CityRacks Winner: It’s a Standing O

IMG_4433.jpgDanish 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 City’s sidewalks." DOT plans to install nearly 5,000 of these in the next three years.


Says the CityRacks blog:

Mahaffy and De Greeve’s design reflects a modern simplicity that will
greatly enhance the City’s streetscape. The rack is round with a
horizontal crossbar, evoking an abstracted bicycle tire. Constructed
of cast-metal, the design is elegant yet sturdy enough to withstand the
harshest street environments.

In addition to the honor of designing the sidewalk rack of the future, Mahaffy and De Greeve received a check for $10,000, courtesy of Transportation Alternatives. Second-place was awarded to Andrew Lang and Harry Dobbs of London, and third-place to Ignacio Ciocchini
of New York.

Two first place winners were chosen in the indoor category: RSVP Studio of New York and Jessica Lee and Anthony Lau of London.


RSVP Studio’s winning indoor design. What you see are "ceiling mounted
bungie-cords and a grooved floor. Its structural grid provides a
secure yet flexible system that could be easily adapted to any building


The tandem of Jessica Lee and Anthony Lau shared honors for their "system of three modular pieces that could be installed in an
unlimited number of combinations to conform to rooms large or small,
tall or short."

  • Old-timers may recognize the Standing O as the “Ecology Symbol” introduced by graphic designer, Ron Cobb on October 25, 1969 and placed into the public domain.

    According to Wikipedia:

    The symbol was a combination of the letters “E” and “O” taken from the words “Environment” and “Organism”, respectively.

    Here’s a picture of the original.

    I can’t think of a more perfect symbol and functional design for the coming revolution in green transportation.

  • MrManhattan

    I remember when that symbol was new.

    Damn, I’m feeling old right now.

    Gee… Thanks Brian!

  • beng722

    I’m underwhelmed. This doesn’t appear to be very efficient. How many bikes can be locked to this? Why aren’t there any vertical bars? The current bike racks – connected vertical bars – serve several bikes in a very small space. Can’t see how this would.

  • Andy B from Jersey

    Well at least they choose the least stinky turd they were given. BTW, here’s how you install a bike rack ( Philly style (Yeah! I’ll take that bike rack wit’ maximum security and function).

    New York can teach a lot about innovative bike/ped design but they could still learn a thing or two about bike racks from Philly.

  • =v= Ron Cobb has a website, with the original cartoon that introduced the Ecology Symbol:

    Note that we’ve also got two design-award-winning bike racks that double as tree guards [PDF format, 237kb]:

    Ecology symbol tree guard, anyone?

  • The same Ron Cobb from “Alien” fame? Wow, nice reference.

  • t

    I think these look great, but you’d need at least five of them in one area to park ten bikes. These racks should probably be considered the equivalent of a short term parking space; they are convenient but are still a long way off from solving this city’s bike parking needs.

    What’s needed is less focus on design and more focus on space and security. All the beauty in the world won’t make up for the fact that there’s a lack of available real estate on which to park bikes, especially in a way that would encourage more bike commuting. I’m not leaving my bike outside on one of these things for eight hours while I’m in my office. If my bike is stolen, it will be little comfort to know that it was taken from an award-winning rack.

  • Mike

    beng72 & t: I can’t see how these have any less capacity than the existing U-Rack. You’re supposed to park parallel to the u-rack, so that means each standard (single-U) rack holds 2 bikes. Same with the new one.

  • Andy B from Jersey

    Also the rack does look like it could be prone to being snapped off at the mounting point to the ground. If these are cast aluminum then I’d say a swift kick or a chain to a bumper should be enough to take it out and take all that could be attached to it as well.

  • t

    Mike, that’s my point. If these racks don’t do any more than the standard U-rack, then I don’t see how they change very much. It is great that the city is adding thousands more bike racks over the next few years, but what’s needed is a way to park dozens of bikes in one small area, not re-design of a rack that can only hold two bikes. They’ve changed the design, but not the capacity.

  • Marty Barfowitz


    Your mixing up your issues a little bit.

    This was simply a design contest to come up with a new and more iconic bike rack. It wasn’t a contest to design new, on-street bike parking solutions.

    Like you, I also want to see hundreds of on-street automobile parking spaces replaced with thousands of bike parking spaces throughout the city. And I also don’t care all that much what those thousands of bike racks look like. Still, I think there’s real value in the idea of making bike commuting more stylish and less utilitarian.

    These two things are not mutually exclusive. We can have a fancy new bike rack and we can also have lots more on-street parking for bikes. The question is whether DOT is putting any energy into the latter. Assuming that they are, I think it’s probably a smart move on the part of the DOT to re-conceive bike racks as something stylish, iconic and desirable before planting them all over the city.

  • gecko

    Maybe this is totally bizarre but it seems that broad use of full size high quality folding bikes is inevitable.

  • t


    I mostly agree with you. Jazzing up the image of biking in this city can’t hurt, and these stylish racks send a message that the city is thinking about biking more than before.

    But I remember when the U-racks began popping up on city streets. They were hailed as stylish and minimalist as well. Now they are commonplace; one day these O-racks will be, too.

    My point is that the city could have killed too birds with one stone. It could have sponsored a design contest with a requirement that the racks have form and function. I think they look great, but the city missed a big opportunity.

  • If there are enough of them installed in enough places, it won’t matter that they only hold two bikes each. The problem is that 5,000 isn’t nearly enough.

    Andy B., I share your breakability concern, but I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt that they did some testing on them before they settled on the design.

  • Typical modernist design: expensive and inefficient but looks cool.
    Stick with the inverted-U, which costs less and works better.

  • H.M.S. Pinafore

    Mike wrote:

    “beng72 & t: I can’t see how these have any less capacity than the existing U-Rack. You’re supposed to park parallel to the u-rack, so that means each standard (single-U) rack holds 2 bikes. Same with the new one.”

    I always park perpendicular to the U-rack, out of courtesy, to allow another bike to be locked to the same leg. There are often three or four bikes attached to one U-rack.

  • t, I hear where you are coming from but in most street applications you only have room for this style rack when placed in the “furniture zone” of the sidewalk. Plus cyclists like to park their bikes as close to their final destination as possible; directly in front of the door if possible. If these were to become as ubiquitous as (old fashioned) parking meters along some street locations then their wouldn’t be as mush of a need for high-capacity racks and cyclists are better served to boot!

    That said, there are definitely places like subway stations, civic buildings where that could use high-capacity style parking.

    Which leads me to wonder, are their even bike racks in front of schools, libraries, community centers or pools? These are some obvious locations where the city could lead by example on the bike parking issue.

  • J

    So much hating on these poor racks. I think they looks stylish and functional. Capacity will be gathered as more racks are installed, parking spaces converted to bike parking, and indoor bike parking is encouraged/required.

    The city is looking to install bike racks on a large scale and wants to do something that is functional for bikers, attractive to all street users, and leaves a positive impression about bicycling. The U racks didn’t add much to the street and didn’t age very well. I think these O racks look great, and possibly will look even better as they get worn in. Certainly they look better than the utilitarian U racks. I don’t know about the cost, but a large scale production will ease some of the burden.

  • J wrote: “Capacity will be gathered as more racks … parking spaces converted to bike parking”

    I’m not holding my breath. I’d be surprised if any of these wound up in current car parking spaces rather than current sidewalk space.

  • marty

    Geez, I had high hopes, somewhere on the line of “racks” plural, and capable of holding the number of bikes we expect to see on the streets in the coming years. The photo posted shows a bike locked with a U-Lock, (not the standard chain most of us use, and it leaves the front wheel totally exposed to theft, and bereft of something solid to lock it to. I actually feel a bit angry about this, after reading that Transportation Alternatives put up the cash for the prizes. As a TA member, thats twice in one year that they’ve made decisions without pooling members. For a member-supported organization, thats troubling. (the other, was the rebranding, which I find confusing and not too “graphic”)

    What a shame that this contest ended up like it did. Maybe for the next round, however long from now that is, folks can take a ride up to the North Academic Center at City College, and look at the excellent bike racks they have. I haven’t seen them anywhere else in the city.

  • marty

    I just took another look at the picture. One guy is actually biting his lip, PSW looks nervous, and the others…well, not pleased and proud, as you’d expect.

  • beng722

    yes pinafore, i also park perpendicular on the U racks which does allow for four bikes. And like you and others commenting, I never had a problem with them beyond the fact that there weren’t enough.

    yes, marty, how sad that TA used our contributions to reward this rehashed ‘design’ from a team that obviously doesn’t have any experience parking a bike on the streets of NYC. I’m picturing a bunch of kooky ‘designers’ cruising the city in a (no doubt hybrid) SUV, drinking bottled water and congratulating themselves for being so groovy and ‘green.’ Sorry, it’s been a long day.


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