Building Better Bicycle Racks

20081010_inq_sky10z-a.JPGAs more Americans ride their bikes to work, play, and shopping as a way to beat high gas prices, it’s only natural that there’d be more of a need for places to park bicycles. Apparently, there’s a dearth of spots in Philly, according to Inga Saffron, the Philadelphia Inquirer‘s architecture critic. She says the problems begin when the bicyclists halt; they tend to lock their two-wheeled vehicles to anything immobile, whether it’s a pretty wrought-iron fence or concourse railing. The tangle of metal is not pretty,” she writes.

The city of Philadelphia will address the problem next month by installing 2,600 U-shaped racks; Saffron says at least 10,000 are needed. However, the main issue she has with the U-racks is that it limits the number of bicycles that can be locked onto them. So she’s calling for better, and more stylish racks. New York City held a design competition for new racks, which still can only lock two bikes at most. The ideal rack must allow for a bike to be parked upright, be sturdy enough to keep metal cutters at bay, and allow owners to align their U-locks through the wheel and frame to prevent theft. Saffron concludes that the best way to address the increased use is to cluster racks inside parking garages and offices. We’re thinking a three-level bike garage in Amsterdam or even the stellar bike facility in Chicago’s Millennium Park might be a bit much to ask in these budget-crunched times, but there’s just got to be something better out there.