Monday, June 7, 2010

New Chicago bike racks to take artsy turn

Bike racks throughout Chicago would become works of art under a program the City Council Transportation Committee approved today.
Local artists would be commissioned through the city Department of Cultural Affairs to design bike racks funded by local chambers of commerce or other community groups.

Ald. Vi Daley, 43rd, hopes the first racks will be pop up along Clark Street between Diversey and Armitage avenues in Lincoln Park.

"I think it's an opportunity for artists to get exposure, and I also think it's a good thing for the city," she said of her plan to allow deviations from the city's standard bike rack design.

While Daley said it's doubtful the rack art will become as popular a draw as Chicago's "Cows on Parade" street art displays in 1999, she hopes they will become a destination for people who will then stay to shop at neighborhood stores.

Adolfo Hernandez, director of advocacy for the Active Transportation Alliance, said new bike racks are needed in addition to the 10,000 already in place around Chicago. That's because parking meters cyclists have long used as posts to lock up their bikes have largely been removed in favor of pay boxes as part of the city's parking meter lease, he said.

Daley said it will likely be months before the first art rack is in place in her ward.

Nathan Mason, curator of special projects for the Department of Cultural Affairs, said the group that puts up the money for a bike rack would hold sway over its look. A plaque affixed to the rack will identify who has contributed the money.
Mason said he expects design ideas will come in from across the region from artists eager to take part in the program, which is modeled on bicycle rack art programs already launched in New York City, Austin, Tex., Louisville, Ky., and elsewhere.
The city envisions racks designed to reflect the history and future of the neighborhoods in which they are installed. A bike rack in Lincoln Square might take on a "21st century German" theme, Mason said.
The idea now heads to the full City Council for consideration Wednesday.

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