Portland State University just celebrated the grand opening of the Karl Miller Center, a state-of-the art facility featuring a bright, open atrium. This eye-catching building is a campus jewel, so the bike racks slated for installation right outside need to look the part.
Clint Culpepper, the Bicycle Program Coordinator at PSU, could have purchased brand new racks to install, but utilizing refurbished bike racks better aligns with the university’s focus on sustainability. “Nothing would make me feel worse than turning a bunch of bike racks that were totally usable and serviceable into metal recycling just to buy brand new ones,” he said. Last year Clint enlisted the services of Huntco Site Furnishings to transform dozens of old, beat up staple racks into freshly painted bike corrals, and he decided it was time to refurbish a second batch.
Moving the racks into position
Prep for powdercoat: Sandblasting
Powder coat: Layer 1
Powder coat: Layer 1
Powder coat: Layer 2
Into the curing oven
Prepped for shipping
From Clint’s perspective, the hardest part of the process is ensuring there is adequate capacity for bike parking while the old racks are removed and refreshed. The rest is as easy as making a phone call. Huntco picks up piles of assorted staple racks, sorts them, and welds matching racks onto sets of rails to make bike corrals. Fresh powder coating is applied and then the corrals are delivered back to PSU, looking good as new and ready for installation.
The updated bike corrals don’t just benefit campus cyclists. “Everyone on campus likes it when the bike racks look nice,” Clint reports. Not every user of a building wants to have a bike rack sitting right outside the front door, but there’s less resistance when the racks look good. So when the next batch of refurbished racks is delivered in a few weeks, rest assured that the Karl Miller Center will get the dazzling accessories it deserves.
Recycling’s usually something we associate with beer cans, soda bottles and newspapers — simple things you can dump into a hopper and watch new products emerge from the other end (or something like that). Recycling’s not for anything big, expensive or useful we’re told, especially if we inquire about a damaged electronic gadget, and are advised to simply get a new one.
old racks, removed for construction
What about bike racks though? Clint Culpepper, the Bicycle Program Coordinator at Portland State University, faced this question a few months back, when a series of construction projects required removal of dozens of old staple racks. “We already had a bunch of racks piled in a storage area, and realized there was a lot we could probably do with them.”
In the early days of on-campus bike parking (more than, say, 10 years ago), racks were bolted into the concrete individually — a pretty labor-intensive approach when you’ve got thousands of bikes to accommodate. These days, the Bike Corral is the gold standard: four staple racks welded to two strips of plate steel for perfect positioning, better security, and faster installation.
Because most of the cost of a bike rack is in the steel, reuse makes a lot of sense, both environmentally and economically
prepped for fresh coating
“We basically called up Casey [Rice, at Huntco],” says Culpepper, “and said ‘Can you take care of this for us?’” Over the course of a few weeks, we trucked over 100 used racks of various sizes, shapes and states of repair into our shop. We burned off the old chipped paint, cut off the mounting flanges, welded them into corrals, and sent them off for powder-coating.
The result? 40 pristine corrals of consistent height and shape, in flawless PSU green, ready for installation. The cost? 40% less than buying new ones, not to mention massive energy savings by keeping the old ones out of the scrapyard.
recycled, Refreshed and ready to roll
a new life, as corrals
Culpepper explains that reuse is already a familiar option for PSU: a popular, long-running campus program has been refurbishing old bikes and providing them to students for years, part of an overall ethic of getting the most out of what you already have. As the campus continues to grow and evolve, and the fraction of students biking to school keeps rising, refurbished infrastructure doesn’t just make sense for the environment, it also makes sense for the bottom line.
Here in Portland, bike corrals are a big deal. These on-street rack clusters have been popping up in front of commercial and public venues since 2001, and the city currently boasts over 130 of them – more than any other city in North America, and enough to hold over 2000 bikes. You’ve probably heard about their advantages already: 10 times the vehicle density of car parking, better businesses visibility, improved pedestrian safety (especially when installed near intersections), not to mention the fact that bike-bound customers tend to visit more often and spend more.
The way these corrals get designed and installed has changed a lot over the years, though, and their standardized form gives some great pointers for anyone trying to design a public bike parking area. Take a look at the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s official design drawing, and a few things immediately jump out.
Click to Enlarge
For one thing, every rack has breathing room: 28 inches between racks, and two feet from the curb. Years of trial and error have shown this to be the sweet spot, maximizing parking density while still letting riders fit a bike on both sides of each rack. And unlike those first corrals in front of PGE (now Providence) Park, which placed racks perpendicular to the curb, current corrals angle them in about 30 degrees. This keeps bikes from intruding too much on the active roadway--especially important when you’re parking a longtail with an extended wheelbase.
The other big advancement is in how corrals get protected and accessed. Other early examples, like the corral in front of Stumptown Coffee on SE Belmont St, are completely surrounded by raised curbs and reflective posts, which do a great job of keeping cars out, but also make it tough to roll a heavily loaded bike in. Current designs put a raised parking block at either end, but leave the long, street-facing side open, marked off with a bold reflective stripe. Combined with bike-stenciled access spaces at either end, this creates a sort of miniature bike parking lot with easy roll-in and roll-out.
"EARLY VERSION" IMAGE CREDIT: SCOTT BEALE / LAUGHING SQUID / CC 2.0 LICENSE
"CURRENT VERSION" IMAGE CREDIT: GREG RAISMAN / CC 2.0 LICENSE
The bad news, if you’re a street-facing business in Portland, is that these corrals are so popular that there’s a year-long waiting list to get one installed. The good news for everyone else, though, is that these principles work just about anywhere else, and the math is the same: a 29’ corral holds 12 bikes, versus just a single car when parallel parked.