Bike Racks as Public Art in Ballard


When is a bike rack more than a bike rack? When it's a community-unifying work of public art. So says Sustainable Ballard member Craig Benjamin, who's heading up a neighborhood initiative called BiRDIE: Bicyle Rack Design and Implementation (Through Out Ballard) Effort.

Ok, so maybe that acronym is a stretch. But the project is a graceful blend of outreach, public education, practicality and creativity. According to Sustainable Ballard, the neighborhood suffers from a lack of racks, and so improperly parked bikes clutter the sidewalks, giving cycling as a means of transportation the appearance of being a nuisance. The BiRDIE plan goes something like this:

Starting this week (they're still waiting for the final regarding $10,000 in funding, in the form of a Small and Simple grant from the Department of Neighborhoods), Sustainable Ballard's transportation guild, led by Benjamin, will launch a contest to design bike racks for Ballard. Entries will be collected by July 15, and judged by a panel comprising representatives from donating businesses, the Ballard Chamber of Commerce, Ballard High School, Sustainable Ballard and SDOT. The entries will be scored along such criteria as durability, cost of materials, and aesthetic appeal. Five winners will be announced two weekends later, at the Ballard Seafood Fest.

Local drafters and metalworkers have offered to donate their time to translate and build the winning designs into functional bicycle racks that double as works of public art. Exactly where the five racks will be placed is still under negotiations, but local businesses like Snoose Junction have already voiced hopes of having one outside their doors. Benjamin is hoping to get the go-ahead from SDOT and the Ballard Avenue Historic District to let at least one rack live in a street parking spot, sending the message that bikes have as much right to the road as cars. You can see examples of what this could look like from Bike Portland, or watch this video about trading car parking for bike parking in NYC.

According to Benjamin, Sustainable Ballard aims to see all five racks installed by the annual Sustainability Festival at the end of September.