Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Art Rack

ArtWorks installed their third Queen City Art Rack (artistic bike rack/sculpture) last week at 5th and Elm in front of the convention center. The sculpture was designed by local artist Edward Casagrande, and resembles three bicycles holding up a sail.

Cincinnati's newest Art Rack

Cincinnati’s first Art Rack was installed last year, in front of Coffee Emporium in OTR. I like the homage to Cincinnati (the rack features local landmarks), but personally I think it can be a bit challenging to use with a U-lock if anyone who showed up prior to you is parked in the center of the rack. But I’m sure it functions fine for those with cable locks.

Cincinnati's first Art Rack, at Coffee Emporium in OTR

The new rack seems to be very functional; its shape clearly dictates where you’re expected to park, and there are several holes located at varying heights. I was able to find several different ways of locking Veronica’s mixte frame, even with a mini U-lock.

There’s no signage identifying the sculpture as a bike rack, but hopefully something will be installed soon. I don’t think it’s really evident on its own that it is a bike rack, and some cyclists might be wary of locking to something that looks like public art.

I think that artistic racks can really raise awareness about bicycling for transportation, but only if they’re functional enough to actually be used by cyclists. What do you think?


  1. The second Art Rack was installed at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center. You can see it here:

  2. Keep spreading the word...Maybe lock a bike out there you don't mind leaving there for a bit. People who travel that route will take notice and realize it's a rack. I think the pieces are great functional art.

  3. This is a great concept, though there are a couple problems with its execution.

    The most important is location: outside the Coffee Emporium is a decent spot (not great since Central Pkwy. is not very dense with retail), but the other two are sort of not functional for regular use as they are not directly adjacent to several businesses. At least the most recent one is in a highly visible location; the second one is off the beaten path. These should all be in central locations along pedestrian quarters with lots of retail and restaurants nearby. Cyclists do not want to park their bikes and walk to where they're going, they want to park at the door -- and they will pass up a rack that is more than a block from their destination.

    The other problem is the aesthetics are hit-or-miss. The first rack is hideous. It looks like an elementary school art class was assigned with the design. The other two are quite nice, however. So hopefully whoever is doing quality control on the designs learned their lesson after the first abomination was planted.

    Mel hit on the functionality aspect, so I won't get into that.

    I'm looking forward to seeing more of these. How about putting them in highly visible, highly functional locations, like Findlay Market, Fountain Square, Government Square, Telford & Ludlow, U-Square @ the Loop, etc.?

  4. Anonymous brings up an interesting point, one that I feel somewhat conflicted about. The first three Art Racks are all located on private property, so I suspect that to some extent, the choice of location was connected to or determined by the source of funding. So, while I think that the convention center is a questionable location for a 6-bike bike rack, if somebody wants to support bikes by using their own money to put a bike rack on private property, well, I have a hard time fussing about it.

    That being said, it would be interesting to know if the convention center reached out to ArtWorks or if ArtWorks reached out to them. Because while I do generally think that more bicycle parking is a good thing, I worry that a constantly empty high-profile bike rack could result in negative perceptions within the non-cycling community (bicycle infrastructure is a waste of money because its never used). So I hope going forward that ArtWorks will choose locations that have a high demand for bicycle parking (all of the locations that Anonymous listed would be great).

    Of course, after trying to wrap my brain around all of that, Bike Polo Guy just suggested that maybe I’m looking at this from the wrong angle. Maybe its better to think of these pieces as art first and foremost? Art that functions secondarily as a bike rack? If that’s the perspective that ArtWorks is taking, then the convention center makes more sense.