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Artistic Bike Racks Line Solano, San Pablo

Led by Amy Smolens, Albany Strollers & Rollers partnered with seven local businesses to install six colorful "bike bike racks" on Solano and San Pablo avenues.

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.”

What do you think of the effort these volunteers are making? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

If there's something in this article you think , or if something else is amiss, call editor Emilie Raguso at 510-459-8325 or email her at albany@patch.com.

Art Simon August 02, 2012 at 06:02 PM
Love 'em! Kudos to Amy Smolens, Albany Strollers & Rollers and all the businesses and other supporters.
Art Simon August 02, 2012 at 06:03 PM
Thanks Tony! Awesome pictures, that's really what public art should be. Very cool!
Lisa Kleinbub August 02, 2012 at 06:19 PM
I like the racks but the one in front on T 324 near Rendez-Vous and the Albany Theatre is on a sidewalk that has many obstacles. For anyone with mobility issues, there is not a clear pathway on this sidewalk and this needs to be looked at . The restaurant has tables outside and these block part of the sidewalk as well
Paul D August 02, 2012 at 06:39 PM
Tony... good design should never fall prey to bad taste.
Paul D August 02, 2012 at 06:51 PM
Sylvia.. because the things look cool the way they are, thats why. They're close to being urban art, in fact thats exactly what I thought they were at first. Clean, simple and functional art about to be tarted up with advertising -- another form of urban graffiti. I understand its a fetish these days to monetize everything under the sun using the excuse of a 'tight economy' but just for once can we step back and just admire something for what it is? There's no need to allow a (temporary) business to plop their name/logo on a piece of (permanent) functional urban art. BTW, as I understand the article, its not the designer of the rack who wants to put their name on them, its the local businesses and the activist group behind the installation of the racks who want their names emblazoned on public property. Please don't get me wrong. I like the bike racks and I appreciate the effort it took to put them in. But monetizing everything is not always the best policy.
Tony Caine August 02, 2012 at 07:11 PM
Paul, Giving donors credit is a long standing tradition going back to Roman times at least. Every room at UCB has a donor's name on it. The walkway into our community center is made up of tiles with donor names. Art everywhere has donor plaques. Anonymous donors are rare. Perhaps you would like to donate some bike racks anonymously? It would be a wonderful gesture on your part.
Natalie Brice August 02, 2012 at 09:09 PM
They look wonderful! They also have them outside the new Urban Outfitters store in Emeryville. Very Clean and neat looking. I think they are best left untouched, but maybe placing a small plaque on the ground under the bike might be a way to thank the donors and a way to ward off graffiti vandals.
Suzanne Forbes August 02, 2012 at 09:47 PM
Lisa, Amy came and measured the placement of T324's bike rack very carefully, to avoid any issues of obstructing the sidewalk. Could you share what your concern is about mobility challenges, so we can help if possible?
Nick Pilch August 02, 2012 at 10:03 PM
Thanks, Amy, and all of the local businesses!
Paul D August 02, 2012 at 10:27 PM
Tony, thanks for the offer. Really.
Tim L August 02, 2012 at 10:58 PM
I wouldn't worry too much about a single decal -- give it a little time and the racks will likely be covered with stickers. With that in mind, I hope they came with plenty of matching touch-up paint, lest the Berkeley anti-graffiti crusader declares them an eyesore and decides to spray them silver.
Peggy McQuaid August 02, 2012 at 11:09 PM
One of the problems is that it is difficult to exit a car for wheelchair users around the bike racks. Hopefully, as a mitigation, specific parking places for people with disabilities will be put on Solano and San Pablo Aves. I beleive this will be on an upcoming Traffic and Safety Commission meeting.
Amy Smolens August 03, 2012 at 12:11 AM
Wow, Paul D, whoever you are... thanks for the personal insult. Albany Strollers & Rollers and each of the businesses put in time and money to get these racks, a decal on the "seat" of the bike doesn't detract from them. It's called giving credit where credit is due.
Zack M. August 03, 2012 at 12:12 AM
Paul, in case it wasn't clear, the decals will be very small and shouldn't take anything away from the look of the racks. Also, to reiterate the article, these were paid for by AS&R and the businesses (not with public money), so it's not a monetization, just giving a little credit to those who gave their time and money to get them installed.
Peggy McQuaid August 03, 2012 at 01:20 AM
I didn't mention that I think the bike bike racks look great. Thanks to Amy et all for doing this. A little whimsy is always good.
MYC August 03, 2012 at 02:56 AM
cute.
Lisa Kleinbub August 03, 2012 at 02:37 PM
To Suzanne When the tables are out a Rendez-vous , there are numerous items for someone to navigate around on this stretch on the street. The pathway is not clear. It is not just about measurement. ADA standards are not the only thing to consider. Before the racks came, this stretch was already crowded.
Amy Smolens August 03, 2012 at 02:40 PM
My sincere thanks to all the businesses, Winkie Cambell-Notar of the Chamber of Commerce, the Arts Committee, the Planning & Zoning Commission, City Staff, Dan Lieberman and Albany Strollers & Rollers' core group for making this project a success!
Kevin Goess August 03, 2012 at 10:03 PM
These things look great. Nice taste.
Emilie Raguso August 04, 2012 at 12:07 AM
The additional photos look great -- I love to see how the bike rack colors reflect the various storefronts.
Amy Smolens August 04, 2012 at 03:34 AM
I wanted to address the accessibility issues that have been brought up here. As Suzanne at T324 has mentioned, Dan Lieberman and I measured and marked locations very, very carefully for each rack location. We accounted for ADA requirements as well as the width of wheelchairs before determining each rack location. Solano Avenue sidewalks are already a minefield of trees, grates, poles, utility covers, benches, multiple trash cans, etc. As a matter of fact, there was no location on Solano where we could place a rack for Gathering Tribes and still make the sidewalk accessible, so we had to put theirs on Santa Fe. We were very conscious of leaving sufficient sidewalk width for wheelchairs, while still keeping bicycles secured to the racks as far away from the "opening car door zone" as possible. Mark from Public Works and I spent the good part of a day installing the racks, remeasuring and positioning them to allow for access to all the entrances and curb ramps. (continued on next post)
Amy Smolens August 04, 2012 at 03:34 AM
(part 2) @Lisa, if you look closely at the T324 location, you will see that a bike locked in the inside position of the rack does not extend past the line already created by the existing street furniture. @Peggy, clearly, there needs to be disabled parking spaces in Albany's business district which give unobstructed access to the sidewalks. AS&R is called "Albany Strollers & Rollers," which encompasses all forms of human-powered transportation. The locations of some of the racks could still be tweaked so please contact me if that would improve accessibilty. Thanks.
Art Simon August 04, 2012 at 03:39 AM
My wife (who is in a wheelchair) and I went past that very spot on Tuesday evening around 8pm with no issues, though that's no to say there might not be issues when the sidewalk is busy.
Amy Smolens August 04, 2012 at 03:42 AM
Thank you Art, that's really great to hear.
Francesco Papalia August 04, 2012 at 10:32 PM
Having followed this project from its inception, Paul D's lament is really a form of high praise. The bike bike racks are a stock item by the manufacturer that can be ordered with a custom finish. The conscious decison to allow each business to pick their own color allowed for personalized varied colors around the city to the delight and approval of the Art's Committee, Planning and Zoning and apparently to Paul D. I know Amy also took great pains to ensure that there were businesses on San Pablo Ave. as part of the project and one on each side of the street. This is not a Cristo Rolling Bike Art Installation. It's much better than that. Functional sidewalk improvements that delight the eye of adults and the imagination of the many children I see climbing them daily as I look out our office street front window. And I can park my bike in front of my work now too.
Michael Barnes August 04, 2012 at 10:48 PM
Amy, So far I haven't seen any comments from anyone who actually tried to use the bike racks for their intended purpose, so here goes. I did spot one of new new racks this morning, on the corner of Santa Fe and Solano, a blue one. The nice thing about artistic bike racks is that they can be painted bright colors, making them easier to spot from a distance. So when I was done with my auto errands, I hopped on my commuter bike and headed for the blue bike rack. My commute bike is a mountain bike with fenders and slick tires, and I remove the front tire and lock it inside my U-lock for more security. I find that many many bike racks don't handle that combination well, mostly because the pipe is too thick. But this rack passed with flying colors. The pipe is small enough, which is good, and the curving angle of the "wheel" allowed me to get my u-lock positioned at the right angle to make everything fit. Two people could easily lock up there bikes in this high-security mode, and maybe two more with u-locks or cable locks on bike top tube with front wheel still attached. It's almost like some thoughtful biker who knew what they were doing planned it this way. Who could that be? ;o)
Lynn Eve Komaromi August 05, 2012 at 01:51 AM
Kudos to Amy Smolens, AS&R, and the local businesses for making this possible. The racks are attractive and not only accomplish providing much needed parking for cyclists, but also call attention to cycling as a fun and easy alternative to driving. I'm not sure what the hubbub is about regarding the recognition plaques. I think it's important for people to know that these racks were made possible through the generosity of local community members (vs our tax dollars). It sure serve as a reminder to everyone that these were gifts to the community, and I hope will inspire others to support our community. As an Albany citizen and cyclist, thank you Amy et al for this wonderful gift!
Stephanie Travis August 05, 2012 at 02:52 AM
I think the bikes racks are very attractive but they don’t seem to be very practical. If Michael Barnes is correct in his assessment that only one or two bikes can use these racks, and the size of one raises concerns about blocking sidewalks and parking spaces for the disabled, I don’t see how enough racks could be installed to encourage a significant increase in bikers. One of the first things I noticed about Albany when we moved here is how difficult it is to shop on Solano Avenue in Albany if you are disabled. You can drive for blocks without finding one handicapped parking space. This means if you use a vehicle with a wheelchair lift, or have to open your car door all the way to exit, you can’t park on the street. I have parked in the middle of a row of empty spaces and come out of a shop to find I was unable to get in my car because vehicles had parked on both sides of me. Once you to cross into Berkeley there are numerous handicapped spaces on Solano.
Amy Smolens August 05, 2012 at 11:47 AM
Actually, the way Michael described locking his bike, 4 bikes can be locked to each rack - two to each "wheel" of the rack. So that considerably adds to the bike parking in Albany. Far superior to the clutter of bikes locked to signposts and the like. @Michael, the folks at Dero do ride their bikes, so create products that work! Yes @Stephanie, disabled parking is clearly needed. Please join Peggy M at a Traffic & Safety meeting to advocate for this.
Sherie Reineman August 09, 2012 at 06:42 AM
I have seen some other "artistic" bike racks in my day, and these bike-shaped racks win, hands down, for being fun, functional, sleek, attractive. I love 'em! https://picasaweb.google.com/106182625120157861208/ASRBikeRacks?authuser=0&feat=directlink Thanks, Amy for getting it done! And thanks to the businesses who partnered w/ AS&R for this initial effort. I personally look forward to other businesses following suit...

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