Imagine locking your bike to a cloud, or parking it amid huge blades of grass. That might be possible when new artist-designed bike racks hit the streets this summer.
Last year the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia and the City of Philadelphia Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy held a design competition for artist-designed bike racks. And this summer, thanks to a Knight Arts Challenge grant and private donors, several of these racks will grace sidewalks throughout Center City.
“We received 150 designs from 83 individuals and teams, from 21 states, the Netherlands and Poland,” said Margot Berg, the city’s Public Art Director. Those submissions were evaluated by a committee of City officials, art and design professionals, and cycling advocates, and were narrowed down to eight finalists “based on artistic merit, practicality/feasibility, and potential suitability to Center City Philadelphia.”
Berg added that they received a lot of pretzel-shaped racks and a few of Ben Franklin’s kites. But the committee really is “really seeking originality and a sense of artistry, along with the functionality aspects.”
"I was drawn to the more colorful and vibrant designs that would enliven the streetscape," said Leslye Abrutyn, a Bicycle Coalition board member and part of the selection committee. "These bike racks are works of art as well as functional. I refer to them as 'public art with a purpose.'"
Beyond artistic merit, the finalists also need to conform to the city’s rules for bike racks (size, footprint, anchoring, smooth edges, etc.).
The eight finalists have been notified and now the designs are being shared with donors who have committed to installing a rack in Center City. Locations for the new racks identified in the RFP were: Sister Cities Park, Café Cret, Boathouse Row, City Hall, Penn Center Plaza, and outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art's Perelman Building.
Click through the slideshow below to see the designs by eight finalists:
Ashley Hahn is an independent writer with a background in historic preservation and city planning. She started Eyes on the Street for PlanPhilly in 2011 and was PlanPhilly's managing editor from 2015-2017. Ashley has lived in 12 zip codes that she can think of, including neighborhoods in Los Angeles, Chicago, Boston, and New York. She is a Philadelphian by choice.