wheel benders are indeed a problem and standards such as the FietsParkeur provide basics for a good and convenient rack. Many companies in Europe provide such racks. I feel that the NYC competition should have taken into account such efforts.

You can get the standard text here:
the link.

Personally one of my favourite design is the VelopA Variant+.
See image

George said...

Hi Zac, I know I'm late, but there was an article in the New York Times recently about the lack of parking for bikes, and how that this is more than anything else an issue preventing people from cycling into the city. Even the hardcore lycra wearers are put off!

Kevin Love said...

I rather like the "post and ring" design here in Toronto. I note that the City is on track to achieve its target of installing 3,000 (three thousand) bicycle racks.



Its very effective. Everywhere I go in the City there is adequate parking.