Weigh in on the Future of City Bike Racks

The 10 finalists in the CityRacks Design Competition, announced last March, are on the streets and ready for use, with prototypes installed in four of the five boroughs (sorry, Staten Island). Rack locations are mapped on the contest blog, where the city is accepting comments on each design. Nine of the prototype racks are also on display at Astor Place, where a reception was held yesterday.

The CityRacks competition is co-sponsored by New York City DOT, the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum, Transportation Alternatives and Google. The winning design, to be adopted as the "new standard" for city bike parking, will be named on October 24.

Streetsblog regular Susan Donovan has already noted that several of the racks are designed for front wheel locking only, a drawback that she says "won’t fly" in NYC. What say you?

Streetfilm by Elizabeth Press

  • m-o

    Some of them are awkwardly shaped indeed. The spiral-on-the-ground seems too low for me to put a u-lock through my front wheel and downtube. So many of them seem to really be limited to only one or two bikes, or else seem that they’ll create a messy clutter of bikes. I like the one that looks like a check-mark or bent-up paperclip – i think that’s the most promising design.

  • I liked the fact that the abstracted “y” shape can serve as a seat. Combination street furniture and bike parking is great idea!

  • Susan is right about the need to lock both wheels.

    Why can’t bike racks just look like bike racks?

  • I guess the big O-shaped ones aren’t that bad. The Y-shaped one is great too. With those you can lock up both wheels and they look nice and sturdy.

    check-mark or bent-up paperclip is also pretty good.

    I’m starting to like the Y-shaped one best.

    What is that red thing???

  • Omri Schwarz

    Why are they on pedestals? They really should display them as they would be mounted for real, so observers could try to lock bikes to them. This only shows the esthetics.

  • CH

    I disagree with the suggestion that the bike rack itself needs to accommodate the locking of both wheels. Either you’re carrying two locks, in which case you lock one wheel to the bike itself, or you have a really long lock that can go through the frame, both wheels, and the rack. That has little or nothing to do with the bike rack and everything to do with the user.

    The current M shape bike racks are no different in that they are designed for a single point of contact with the bike- generally front of frame and front wheel. People who lock their bikes parallel to the racks rather than perpendicular are doing it wrong and using 3-4 bike parking spaces instead of one. And they work well when used correctly.

    Long story short, the bike rider needs to make sure both wheels (and seat) are secured, not the bike rack.

  • Andy B from Jersey

    From the document “Bicycle Parking Guidelines” written by the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals (APBP).

    The rack element should:
    – Support the bicycle upright by its frame in two places
    – Prevent the wheel of the bicycle from tipping over
    – Enable the frame and one or both wheels to be secured
    – Support bicycles without a diamond-shaped frame with a horizontal top tube (e.g. a mixte frame)
    – Allow front-in parking: a U-lock should be able to lock the front wheel and the down tube of an upright bicycle
    – Allow back-in parking: a U-lock should be able to lock the rear wheel and seat tube of the bicycle

    Also – “The rack element should resist being cut or detached using common hand tools”

    While I have not seen the prototypes in person, I have reviewed the entry documents of the finalists in detail. I am not convinced that any of these racks meet these basic criteria. I’m also very concerned that many are not identifiable as bicycle racks which is a requirement that is being considered in the revised version of the APBP guidelines. (The amorphous red rack definately fails this test).

    I do wish NYCDoT the best with this competition and I had really hoped that a brilliant design would have been a result. Unfortunately I am very concerned that these racks do not meet the basic security requirements and none of them seem to exceed the security provided by the ugly but stalwart inverted “U” racks like the model commonly found all over Philadelphia.

    So in the spirit of the Neistat Brothers famous “Bike Thief” video I would like to make a suggestion. NYCDoT should go out and lock bikes to these racks. Then they should get some of NYC best (but reformed) bike thieves to see how easy it would be to steal bikes from these various rack designs. Then a comparison should be done to the standard Inverted “U”.

    Hopefully my suspicions will be proven wrong but if I were a betting man…

    The APBP Guidelines can be found here (http://tinyurl.com/4yvu9e).

  • John Torvit

    I think that red one is amazing! It would be a great icon for the city and make people more aware of cycling. It might even get people thinking about cycling who never thought about it before.

  • Andy B from Jersey

    Actually, I must make a retraction of sort. After taking a closer look at this StreetFilm and the video from NY1, the one rack that looks like diamond on a post actually seems pretty good. As long as it is made of a material that is NOT so easily cut (a concern I had from the description from the design entry), then I think it had a fair amount of potential. It also might help to fatten the materials on this rack to make it less easy to get tools in between to break open U-locks.

    It also seems that some other of the designs could possibly be made more secure if slightly altered.

  • Ice_MAN

    Andy Said — “I’m also very concerned that many are not identifiable as bicycle racks which is a requirement that is being considered in the revised version of the APBP guidelines.”

    can some one tell me what a bike rack is supposed to look like. A good design should challenge our understanding of what a bike rack is.

  • Personally, the Y-rack is my favorite. Also, I like the Ignacio Ciocchini design (round circle w/vertical green stripe) and the Open Thread design which can accomodate 4 bikes.

    Because I was finding it difficult to find a decent analysis along with pictures of each rack, I decided to write one myself. I posted pictures of all 10 racks on my blog, along with my thoughts on each one. If anyone’s interested I invite you to come over, take a look, and leave your comments.


  • Anon

    An inversted U is the best, cheapest and readily available. What’s the big deal? Why do we need a competition. What we need is more inverted U’s on every block.

  • Andy B from Jersey

    Anon, brings up a good point! Cost of manufacturing!

    Also, to answer Ice_MAN, I’ve seen some bike racks (at least I thought that they might have been bike racks) that I couldn’t figure out how to properly secure my bike to. A good design must be self explanatory.

    Doorhandles are a good example. They often come in many different shapes and sizes but the nature of the design must intuitively tell the user push / pull here.

    A bike rack must do the same. Place bike here. Put lock there. The amorphous red rack, while it looks really, really cool, still leaves me with no clue how to use it.

  • Andy B from Jersey

    Oh yeah! BTW

    In a nice reprieve, Channel 4’s news coverage was very positive last night.

    See: http://tinyurl.com/45n68b

    PS – Do all the guys at TA get hit on and flirted with by attractive TV female news correspondents like happen here Wiley Norville?? If so I gotta’ get a job with TA!

  • No wonder David Byrne decided to design his own! Half of these might be OK but still not as interesting as you might find at some place like Creative Metal Works.

  • Hey how about my design?? http://tinyurl.com/4zhadr

  • Andy Trafford, you might want to pitch that idea to Kryptonite.

  • warmcycle

    You have to check out the prototypes before you write stuff down! Some of them are great! I did and this is my opinion. My favorites are Ciocchini and Miller/Ruggiero because they feel very sturdy and provide plenty of contact points between the bike frame and both wheels. The Ruggiero rack was already rusting but I assume that is just because it is a prototype. Ciocchini reminded me of street name signs in New York and the round tubing felt really strong. The Y is cool but it is an invitation for people to sit on and skateboarders to sklide on it. if you are biker in New York the last thing you want to do is have to ask someone to move to park your bike, you’ll never know where it will go after that. Next Phase studios is good but it moves a little to much for confort.


DOT Launches Bike Rack Design Competition

The days of the U- and wave-racks are numbered Think you can build a better bike rack? Now’s your chance. Yesterday the city announced an international competition for a bike rack designed "to be an icon for New York City cycling." The competition is a partnership between DOT and the Smithsonian’s Cooper Hewitt National Design […]

Eyes on the Street: Uprooted CityRack

A tipster sends this picture of one of the city’s new bike racks that, someway, somehow, got wrenched out of the pavement. We’re told that the sidewalk at Fulton Street and Rockwell Place in Brooklyn had a big chunk missing where the bike rack would have been. After this bike rack design won a 2008 […]

CityRacks Winner: It’s a Standing O

Danish Ambassador Torben Getterman accepts on behalf of the winning designers. Photo: Nathan John. Winners of the CityRacks Design Competition were announced this morning. First place for outdoor rack went to Ian Mahaffy and Maarten De Greeve (Bettlelab) of Copenhagen, whose prototype will be adopted as "the new standard bicycle rack installed on New York […]

First Look: New CityRack Has Arrived

Hat tip to @zacfrank for this shot of the new CityRack, the first of its kind to be mass-produced and installed on a New York City sidewalk. After the "hoop" won the CityRack design competition last fall, DOT announced that it will install 5,000 of them in the next three years. Where is this one […]

Wiki Wednesday: CityRack ‘Em Up

We turn our attention this week to two StreetsWiki entries on how to get new bike racks for your neighborhood. A post originated by the Livable Streets Initiative’s own Lily Bernheimer invites wiki users to submit info on prime potential locations "so that requests may be submitted to the NYCDOT in a more organized and […]