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‘Dish Drainer’ Bike Racks Least Functional

May 28, 2009 Bicycling, Parking 12 Comments

Bike racks come in all shapes & sizes.  Some are more useful/functional than others.  Unfortunately those who specify bike racks for facilities often fail to understand what makes a bike rack useful.

Above: Saint Louis University

Take the above examples spotted at Saint Louis University yesterday on my way into class.  Both are the “dish drainer” type.  The farthest one has been there a while but the near one just recently appeared.  Note where the bikes are locked on each rack — at the end.  These racks offer many slots for bikes yet these two bikers instead used the rack frames at the end rather than the designated slots.  There are two reasons for this.

First, many modern bikes lack a kickstand.  Second, security.

Kickstands add weight and when you are riding serve no purpose.  A goood bike rack design, such as the simple inverted-U, allow the bike’s frame to be supported.  The near bike above has no kickstand.  By sliding the front wheel through one of the verticle slots that would be the sole support for the bike.  Even with a kickstand winds can knock over a bike or row of bikes that are not fully supported.  By locking to the end of the racks these riders were able to support their bikes in a way the center of the racks do not.

The second issue is security.  Modern bikes come with quick release hubs to make wheel removal easy.  Nice when changing a flat tire but also nice for thieves that may take a fancy to the rims on your bike.  Good locking practice includes running your lock/cable through your bike’s frame and at least through your front rim.  This is nearly impossible to do if you use the dish  drainer type rack unless you have a very long cable.

The dish drainer racks are often selected by facilities managers, I suspect, because they indicate they can hold a high number of bikes.  The far rack was probably listed in the product catalog as holding 20 or more bikes.  In reality it is 3-4.  One per end and a couple parallel with the rack.  I can only imagine the second rack was added because the other is often full with 4 bikes.

The inverted-U rack shown above is best.  In this case my bike does have a kickstand and it is not locked in the above picture.  But you get the idea, I’d easily be able to secure the front rim and the frame.  My urban commuter bike lacks a kickstand and has been “uglified” with stickers to the point you can no longer tell what color the frame was painted.  With such a bike leaning it against the rack for support is of no concern because scratches to a perfect paint job are mute.

There are so many bike racks on the market.  Wild custom frames seem to be all the rage locally.  I use the same criteria to judge them: does it support the bike and can you secure the frame and front rim.  Bonus if both rims can be secured.  The ability to use a U-lock is important.  The dish drainer fails on these.


Bike to Work Day Friday May 15th

Tomorrow, Friday May 15, 2009, is bike to work day, as part of National Bike Month:

May 15, 2009, Friday 6:30 – 9:00 AM
Join Trailnet for a continental breakfast during your bike commute to work! Three refueling stations:

I work from home and suffered a stroke 15 months ago so…

Well, even I decided to get into the spirit this week:

Tuesday evening.
Above: yours truly Tuesday evening.

I didn’t ride far but the important thing is I did ride a bit.  Here is proof:


So if I can get myself onto a trike can’t you ride your bike to work tomorrow?


I Want To Ride My Bicycle

Warming weather always gets me thinking of the 1978 Queen song,  Bicycle Race:

I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride my bike
I want to ride my bicycle
I want to ride it where I like

I actually have two bikes.  One is an urban hybrid — “uglified” with stickers and such to reduce the odds of theft.  The second bike is the opposite — still urban, but very handsome.  I can tell you the last time I rode it — Saturday December 22, 2007.

12/22/07 - Stopped at Uma at 11th & Locust.
12/22/07 - Stopped at Uma at 11th & Locust.
Then visited Macys, parking at 7th & Locust
Then visited Macy's, parking at 7th & Locust
Finished trip at City Grocers at 10th & Olive.
Finished trip at City Grocers at 10th & Olive.

I had recently moved to 16th & Locust so my total distance wasn’t that great.  But as you can see I had to use other items to secure my bike while visiting stores.  City & downtown leaders have been concerned, for decades,  about providing massive quantities of automobile parking they overlooked the need for bike parking.

Despite the lack of bike parking it was a fun trip. At the time I was car-free, using my 49cc Honda Metropolitan scooter to travel longer distances.  The scooter was great but there is just something special about using a bike for transportation, getting from A to B to C under your own power.

Bicycle races are coming your way
So forget all your duties oh yeah
Fat bottomed girls they’ll be riding today
So look out for those beauties oh yeah
On your marks get set go
Bicycle race bicycle race bicycle race

Six weeks after this December bike ride downtown I suffered a massive hemorrhagic stroke (2/1/08).  Although I cannot yet ride a bike, I’m optimistic that I will again.  This bike is so stunningly beautiful I must once again ride it!  Maybe next Spring?

Info on my bike:

  • Brand: Kronan (a Swedish brand)
  • Manufactured: Eastern Europe
  • Purchased from a San Diego bike shop
  • Single speed, coaster brake, 50 lbs! — old school.  3spd models available
  • New reproduction of WWII Swedish army bike
  • once again available in the US, order here (sorry no more orange), $500-$700.

And finally be sure to watch the official Bicycle Race video featuring naked women bicycling.

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Downtown Gets Yet Another Plaza

Today (4/3/09) at 4pm Mayor Slay will officially open The Old Post Office Plaza. This is more open space in a downtown with too much open space but not enough quality urban public space.  And though it may look like it, this plaza is not public.

This 3/4-acre plaza is owned, not by the city, but Downtown Now/The Partnership for Downtown St. Louis.  The plaza is to the North of the Old Post Office, across Locust between 8th & 9th (map).

Don’t confuse this new private plaza with the private plaza one block East, that unused plaza will soon become another parking garage.

The plaza is considered a key piece of the emerging Old Post Office Square, which includes the renovated Old Post Office building across the street at 815 Olive St. and Roberts Brothers Properties’ planned $70 million, 24-story residential tower adjacent to the Roberts-owned Mayfair Hotel at Locust and Eighth streets. (source, August 2007)

The plaza’s designers, BSN Architects of Toronto, describe the project:

The winner of an invited architectural competition, this new public Plaza celebrates the adjacent historic Old Post Office of St. Louis and actively engages the surrounding urban form.  A dramatic three dimensional armature is proposed to provide substantive user amenity and involve the public in the unfolding urban drama of the revitalized downtown. Its morphology incorporates surrounding built features into a dynamic stage for public life inspired by an operatic interpretation of the myth of Daedalus and Icarus.

Yes, some architects actually talk like that.

A year ago the project hit a snag which delayed completion:

Underground construction debris has caused design changes and a three-month delay of the Old Post Office Plaza.

Construction crews working on the $8.2 million Old Post Office Plaza at Ninth and Locust streets downtown hit a snag in recent months when they uncovered concrete, steel and other debris beneath the ground.

The St. Nicholas Hotel, built in the 1850s, was formerly located on the site. The hotel was demolished in 1974, but remnants were left behind. “They simply let it collapse into the ground,” said Kozeny-Wagner President Pat Kozeny. “There’s structural steel, even the building’s elevator.” (source, March 2008)

In August 2008 construction was well underway:

A couple of days ago it now looked like:

As you can see it is mostly a hard surface plaza.  This, I believe, is appropriate for an urban context.  Except for the fact we already have the Arch grounds, Kiener Plaza, Gateway Mall, Baer Plaza, etc…  We need less open space to help create more urban space.  This block, like all the others, used to be filled with buildings.

When it came time to renovate the Old Post Office a 2nd time, the need for immediately adjacent parking was cited by potential tenants.  So although this site existed to the North of the Old Post Office, we instead raze the marble-clad Century Building which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Some said a garage could not be built on this site.  I say BS.

Hardscape plazas can be interesting.  No doubt Dundas Square (Wikipedia, map) in Toronto was an inspiration:

Above: Dundas Square in July 2006
Dundas Square is a wonderful urban space – very dynamic.  When I visited Toronto in July 2006 my hotel was just a couple of blocks away.  I saw the space on normal days as well as packed for a large annual event.
I haven’t been in the Old Post Office Plaza yet because it has been fenced off as construction was being completed.  I’m looking forward to experiencing the space this afternoon.  I did roll by along the sidewalk on the South edge:
It is shiny & new.  It is more interesting than the old collection of surface parking lots.  But from the outside looking in I could see (not see?) one glaring omission: bike parking.  Holding large events in a vibrant urban area naturally draws crowds on bikes.  Well designed spaces make sure cyclists have a place to secure their bikes.  Such was the case at Dundas Square:

Yet this new $8 million + facility doesn’t have a single bike rack that I could see.  I guess everyone is expected to drive to the plaza to help justify the garage that replaced the historic Century Building?

The ribbon cutting is 4pm today with activities this weekend.


Poll; How Long Is Your Commute to Work?

For nearly five years now I’ve worked from home.  My commute is as long as it takes me to walk from bed to my computer, 20 feet away.

Granted, I do have to stop by the real estate brokkerage on South Kingshighway as well as meet buyers at properties and planning clients at their offices.  But for the most part my daily commute is measured in seconds, not minutes or hours.

I’m the exception, not the rule.  Most of travel further than your bedside computer.  Take the poll on the upper right corner of the main page to share your commute time & mode.Use the comments below to share your thoughts on commuting.