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Building the best bike rack

As part of the city’s push to emphasize cycling, the Department of Transporta-tion (DOT) has collaborated with the Smithsonian’s Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum to hold a design competition to determine the look of the city’s next generation of bike racks. The competition – for which the registration deadline is April 30 – has two facets: to develop “sidewalk racks” to replace the sturdy, but utilitarian-looking “U-shaped” racks currently in use, and to develop a concept for in-building bike parking facilities. The competition will be judged by a diverse panel of seven, ranging from DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, to Bicycling Magazine Editor in Chief Steve Madden, to Talking Heads lead singer David Byrne. Everyone – from renowned international designers to everyday New Yorkers – is eligible to apply, though multi-disciplinary teams combining experts like engineers, architects, landscape architects, and urban planners are particularly encouraged. During the past few years, the city has tried to promote cycling as a sustainable, mainstream transportation option. The push is in keeping with the goals of Mayor Bloomberg’s PlaNYC 2030, the comprehensive sustainability plan unveiled by Mayor Bloomberg last Earth Day in anticipation of the city’s population increasing by 1 million over the next twenty years. The DOT is currently in the process of installing an 1,800 mile network of bike lanes, along with 500 new back racks every year for the foreseeable future to go along with the 4,700 bike racks currently installed throughout the five boroughs. City administrators hope that the competition itself, along with the cutting-edge, aesthetic results that will come out of it, will draw attention to cycling as a viable and attractive transportation option. “We hope this competition develops a new generation of on-street bicycle parking that will be more visually noticeable, artistically designed, and unique to New York City,” said Commissioner Sadik-Kahn. According to Wiley Norvell, Communications Director of Transportation Alternatives, the non-profit cycling advocacy group supporting the competition, “The point is to highlight and use street furniture to create a buzz about cycling in New York.” “This is really making up for years of not taking bikes seriously. High-profile things like this add to the overall attention being paid to cycling on New York streets. And this goes for both cyclists and non-cyclists,” Norvell said. Those submitting entries into the sidewalk rack competition will have to create a rack functionally similar to the sidewalk rack currently in use: first and foremost, it must prioritize sturdiness, bike security, and be able to be mounted on the sidewalk. Once the functional element is taken care of, the contest’s sponsors also want the new racks to share the light, transparent feel that characterizes the city’s new street furniture like the new bus stop shelters, newsstands, and public toilets. The sidewalks racks contest will be in two-stages: the first round of idea submissions will be winnowed down to ten finalists, the designers of which will receive $5,000 each. From this group of ten, the judges will select a winner who will receive $5,000 to transfer intellectual property rights of the design to the city. Those submitting entries into the in-building parking facility contest must show an appreciation of the scarcity and cost of space in the city’s buildings. This contest will be done in a single-phase, with the winner receiving $5,000 to install the facility in the headquarters of Google, a supporter of the contest, as well as some municipal buildings. *** The deadline for registration for the competition is April 30. To register or for more information, go to All of the design finalists will be unveiled in September, and the winners will be announced in October.

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