Cycling

Bike Racks, Bike Sharing, Custom Work, Walkability, Bikeability, Liveability

Sustainability That Looks as Good as It Feels

Karl Miller Center

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.

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.

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All Photos:  Thomas Teal 

 

Bike Racks, Custom Work, Liveability

Bike Rack Resurrection

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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. 

We already had a bunch of racks piled in a storage area, and realized there was a lot we could probably do with them.
— Clint Culpepper, Bicycle Program Coordinator at PSU

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.

 

Liveability, Bike Sharing, Walkability

What’s French for Bollard?

We’re in France this week! Well, one of our team is anyway, spending some time with family in the friendly northern college town of Lille.

This being Huntco, what we’ve noticed about Lille, even more than the beautiful old cobblestone streets or the legendary beer (it’s only 30km from Belgium) is the bollards. Like a lot of mid-sized French cities, Lille is a great place to walk and bike, with a wonderfully rich street life — and one of the reasons why is extensive and thoughtful use of bollards, in ways that might be surprising to folks in North America.

 

The Place du Général de Gaulle is a good example. Usually just called the Grand Place (“big plaza”) by locals, this is a broad, brick-paved square fronted by bookstores, cafes, shops and a historic theater. It’s the undisputed heart of the city, frequented by thousands of people a day who come there to meet, shop, drink or just hang out. It also has a street snaking right through the middle of it, and a 422-space parking garage underneath.

So how do open up a big, public space to cars without turning your beloved Place into a parking lot? In Lille, you do it with bollards.

Using dozens of slender, elegant bollards at about 8 foot intervals, the city has demarcated a “street” that directs traffic through the plaza, while making it clear that cars are sharing the space with (far more numerous) people walking and biking. For pedestrians, the bollards just barely interfere with the flow of foot traffic, indicating where to watch out for vehicles but keeping the space permeable. 

For drivers, the message is clear: proceed to the underground parking lot, or keep moving, slowly, until you’re clear of the shared space. 

Just north of the Grand Place is another smart use of bollards along Rue Faidherbe, a short, majestic boulevard connecting the plaza to the city’s busiest train station. 

In this case, the bollards line the one-way street (with two-way bike lanes), protecting broad sidewalks full of shoppers while making it easy to cross at any point. Strategic gaps in the bollards define intersections with side streets, funneling cars in a predictable way without impeding walkers — and leaving plenty of room for the city’s cafe culture to thrive. 

Like the bollards that Huntco manufactures, these are unobtrusive enough that they become part of the urban fabric, not an interruption to it — in fact, they might even be a bit beloved. 

The city also uses different types of bollards to lend a sense of place to different areas. Here’s a different type of bollard as you head toward the are de Lille Europe — the newer train station where the Eurostar from London stops. 

You’d be hard pressed to find a city anywhere in the US that uses bollards so prolifically, or applies them so expressly toward directing cars, rather than just protecting pedestrian spaces. It’s a refreshing approach that could have some real impact in cities here, especially ones hoping to spur the kind of placemaking that’s clearly so good for business in cities like Lille. 

 

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, the word bollard is French! And if Lille is any indication, France may well be the bollard’s homeland. 

 

Story and photos by Huntco team member and world traveler Carl Alviani.

 

Bike Sharing, Liveability, Bike Racks

Portland’s Turning Orange

One of the things we love about making bike racks, street furniture and other public amenities is how they can transform streetscapes, letting people know that this is a destination, not just a thruway. And one of the best examples of it just hit the streets of Portland, in the form of a new bikeshare system called “Biketown”.

The bikes and the racks that make up the Biketown system aren’t just reliable and well-designed; they’re also orange. Bright, eye-catching, unignorable orange. The bold color (and the odd name) both stem from the fact that Nike (Oregon’s most famous company) kicked in several million dollars to make it happen. And no, in case you’re wondering, it’s not pronounced “Bikey-town” -- though plenty of us call it that anyway.

Regardless of how you say it, the system’s impossible to miss. Driving through the city’s downtown or east side, chances are good that you’ll catch a glimpse of orange every minute or two, and the overall effect is powerful. Portland’s got plenty of bike infrastructure, of course, but if you’re not riding a bike, it’s easy to ignore. A 60-foot long row of bright orange fins, on the other hand, is a quietly exuberant reminder that bikes are part of what makes the city – as ordinary and indispensable as bus stops, storefronts and parking lots.

 

It’s exciting because it means that everyone who travels through the city must, sooner or later, acknowledge the existence of biking here, not as a temporary anomaly, but a permanent fixture. It’s the sort of subtle shift in perception that organized rides and awareness campaigns try to engineer, but rarely succeed at. A similar shift happened when NYC’s Citibike program launched, helping to shepherd along a citywide embrace of bikes, bike lanes and bike commuting that eventually earned it the title of Best Cycling City in the US.

Now, Huntco didn’t make these racks, but we love them just the same. They’re elegant, they’re sturdy, they look great. And more important, they make the city better for everyone.

 

Bike Racks, Liveability

Why do bike corrals look like that?

IMAGE CREDIT: THE IMPRESSION THAT I GET / CC 2.0 LICENSE

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.

 

 

For more information, check out Huntco’s Bike Corral product page.

 

Bike Racks, Custom Work

What can you do with a customized rack?

In progress, At the shop


We’ve been making customized bike racks and site-specific furnishings for years, but I’m pretty sure this is the first time we’ve fabricated cats.  

 

The Feral Cat Coalition of Oregon (FCCO) in Portland is a great volunteer-based, veterinarian-founded organization that takes in thousands of stray cats every year from around the region for spaying or neutering, all at no charge. They’d originally wanted a couple of standard Sol bike racks for their their new building, but realized during planning that it was also an opportunity to get their message out to the neighborhood in a friendly, playful way. So this is what they had us build instead: 

Install in progress at the new FCCO building


The racks (which work just like a typical Sol rack) are instantly recognizable as cat faces, but with a unique detail: the flat-topped ear on one side is what’s called an “ear tip”, and it’s a standard indication that a stray has already been spayed or neutered. So in a way, the racks help spread the word about spaying and neutering without saying a word. 

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Because we do all of our fabrication here in the US, Huntco is able take on all kinds of custom orders, often on short notice and based on simple, straightforward descriptions from the client or architect.


Besides being a lot of fun for us — who wouldn’t want to fabricate an enormous cat face out of powder-coated steel? — they also add unmistakable character to the streetscape, and help organizations announce themselves in a way that’s a lot more approachable and distinctive than another sign or billboard.


This project was in Portland, but people are looking for secure, functional bike parking in cities all over the US. Here’s hoping more of it has a face that makes you smile.

See more examples of custom bike rack and site furnishings here.


 

Quick Tips

Bikes-giving! Portland donation center round-up

Photo by  Richard Masoner  CC:  License

Photo by Richard Masoner CC: License

Got an old bike languishing in the garage? Here's a quick round-up of spots in PDX to donate your old wheels/parts.


Community Cycling Center

We operate a full-service bike shop, and we love helping riders build their skills and confidence. Our programs and projects benefit underserved communities allowing kids to ride to school, adults to ride to work, and many people to ride for health and recreation.

 

BikeFarm

Bike Farm is an all volunteer-run collective dedicated to every aspect of bicycle education, from safe commuting to repair. Our mission is to provide a space where people can learn about the bicycle and build community around promoting sustainable transportation. We strive to demystify the bicycle in order to impact the city in a healthy and positive way.

 

Bikes 4 Humanity

Bikes For Humanity PDX (B4HPDX) is a local, public charity project providing affordable refurbished bicycles to riders of all economic backgrounds.