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Cities require huge amounts of infrastructure that can detract from the overall aesthetics of buildings and public space. Think bins, security cameras, lighting, and signage.
According to Design Academy Eindhoven graduate Milou Bergs, even bike racks add to this ‘visual noise.’ “Bicycle racks are a particular eyesore,” says the designer, “Even when not in use, they get in the way, creating physical and visual noise.
I started to think about how I could make a space visually and physically serene while keeping the functionality of storage.” To counter this perceived problem, Bergs has developed a prototype of a 'vanishing bike rack’.
Flat bike racks offer more public space
When not in use, the rack lies flat, flush with the paving surface, when needed the rack provides a secure place for bikes to be locked. The rack works with a pop-up mechanism.
A user places the front wheel of their bike on a panel on the ground which triggers the rear of the rack to spring up and enclose the back wheel. When the bike is removed, the rack lies prone again against the ground.
It is a beautiful and minimalist proposition to the clutter of bike racks. But the question begs to asked if bike racks really do add to the visual clutter of cities?
Cities need to embrace bikes
The use of bikes as a mode of commute and transport has been heavily pushed in many cities where traffic congestion is heavy. In these cases, having visible and hassle-free bike locking stations are part of the key to encourage cyclists to commit to riding full time.
However, there are parts of the city where this particular design could be put to full use. Public open space can be in short supply in large cities, these bike racks could offer a way for space to be used by bike commuters during the week and then on weekends, the same public space could be used for markets or other events that need extra room.
Bergs debuted her bike rack, dubbed ‘Align’ at Dutch Design Week. Bergs isn’t the first designer to tackle the problem of bike racks.
David Byrne adds art to NYC
These uber functional and essential city items have intrigued and frustrated many designers in the past. In 2008, the city of New York opened a competition for designers to create new bike racks for the city.
They asked rock star and bike riding enthusiast David Byrne to be the judge. Byrne was thrilled by the idea and sent along some ideas of his own.
To his surprise, the city agreed to install his concepts if he could get them made. The concepts were curvy sketches of scaled-up city icons, a high heel, a dog a dollar sign.
For Byrne, it was important the bike racks are made of the same material that the city used to build their existing racks. He worked with a local fabricator to overcome the production challenge and the bike racks were installed and continue to be in use today.