On September 30, 2008, my youngest daughter was born.
On that same day, the New York Times announced the ten finalists in the “City Rack Design Competition,” one of which will be selected on October 24, 2008, to be “the official city bike rack design.” Admittedly, some of these designs have problems when it comes to functionality. These problems are pointed right away in the comments posted by astute NYTimes readers. And I deeply appreciate the questions raised by Mikael Colville-Andersen on his blog, Copenhagenize, concerning whether money, time, and effort couldn’t be better spent on things like “traffic calming initiatives, more effective bike lanes, positive branding of cycling,” and so on. Absolutely. But his next point is key when considering whether or to what extent something like this might work for a city like Adrian, Michigan: “a bike rack competition is a low budget affair. Installing the racks is easy and inexpensive. It gets lots of press and the results are seen by everyone on the streets. Pedestrians and motorists see them and realize that bicycling is gaining ground.”
These bike racks look totally cool. They are eye-catching, stylish, whimsical, and engaging. Not only do they promote cycling and bike culture (in all its forms), they beautify an urban landscape with art and thereby benefit everyone who shares that space.
Cities like Adrian operate on a smaller scale. If the design contest and the subsequent installation of racks is already a relatively small expense in a city the size of New York, how much more viable is it in a city the size of Adrian? Adrian also needs to see an increase in the number of active riders, designated bike lanes, and all the rest. But I wonder if things like that are not, in fact, more likely to follow something like the installation of artistically designed bike racks, by virtue of the fact that we’re talking about a smaller community.