The new bike rack design for NYC

Miscellaneous 7 4

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

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7 Comments

  1. Yokota Fritz November 19, 2008 at 9:36 pm -  Reply

    I don’t think the winnning rack and its attachment to the ground is as feeble as some people assume. It’s a hunk of cast iron and reasonably thick, so the actual contact with the ground is probably at least as much as the little flanges used to bolt inverted U racks.

    Thanks always for the link love.

  2. Anonymous November 20, 2008 at 12:16 pm -  Reply

    It is perhaps a design consideration that the rack should not be so strong that it presents too much of a hazard to cell-phone-using-drivers who mount the pavement and crash into it… It would be terrible if there were no expensive bikes attached to cushion their impact and their SUV required new airbags…

  3. B. Nicholson November 21, 2008 at 1:46 am -  Reply

    Hopefully the design will be for sale to other cities, too?

  4. progressive cycle coaching November 21, 2008 at 6:04 am -  Reply

    The Design are awesome and looks funky and cool, the bikes contact with the ground is more stronger compared to other bikes.

  5. Bargain Road Bikes November 25, 2008 at 10:56 am -  Reply

    Great concept! Did they design this “circle” look because it resembles that of the wheel on a bike? I just feel that even though this rack holds 2 bikes and the clutter on the sidewalk will decrease, how many racks will be available on one city block, and will it be more feasible for us commuters to easily access one?

  6. Anonymous November 30, 2008 at 11:33 pm -  Reply

    I would like to offer the following response to some of the comments I have seen on James Thomas’ blog Bicycle Design (http://bicycledesign.blogspot.com/)regarding the re-conceived “Hitch-2” bike rack that I have designed.

    First I would like to say that I agree with all of the comments that James made with regard to NYC bike rack competition and the winning “Hoop” design. It is a very elegant design that will make nice street furniture.

    In terms of the comments made about the “Hitch-2” I would preface my comments with a note that I am an architect first and a bicyclist second and look at things from that perspective. When I originally conceived the “Hitch-2” bike rack in the 1970’s I was reacting to the current and prevalent bike rack designs that were being put in everywhere. These designs were mostly about how to lock a bike securely. This is the number one priority for a bike rack but not the only one. Aesthetics and friendliness to pedestrians did not seem to be of great concern. Looking around at what other bicyclists did and knowing what I always looked for to which to lock my bike it seemed a simple railing or post were the preferred objects. Since most people carried “Kryptonite” type locks this worked well in terms of security.

    The original “Hitch-2” was never a great piece of aesthetic design as has been noted in numerous writings and comments and I would certainly agree. I think the things that have made it so popular and ubiquitous are that it works on several levels. It is simple, flexible, secure, can be easily and safely placed on sidewalks or public ways, can be clustered for multiple parking spaces, is aesthetically unobtrusive and requires no instructions on how to use it.

    In terms of the new “Hitch-2”, the majority of comments seem to center around the cost of the bike rack and that it is less simple than the original. Although I do not yet know what the costs of the new “Hitch-2” will be in volume, it is likely that it will be more expensive than the original. Cost is always an issue but I would argue that these bike racks are typically a piece of street furniture in the public way and should be looked at from that perspective. Cities or towns generally do not (or should not) scrimp on park benches, bus stops, kiosks, and waste containers. Bike racks should fall into that category. They will be in place for many years (hopefully) and because of that they need to be substantial and aesthetically pleasing. This usually means that the costs will be higher but I believe the investment is worth it.

    In terms of the simplicity issue, I again would agree that this new design is not as simple as the original but it still is simple and works the same way as the original design only better. The bikes are now separated so that pedals, handlebars and other protruding items on one bike will not generally conflict with the bike on the other the other side. It also offers more locations and flexibility in terms of locking options.

    My last comment is regarding street furniture in general and bike racks in particular. Streets and sidewalks are vital and important elements of any city or town. These public spaces must be carefully and thoughtfully designed. Sidewalks are limited in size and any objects that are placed in that space must serve the public and their purpose well. Where possible these objects can better serve the public good if they can offer multiple uses within the same space. The re-concieved Hitch-2 attempts to do that by providing options for pubic service and/or advertising signage, street tree protection and the incorporation of parking meters. These bike racks mounted either singularly along the sidewalk or in groups also serve as a subtle form of protection for pedestrians from the vehicles on the street.

    I welcome additional comments, suggestions and critiques to improve the design.

    David Rulon

  7. Samuel January 11, 2009 at 7:47 pm -  Reply

    I love the two bike racks in use in Edmonton. They went in last summer in my area and are excellent since you can now safely (well, you know) park your bike within a quarter of a block of where you want to be, instead of 2.5 blocks away or attached to some feeble sign post.

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