Six colorful additions to the sidewalks of Solano and San Pablo avenues are making life easier for bikers while drawing the eyes of pedestrians and drivers.
The new bike-shaped bike racks, installed last week by the city, are the result of a partnership between and seven local businesses.
“It allows for four bikes per rack, and it looks nice with one bike or even with no bikes on it,” said Amy Smolens, the outreach coordinator for Strollers & Rollers. “It’s attractive and attracting.”
The bike racks are located in front of seven stores: , , , , , and .
Smolens said each rack cost about $500, with the Strollers & Rollers splitting the cost evenly with the businesses. (Be Fit and Metta Thai Massage shared the cost for their shared rack.)
In the week the racks have been in place, they have received a positive response from the businesses involved.
Ellen Graves, the owner of k2tog and a frequent cyclist, said she has seen several customers park their bikes on the rack and has even noticed kids playing on it.
“Lots of people notice it,” she said. “It’s just nice a piece of practical art.”
The idea for the new racks originated after
“A lot of people had said to me that one of the things that makes it so people don’t want to ride is that they don’t have a place to securely park their bikes,” Smolens said.
Suzanne Forbes, the marketing manager at T324, said that a week before the new racks were installed, she had seen a rider take his bike into . According to Forbes, the man said, “Well there’s nowhere to lock it up.”
Now with the six new racks, Smolens said riders won’t have to park against lamp posts and street signs, or take their bikes into stores.
In addition to the practical benefits of the racks, Smolens added that they also improve the overall look of the streetscape.
Smolens got the idea for bike-shaped bike racks—as opposed to the traditional U-shaped racks that hold two bikes each—after seeing them at an elementary school in San Francisco.
After getting the racks approved by the , Smolens approached Winkie Campbell-Notar, executive director of the .
With the encouragement of Campbell-Notar, Smolens reached out to chamber members to find out which businesses would be interested in splitting the cost of racks.
“I wanted it so that the businesses would really want the racks, would have some skin in the game, and show they were really interested in putting their money where their mouth is,” Smolens said.
By the end of May, the Strollers & Rollers had partnered with four Solano Avenue businesses and three San Pablo Avenue businesses.
Smolens also had to get approval from the to install the racks. With the help of Albany cyclist Dan Lieberman, she photographed and measured out the exact locations for the racks to ensure safety for riders, pedestrians and drivers.
After ordering the racks from Dero in June, Smolens had the opportunity to tour the company's factory in Minnesota, where she saw Albany’s unfinished racks.
And once the racks arrived in July, Smolens pushed the city to install them as quickly as possible.
Her efforts to carry the project through from beginning to end have not gone unnoticed. Both Forbes and Graves said Smolens was the driving force behind the project.
“Amy has worked so hard to make it happen and get businesses engaged in it,” Forbes said.
Smolens said the work with the bike racks is not quite finished. On every rack, Albany Strollers & Rollers plans to add a decal, designed by Albany resident , with the Strollers & Rollers logo and the businesses’ logos.
The bike-shaped bike racks are just the latest efforts by Strollers & Rollers to improve bike safety.
Earlier this year, the group funded bike racks at Memorial and Terrace parks, and currently is working with businesses like T324 to distribute “Check For Bikes” windshield clings.
With the new bike racks, Smolens said she is happy to see a variety of businesses—from a knitting store to a realtor—making efforts to help the large cycling community in Albany.
“I’m just excited that they’re seven totally different types of businesses and they’re spread out well,” she said. “I think it’s going to put a really great face on both our business districts—on Solano and San Pablo.”
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