Bike racks on the brain

As Detroit becomes more bike friendly, more and more businesses and institutions are installing bike racks — which is great, no doubt about it. What is frustrating, though, is to see funds and good intent wasted when, simply put, the bike rack is not functional. This occurs when the rack is poorly designed or poorly placed.

The sad thing is that it is not inherently more expensive to buy a properly designed rack, or even build one. A great example of a do-it-yourself rack is at the Woodbridge Pub. It uses varying lengths of metal pipe and couplers for a functional rack that even has a cool industrial look to it.

There are several standard racks that are great: The post and loop, which you can find at Mudgie’s Deli and the simple inverted-U, which can be seen below.

Landscape Forms, which is a Michigan-based company, makes a couple of very functional racks with pleasant designs. The Pi is a take on the inverted-U and the Bicilinea is based on a design you might see employed in Europe. We really like how the angle makes it easier for many frame sizes to lock up to the rack.
Another great basic design can be seen right here at Rivard Plaza. (Not at all our doing!) There are lots of them, they are well-spaced and well-placed! This rack is a step up from the inverted-U and the post and loop because the angle, like the Bicilinea above, accommodates many different sizes and shapes of frames. They do take up more room though, so if space is limited go for the inverted-U or post and loop, which are both perfectly adequate.


Onto the bad. The wave rack, which can be found everywhere. Why is it bad? Unlike the inverted-U, there is only one possible connection point to the frame of a bike. The frame is the point, people. It’s the most valuable part of a bike.

The worst bike rack of all is the classic “comb” rack, the kind you probably used at elementary school. There’s one of these at the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center as well as at the Broadway People Mover Station. There is no place to lock a U-lock to, except at either end, and all the interior spots are great — if all you care about is your front wheel. Say no to comb!

Here are some links that talk about good and bad examples of racks, they really help you get the idea.

http://www.commuterpage.com/TDM/pdf/bad%20examples.pdf

http://www.sacbike.org/shopbybike/

http://www.portlandonline.com/transportation/index.cfm?a=58409&c=34813#rack

http://www.city.pittsburgh.pa.us/cp/assets/06_bicycleparking.pdf

One last quick note. Designing your own rack, whether to save money or to add a creative bent to a functional item, is awesome. And totally encouraged. Just make sure to consider the goal of the end object: something to lock a bike to. If that sounds obvious, well, you should see some of the racks out there. They look rad, but if you can’t lock your bike to it, it’s just an ornamental sculpture. A prominent example of artsy racks can be found in NYC, where David Byrne, an avid cyclist, designed nine iconic racks. That, importantly, also work.

If you are thinking about installing a rack – yay! – swing by the shop or shoot an email to info@wheelhousedetroit.com. Kelli and Karen have tons of information on styles, specs and prices.

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13 responses to “Bike racks on the brain

  1. Excellent post. The Association of Pedestrian and Bicyclist Professionals just released the second edition of their Bicycle Parking Guidelines. As you noted, it’s not just the rack but where it’s placed.
    http://www.apbp.org/?page=Publications

  2. Pingback: Bicycle Parking | m-bike.org

  3. “One last quick note. Designing your own rack, whether to save money or to add a creative bent to a functional item, is awesome. And totally encouraged. Just make sure to consider the goal of the end object: something to lock a bike to. If that sounds obvious, well, you should see some of the racks out there. They look rad, but if you can’t lock your bike to it, it’s just an ornamental sculpture.” ~ Sorry but isn’t this last note a little too opinionated? If you can’t lock to a rack its either an actual ornamental sculpture or you might just not be clever enough to figure out how to lock to it. Some business’s and institutions will always want something new and different, and sometimes those racks won’t work as good as existing designs. Sometimes ascetics outweigh functionality and when that happens functionality suffers, but the design will be much more pleasing to the eyes. The racks in New York you wrote about are perfect example of this, they look great, but they “could” work better. Most buildings in this city at least, have no bike racks, and bike riders are forced to lock to fences, poles, etc. I think discouraging someone from making a rack the way they want is counterproductive and kills innovation, especially if you’ve never made one yourself. I also think we can all agree that any bike rack is better than no bike rack

    • “One last quick note. Designing your own rack, whether to save money or to add a creative bent to a functional item, is awesome. And totally encouraged. Just make sure to consider the goal of the end object: something to lock a bike to. If that sounds obvious, well, you should see some of the racks out there. They look rad, but if you can’t lock your bike to it, it’s just an ornamental sculpture.” ~ Sorry but isn’t this last note a little too opinionated? If you can’t lock to a rack its either an actual ornamental sculpture or you might just not be clever enough to figure out how to lock to it.

      The whole point of a blog is to be opinionated, right? And guess on this one, we’ll just have to agree to disagree. If the average person isn’t “clever” enough to figure out to lock up to an actual bike rack, it’s just not designed well.

      Sometimes ascetics outweigh functionality and when that happens functionality suffers, but the design will be much more pleasing to the eyes.

      It is absolutely possible to design for both form and function.

      I also think we can all agree that any bike rack is better than no bike rack

      Well, if money, time and resources are spent on a rack that doesn’t work as well as a nearby post or fence…not sure that is actually better.
      Thanks for commenting, hope you can see where we’re coming from.

  4. “Unlike the inverted-U, there is only one possible connection point to the frame of a bike.”

    I’m not sure I get this. With the appropriate U-lock (which every cyclists should own) one attachment point is all you need to lock a wheel and frame to a rack. Should everyone carry two U-locks?

    I’m interested in seeing some of the bicycle racks you have designed and made- some of these designer bike racks shown here look very nice and as I’ve seen more and more pop up at places I travel frequently I wonder who keeps making them!

    The last thing I thought of as I read your response above was about designing bike racks for low levels of bicycle education. I agree the people shouldn’t have to be “clever” to lock a bicycle to a rack, but part of “clever” is the background “this type of information is a guarded secret”, which totally shouldn’t be the case!

    If everyone knew to own u-locks that could lock their frame to wheel to rack, then- well, then I guess bike rack designers would get paid a lot less? a lot more?

    I mean, I guess people knowing stuff doesn’t necessarily mean that they’ll use that knowledge, but if part of a bike rack designers job is to account for low levels of bike-lock education, wouldn’t that time be better spent teaching people how to lock so that they can spend less time accounting for different levels of bike-locking experience/education?

    • Hank,

      Thanks for the comments. I will re-comment with an answer to your first question. Having trouble articulating, so have asked for an expert explanation!

      We are not rack designers, just users with strong opinions! Eastpointe has installed some artistic racks, as has Mt. Clemens.

      Agree with you 100% about locking education. A key part of this story.

    • Here we go, Hank. This is from the first edition of the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professional’s Bike Parking guide:

      Wave style racks are not recommended. Bicyclists commonly use a
      “wave” rack as if it were a single inverted “U.” This limits the
      actual capacity of the rack to two bikes regardless of the potential or
      stated capacity. Bicycles parked perpendicular to a wave rack (as
      intended by the manufacturer) are not supported in two places and
      are more likely to fall over in the rack. The advertised capacity of a
      wave rack is usually much higher than the practical capacity.

      http://www.apbp.org/resource/resmgr/publications/bicycle_parking_guidelines.pdf

      (Thanks, Todd!)

  5. Pingback: How to (legally) install a bike rack « Wheelhouse Detroit

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  7. Pingback: What others are saying about bad bike racks, Wave racks and more….. | Bicycle Vault Blog

  8. I was wondering if there is a map of where bike racks are located in the city of Detroit?

  9. Yes, there is a map of bike racks in Detroit. It is a year out of date but you still may find it useful.
    http://www.m-bike.org/blog/detroit-bike-map-and-parking/

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