I mentioned the NYC CityRacks design competition earlier this year (and also in a recent post), so I probably should point out the winning design. The “Hoop” rack by Copenhagen based designers Ian Mahaffy and Maarten De Greeve will be the next standard bike rack design for New York City. Several other blogs have posted about the winning design and it seems like there is a common theme in the comments section of each post. Based on what I have read, it appears that most people think the design looks pretty nice. I would tend to agree that it is an aesthetically pleasing form. In fact, I thought it was the best looking choice out of the 10 finalists.
Of course, looks aren’t everything and quite a few of the negative comments about the design seem to be focused on a couple of issues. The single point of attachment to the sidewalk is one issue that many people have questioned. Is the small footprint going to be enough to keep the rack secured as it is used and bumped into over the years? Not to mention the fact that thieves will try to pry the entire rack loose from its minimalist mounting plate. Also, some have called the design an example of “form over function” and point out that the actual part, which connects the circle to the ground in the photographs, looks sloppy compared to the renderings (which conveniently ignore the connection). From what I have heard, the designers have a better idea for securing the rack than what we have seen in the pictures of the initial installation, so I will reserve judgment on that. I do, however, think the small, single point footprint could be an issue in NYC- an environment where these racks will see significant use (and abuse). I guess time will tell on that.
The second complaint that I have seen from several people is that the winning design accommodates only two bikes. Personally, that is something that I do not see as a problem. In fact, I strongly believe that a 2-bike rack is the best way to go. Designs which take a minimum of sidewalk space and can lock two bikes in a stable manor (think of the inverted U rack again) can be used in clusters to allow for the exact amount of parking that is required. Furthermore, many of the bike racks on the market that are supposedly designed for several bikes are often misused so that they end up parking only a fraction of the bikes that they were intended to accommodate. I think that the commonly used ribbon rack design is a great example of this. The designer may have intended for each loop in the ribbon to hold one bicycle, but in reality people often lock their bicycles parallel to the rack because that is the only stable way to do so. In effect, a 7-foot long ribbon rack that was designed to hold nine bicycles, often can park only two- exactly the same number as a 2-foot wide inverted U. I don’t mean to single out the ribbon rack again, but I do believe that the flexibility of a smaller 2-bike rack design is a benefit to architects and urban planners, who can specify them in appropriate groups as needed. With any of the 2-bike designs mentioned (the original inverted U rack, the new Bicycle Hitch 2, or the Hoop design), x number of racks will always park twice as many bikes, because there is no way for one bike locked to the rack to take up space that was intended for other bikes. In other words, with those designs you actually get the number of parking spaces that you want, and I think that is a pretty important consideration.
While I am posting, I will quickly mention a couple of other things. Mountain Biking by 198 is running a contest right now and the top prize is a Mountain Cycle Fury 5.5″ travel frame. All you have to do to enter is talk about your favorite trail. There are other prizes too, so read about the details here. Of course, don’t forget about the design competition on this blog, which will close in about 2 1/2 weeks. Just think, enter both and you might end up with two really nice new bikes.
I previously mentioned the Trek District and the new belt drive Soho on the blog. Today, Cyclelicious points out a CNN article about chainless bicycles that features those two models. It is hard to beat the efficiency of a chain, but for commuter bikes where a clean, low maintenance drivetrain is desired, belt systems certainly are an attractive option. As I have mentioned before, the belt drive on the Strida that I tested worked flawlessly.
Images from Core77