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Fancy new staple racks dress up transit mall

Posted by on January 26th, 2009 at 2:31 pm

New staple racks on transit mall-3

New stainless steel racks on
SW 5th Ave.
(Photos © J. Maus)

The City of Portland has installed 90 stainless steel staple racks as part of the downtown transit mall project.

The racks — designed by architectural firm ZGF — are quite different from the standard blue staple racks. For starters, they’re made from a much more durable (and expensive) stainless steel material. The racks are also made from flat steel stock, compared to the round tube of the existing blue ones.

“The cost of the new stainless steel design is making me count our pennies and have a few more conversations regarding the best use of these funds.”
— Sarah Figliozzi, PBOT

The other big difference is price. According to the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s (PBOT) bike parking manager Sarah Figliozzi, the cost of the new stainless steel racks is $367 each, compared with about $80 each for the old ones (costs do not include installation).

The new rack design was chosen by TriMet and the project’s urban design consultants. “These racks will be the design standard rack for the Transit Mall,” Figliozzi wrote in an email, “in order to ensure a consistent style.”

When I followed-up with Figliozzi, and with city bike coordinator Roger Geller, I found out that that “consistent style” is causing a bit of budget pain at PBOT.

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The transit mall project is primarily funded through the federal government, which has set strict guidelines about what “street furniture” can be included in the project. According to Figliozzi, the project calls for (and therefore can fund) around 90 new racks — bringing the total cost for them on the bus mall to $33,000 (not including installation).

“Isn’t it about time cyclists be given their due with the same kind of quality facilities that other downtown parking improvements get?”
— Bob Hastings, TriMet agency architect

Figliozzi, and PBOT bike coordinator Roger Geller both realize that the mall’s approximately 6 miles of block faces need much more than 90 racks. Figliozzi says they plan to augment that number, but that at $367 a piece, they have to choose wisely.

“The point of the new transit mall is to re-invigorate downtown, to have lots of retail activity,” she told me on the phone last week, “ideally we’d have tons of parking”.

But, Figliozzi says, “The cost of the new stainless steel design is making me count our pennies and have a few more conversations regarding the best use of these funds.” She also added that she’ll “have to be more careful” about where they decide to put them. “Ideally, we like to put out more racks that are needed. We are trying to be more proactive when it comes to bike parking facilities (instead of reacting only after demand is shown).”

New staple racks on transit mall-2

The square edges have been “eased”,
but they still are tougher on paint
jobs than round tubes.

PBOT has already installed 30 standard racks on side streets, but on the actual mall itself, the old blue racks are not allowed. That’s because strict guidelines have been passed and everything on the mall must fit within a specific “design palette”.

City bike coordinator Roger Geller said his office “expressed some dismay at the increased cost we’d have to bear”. To help offset the higher cost, Geller says they have put in a large order to get a bulk discount, but that discount won’t apply to smaller rack purchases in the future.

Geller and Figliozzi both said that they’ll dip into the Bicycle Parking Fund to help with the cost of the more expensive racks. (Read our story on the Bike Parking Fund for more info).

New staple racks on transit mall-1

To find out more about the new racks, I asked TriMet’s agency architect Bob Hastings. Hastings — who told me he’s a cyclist himself — said he expected some groans about the high cost of the racks (and other furnishings).

Hastings says this is about looking long term. He referred to the transit mall as “the most singular public place in the whole breadth of downtown” and that the “design mandate” calls for nothing but the “highest craftsmanship and durability”.

Hastings said the City’s Design Review Commission has established a “high bar for how we design things”. The new stainless steel racks, he said, were made to not simply be adequate, but to look great and last a long time. He pointed to stainless steel’s low maintanence costs over time and that this is about “really leveraging a unique window of opportunity that is very long term in its application and vision.”

New bike racks at City Hall-3.jpg

The old standard.

Hastings emphasized that PBOT was aware of the racks as a stakeholder in the decision-making process. He also spoke of how these racks symbolize a coming-of-age for bikes. “Isn’t it about time cyclists be given their due with the same kind of quality facilities that other downtown parking improvements get?”

“You only got once chance to do it right,” he said, “and if you don’t you’re just kicking yourself later.”

In addition to cost, I also asked Hastings about the squared edges of the new racks. I’ve heard several complaints already from people who say the edges chip paint off their frames.

Using a rounded stainless steel tube would have been cost-prohibitive. According to Hastings, they started with an expensive material, so there wasn’t a lot of room to spend on fabrication. The racks have shaved (“eased”) edges to take the sharpness off and Hastings said they worked fine when he tried them.

As for the budget concerns, Hastings says the initial 90 racks were paid for by downtown businesses and property owners as part of a Local Improvement District (LID) tax. They were concerned, said Hastings, about the quality of the furnishings and they included the bike racks on a specific laundry list of expenses their LID would cover.


— In other transit mall bike parking news, PBOT is set to install four new bike parking “oases” on 5th and 6th Avenues. I’ll have more on that in a separate story.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Paul Tay
Guest

Yep. Just wait ’til that Boehner dude gets a load of this.

Allison
Guest
Allison

[sheepish] I love ’em.

I ride a ‘bent trike downtown which is a real pain to park in general – the flat steel fits my lock and frame better than the bulky blue tubes.

beth h
Guest

Is there a reason that PBOT chose this style? IMHO, there was nothing wrong with the old rack except that they could be unbolted and bikes stolen. What if they were just made a little longer and sunk into the pavement permanently instead? They’ save the city money.

toddistic
Guest
toddistic

I’d rather see 5 blue racks than one “modern” silver rack that will have a wheelless mountian bike rusting on it.

steve
Guest
steve

So we could have 4 standard racks for every one of these? Makes perfect sense in a recession!

What genius came up with a square tubed, sharp edged bike rack? Just what I want to lock my nice frame against..

Ron
Guest

These look sweet — looks like it will be much easier to get a mini-U-lock around your frame/wheel and the rack if you situate the bike just so.

The price difference is ridiculous, someone is gouging.

redhippie
Guest
redhippie

I like the stainless. A lot of the older blue racks look pretty rough, all scratched up and covered in stickers. Stainless will look good for a long time to come.

It is a shame though that there wasn’t the opportunity to have some art-inspired racks to get away from the sense of sterility these promote.

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

Yeah, could we maybe have some cheap, ugly ones coated with a nice, thick vinyl dip, to avoid leaving bits of our paint jobs every time we lock up? I REALLY don’t get the obsession with making “pretty” bike racks (shaped like shoes or bicycles or adorable animals) when we have hundreds of square miles of ugly parking spaces in this city. Do plain old bike racks really gross people out that much?

Coldswim
Guest
Coldswim

Were there racks on the transit mall before the renovations? If so, are they reusing them somewhere else?

Jordan
Guest
Jordan

I didn’t even know the blue ones require maintenance. Is it for the blue? Well get rid of the blue then. Boo, boo and a hiss towards Figliozzi.

robert
Guest

wow –

That is a waste of money. I guess the supplier was out of platinum racks?

bahueh
Guest
bahueh

wow…are any of you people happy with ANYTHING the city is doing to encourage infrastructure for new riders?

there’s a constant stream of “bitching” going on this site about things the city is doing to help you out….for **** sake, trying being thankful for once. they didn’t have to install ANYTHING for any of us….and you’d be stuck locking yer dumb bike to an old parking meter…

Carlsson
Guest
Carlsson

Titanium, baby!!

John Reinhold
Guest
John Reinhold

I must admit, my very first thought when I looked at the pictures was “that will scratch my paint.”

Ron
Guest

If yer bike ain’t scratched already, you ain’t ridin’ it e’nuff.

/tongue in cheek

matt picio
Guest

bahueh (#12) – I appreciate what you’re saying, and to some extent agree, except for 2 points.

1. Why were the stylistic guidelines completely in the purview of the design firm, rather than soliciting the users as to what parking solutions worked best for them? (a corollary is “how many of the design firm’s designers actually RIDE bikes?”)

2. Is this going to open the city up to liability for damage to bikes, since they chose a design for the racks which makes it easy for damage to occur?

Bob_M
Guest
Bob_M

First thing I’m going to do is put stickers over those square edges so they don’t chip my paint.
(Tongue in Cheek)

Daniel (teknotus) Johnson
Guest
Daniel (teknotus) Johnson

The new racks are pretty, and I appreciate that…

BUT I have yet to come out to my bike, and not find a new scratch on it. The steel is harder metal than my aluminum frame so I’m starting to worry that it won’t just be my paint job that is messed up, but actual frame failure. Also I’m finding that it takes a longer ulock to get around them as the long dimention of the metal is in the worst orientation. Did any bike groups get to review the design before it was selected? I know I didn’t hear anything about it until I started seeing them installed.

Nate
Guest

As a graphic designer I can appreciate good-looking racks as much as anyone, but four times the cost? REALLY?!?! And sharp edges to scratch up my paint? I’d much rather have 360 of the old blue ones than 90 of these suckers.

Paul S
Guest

So does this mean I can’t park my blue bike on the transit mall because it doesn’t fit within the “design palette”?

The staple things look nice but sound kinda spendy and scratchy.

Daniel (teknotus) Johnson
Guest
Daniel (teknotus) Johnson

On a side note has any of the local bike craft scene made the equivalent of the top tube protector for these racks? I would prefer the protector to be permanently attached to the rack rather than an extra heavy thing for me to lug around town.

bahueh
Guest
bahueh

don’t like em, don’t use em. your bike is already scratched and will continue to be so…if you’re worried about it, leave it at home above your mantle…

I commute on a bike I don’t mind scratching…why? because I know they get scratched when commuting on them.

matt, does the city reimburse car for damage to hub caps done while parking? no. and they won’t reimburse anyone for scratched paint…you know it…so why bring it up?

Jonathan Maus (Editor)
Guest

“Did any bike groups get to review the design before it was selected? “

I asked Roger Geller if these were ever presented at the Bike Advisory Committee (Geller is the PBOT staff liaison to that committee). He said he didn’t think so and couldn’t recall seeing them on the agenda. Mark Ginsberg, the former Chair of that committee, also says he doesn’t think they were ever in front of the BAC. He just told me on the phone,

“We were so focused on just getting bikes through the mall, I don’t think we ever even brought up the racks.”

Bjorn
Guest
Bjorn

I’m curious were there more than 90 of the old racks in this space before construction began? If so what happened to the old racks, were they reinstalled elsewhere? If not then this is still 90 more racks than we had before the project began…

Paul Cone
Guest
Paul Cone

Jordan,

Your personal attack against Sarah Figliozzi is completely out of line. She had no input in the design. If you had READ the article you would notice that PBOT had no input on the design at all — it was all up to TriMet. The issue is thorny because they then leave it up to PBOT to maintain them, as the article points out. This is fairly common for these large scale projects, — we get funds (e.g. Fed money) to build all this fancy stuff, but no money to maintain it.

(Full disclosure — Sarah is my coworker, but I do not work in the bike program or make any other policy decisions at PBOT.)

Jonathan Maus (Editor)
Guest

bahueh,

thanks for your input.

We get that you have no issue with the racks. that’s great. But your tone is not too civil. Please simply share your perspective without making it personal and/or insulting other commenters.

thank you.

GlowBoy
Guest
GlowBoy

I am concerned about the comment from Daniel (teknotus) Johnson (#18) that these require a longer U-lock than the standard round-tubed staple racks.

I use a mini U-lock and lock Sheldon-style as it is. I can lock up my bike (hybrid wheels in a mountain frame, which means wider chainstays and a tighter fit than your roadies have to deal with) just fine on the standard racks, but there isn’t a whole lot of extra room. If the extra thickness of these racks is more than a few mm, it might be trouble for a lot of people.

As for cost, I’m not surprised they cost 4 times as much: they’re stainless steel! Think much more expensive a stainless bike frame (Reynolds 959) is compared with standard 4130 steel.

I think the new design looks cool and don’t mind the extra cost (modest compared to the transit mall overall) as long as they’re still functional. I’ll have to check these out on the way home sometime soon and see if they still work for me.

cyclist
Guest
cyclist

1) The design standard applies only to 5th and 6th aves downtown, so they can place as many blue racks around the corner or up and down 4th, Broadway, etc as their hearts desire.

2) The amount of real estate for staple racks on 5th and 6th is limited to some extent by Tri-Met stops, I don’t image they’ll place any on the blocks that have MAX stops, and they’re not going to place them on the portions of the other blocks that have bus stops.

3) When I lock my bike up to a rack I expect it’ll get scratched by the buy who parks on the other part of the rack. There’s no way to maintain a pristine paint job while parking your bike in public, it’s a fact of life we all deal with.

All that having been said, it’s a shame that those design standards forced the city into something cyclists don’t want to spend money on. Fortunately, those who dislike the shiny new racks will be able to park their bike on the myriad other racks that are available for use downtown.

bahueh
Guest
bahueh

Maus…nothign personal…tired of collective whining that goes on here.
the city does something for the bike community and its complained about…

this is what Adams spoke about when he expected the cycling community to start giving back a little…starting, I expect, with some actual respect and recognition for their efforts…

Bjorn has a better point…where are the rest of them? hopefully the old racks are being powdercoated (a much cheaper process) and refurbished for installation in the near future…

Jonathan Maus (Editor)
Guest

Maus…nothign personal…tired of collective whining that goes on here.”

I hear you bahueh.. i try to keep whining to a minimum.

I will look into what happened to the old racks… i’m sure they didn’t scrap them, but I’ll check.

Jonathan Maus (Editor)
Guest

Maus…nothign personal…tired of collective whining that goes on here.”

I hear you bahueh.. i try to keep whining to a minimum.

I will look into what happened to the old racks… i’m sure they didn’t scrap them, but I’ll check… or maybe Ms. Figliozzi will respond herself (she has left comments before).

Miamese
Guest
Miamese

Why not establish an ‘Adopt a Rack’ fundraiser to ease the edge of the cost of the racks?

Paul Cone
Guest
Paul Cone

The old blue ones get reused in other places.

Sarah is out of the office today.

Carl
Guest
Carl

The blue staples were a pain to sticker on their corners. Not so with these new ones. They’re nice n’ flat all around! I hope that people sticker the shit out of ’em. …as long as the sticker fits in with ZGF’s “design palette,” of course.

Most hilarious details:
-“consistent style” as a defense for creating a completely different rack design.
-Hastings’ justification of spending big $$$ on these racks followed by his assertion that tubular stainless would’ve been too pricey.

For that kinda money, they should have gotten Claes Oldenburg to sign them and call them “staples.”

The City That Bitches
Guest
The City That Bitches

While we’re on the subject of bike parking, does anyone know where a person might get their hands on some standard-issue-style bike staples for personal use? I’ve been thinking about bolting some down in my driveway for some time now to provide visitors with safe, convenient, outside parking… Any advice or info would be much appreciated.

Zaphod
Guest

The new racks look very cool and stainless *is* more expensive… much more. Worth the expense? I’ll bet opinion on that will correlate highly to how much one values aesthetic in general.

It would be a good thing if the manufacturer could use filleted stock to eliminate the reasonable complaint about the sharp edges.

Speaking of cool racks, here’s a random shout out to the racks scattered about the Pearl that look like the Fremont bridge. Seriously, they’re amazing.

PDX KT
Guest
PDX KT

I could care less if my 700lb Schwinn gets scratched – but for those of you who have nice bikes should be concerned for your RESELL value. I think the design is terribly wrong, the price is flaunting money we dont have, and no one really cares what the racks look like. The new ones will be covered in stickers in a week anyway.

Carl
Guest
Carl

bahueh hates whining!

peejay
Guest
peejay

I like the racks, since I do value design, especially public design that works. The reality of bike paint is that it’s a temporary surface that give its owner an excuse to repaint every ten years or so.

Anyway, the big problem with the transit mall is all that brick. Supposedly, it looks more “human scaled” and inviting, but to me it registers as overly sentimental and fakey olde-style (much like those crappy Victorian lamp posts one sees in various city beautification projects). That, and it’s much less durable than concrete, and a lot more slippery when wet. So, the extra money the city will pay to put in stainless bike staples will pale in comparison to the added maintenance costs of replacing fractured bricks and the insurance payouts of all the people who have fallen and injured themselves.

Adam
Guest
Adam

If we are going for fancy then we might as well go all out. Ti racks that are compatable with Shimano’s Yumeya bling group. I mean if we’re already spending that much for a rack then why not?

dan
Guest
dan

One more member of the “these racks are attractive, but will probably not be kind to my bike” faction.

Also agree that the orientation of the wide part of the ribbon is potentially problematic, though these do look thinner than the tube racks, so that might not be a problem.

BicycleDave
Guest
BicycleDave

I like stainless.

Stainless has more than just aesthetic value. The blue racks will have to be painted at least every 7 years and rust will eventually destroy them. I wouldn’t be surprised if over the life of the racks the stainless racks are cheaper.

Seems like someone handy with a grinder could round those edges to eliminate the paint scratch problem.

Amos
Guest
Amos

I think the more important issue that everyone has neglected to mention is that somewhere someone out there is running around with a giant oversized staple gun!. Next thing you know these things are gonna be holding up huge concert posters and garage sale signs. I certainly don’t want that, do you?

gabriel amadeus
Guest

oh, I get it. They’re staples!

Donna
Guest
Donna

Jesu, Maria, that’s a lot of money for one bike rack.

OBS
Guest
OBS

The proprietor of Let’s Brew homebrew store built a beautiful steel rack that is unpainted with rounded edges. He said it cost roughly $80.

JR
Guest
JR

Good excuse to go to Mills End and get some stuff to make a new top tube protector pad.

Donna
Guest
Donna

The new rack design was chosen by TriMet and the project’s urban design consultants.

So who exactly do we have to thank for this rather interesting use of public money?

jake
Guest
jake

First of all, I think they are beautiful, at least from the pictures.
The quote from the article about “You only got once chance to do it right,” he said, “and if you don’t you’re just kicking yourself later.” is totally spot on in my book.
The material cost for a single blue staple is 40 bucks, the material cost for a single stainless staple is about 190 bucks, that means labor on the blue is 40 bucks and labor on the stainless is 177 bucks. I work with both materials and I cant understand the labor disparity

old&slow
Guest
old&slow

Unbelievable! People are happy about this? This is our money and could be spent so many other ways. I have to get my wheels trued all the time because of the crappy streets we have downtown and somebody thinks anybody cares what the bike racks look like? Who is making these decisions? It obviously isn’t their money.