Mixed-Vegetable Bike Rack Debuts

Allan Appel PhotoAllan Appel PhotoPulling up on his Specialized Allez bike, Ben Green faced a big decision: Tie up to the stylish squash? The inviting carrots? Or the happy broccoli?

The Yale rising senior, a squash man at heart, is the “super intern” in the office of city traffic tsar Jim Travers.

In less than ten months he has spearheaded (broccoli-like) the creation and fabrication of the newest piece of public art in town. It’s useful art: a new mixed-vegetable bike rack installed this week in front of Claire’s Corner Copia vegetarian restaurant.

Travers’ department plans to install three or four more similar artistic racks around town to tell the bicycling community, if they didn’t know it already: “You’re wanted! You’re respected! You’re artistic!”

Claire’s owner Claire Criscuolo donated $600 for the rack. Yale threw in the steel tubing; a $1,200 mayor’s community arts grant went toward a pipe bender. The artistic and design hours came from the Design for American Workshop at Yale and from the Creative Arts Workshop.

Whimsy & Utility In Balance
Noted sculptor and CAW teacher Ann Lehman and her crew did the design and fabrication. The project fuses utility with whimsy.

Green and some Yale colleagues floated the art-bike rack idea 10 months ago. Travers responded: Find the money. Find a merchant willing to have it outside the front door. We’ll install it.

Criscuolo responded to a flyer; she told Green she’d been telling aldermen who to her restaurant that she wants a bike rack out front, but one with more whimsy that the standard-issue city version.

Over the next months, Green served as the young impresario of a project that had to balance lead designer Ann Lehman’s artistic inclination with utility. Click here for a story showing her working on the initial mock-up.

“She wanted it to be beautiful. I was concerned it had to be functional,” Green said as he pointed to the cute green sprouts sticking out of the carrot to show some true vegetable detail.

The crossing of the carrots also had to be low enough for a bike to fit across them. With one on the carrot, another bike on the squash, and one on either side of the frilly broccoli, the rack holds four bikes.

Travers, who was proud as a midwife at a birth, noted how the space between the end of the carrot and the broccoli is just the right size for a bike to lock up securely, whether U-lock or chain. The green sprout at this end of the carrot is tiny; if it were too long, it could get knocked off.

“Everything is thought out,” he said.

Green is the most accomplished of the many interns Travers has worked with, he said.

Click here for a story about the dynamic parking project that Green’s research also helped to launch in town.

Green said the other new racks, to be installed in the spring, might include a cupcake design in front of Katerina’s Bakery on Whitney or some more sedate creations, such as letter designs, perhaps an “N” and an “H” designed for one of the city parks.

Before she rushed off, Criscuolo was asked if the bike rack will inspire her to order more squashes, carrots, and broccoli. She said those were already the most popular of the vegetables she serves; she hardly has room to store any more.

Now a bike-rack salad—she just might add that to her menu, she said.

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posted by: elelsnow on August 28, 2013  4:37pm

These are great! I walked by yesterday with a co-worker from fairfield county that I was showing around to different sites for a future event. She was very impressed with town and thought the rack was cool.

Also, I’ve been in town for awhile, but finally got a bike. I rode it downtown a few weekends back to visit the pop-up market on Broadway. I had come around the back by the gym, and walked all the way down the street to J. Crew before I saw a bike rack. Another kid with a bike was doign the same from teh other direction. We found a rack, by the cross walk, but it already had 4-5 bikes on it! We used some team work to squeeze our bikes in, but ended up having to tie his to a sign that really wasn’t secure for his bike. Put racks like these on broadway please!

posted by: Bill Saunders on August 28, 2013  4:44pm

When I walked past these yesterday, I was a bit dumbfounded, and thought they were the ugliest damn attempts at bike racks I have ever seen.  At least I now know they are supposed to be vegetables.

They are an eyesore, and do not fit in with the historic nature of downtown.  Remove them and put in functional racks that can hold more bikes. 

How much money got spent, and where did it go?????

I bet a sculptor like Silas Finch or Gar Waterman could have designed a bike rack of both high form and function, that took the streetscape into consideration.

posted by: HewNaven on August 28, 2013  5:04pm

Great story. This is what makes New Haven special right now: giving residents innovative, progressive solutions to old city problems. Also great local collaboration between the city, Yale, CAW, local business, etc.

posted by: Gauss on August 28, 2013  5:09pm

I love it! We definitely need more bike racks in this town.

posted by: DingDong on August 28, 2013  5:25pm

Travers always has stylish ties.

posted by: TheMadcap on August 28, 2013  7:15pm

I love it, let’s have more. Also can’t we just paint some of the normal bike racks? Do they always have to be black?

posted by: Gretchen Pritchard on August 28, 2013  7:54pm

Very cool!  But are you sure the yellow shape is a squash????!  It looks more like an onion.  If it’s a squash, what’s the third tube sticking out of the top?

I hope the paint doesn’t flake off within just a few months.

posted by: anonymous on August 28, 2013  8:54pm

Racks are nice but where are the real bike lanes? DeStefano promised hundreds of them when he ran for Governor in 2006 in a position paper, and they aren’t here yet. we have some nearly useless “sharrows” and one or two lame lanes.

Chapel and College could fit them for most of their length easily, and paint is cheaper than concrete. Without safely designed streets, biking is mostly the province of younger adults or people with some experience riding. It needs to be made more attractive for young children, beginners and adults with more limited ability, too. Just do it already.

If biking doubled, which would happen literally overnight if we just hired a street paint designer who knew what to do, the city would save several millions of dollars every year (at least). That translates into lots of local jobs and surely would grow over time - Portland is a perfect example where it increased tenfold after bike lanes were put in, and the area went from run-down to reasonably prosperous.

The association of US transport officials have published a detailed guide and the number of protected bike lanes nationally has tripled in the past few years. At this point it’s not a design issue, it’s a political one.

posted by: Anika Singh Lemar on August 28, 2013  10:01pm

A few years ago, on a midwestern road trip, my family happened upon Columbus, Indiana, a really fascinating architecture gem disguised as an uninteresting exurb of Indianapolis.  Sprinkled through the tiny downtown were multi-colored bike racks in the shape of “C"s—we thought it was some very clever, very attractive branding.  I love the idea of New Haven developing a signature bike rack!  You can see the Columbus bike racks (and a great story on city hall supporting local businesses!) here: http://www.indianaeconomicdigest.net/main.asp?SectionID=31&ArticleID=49807

@ Bill Saunders

I am reminded of a quote from Jane Jacobs, who was, as you are, a fan of historic neighborhoods, saying something about how urban design should steer clear of becoming an exercise in taxidermy.  The new bike racks are quite consistent with the whimsy and pedestrian-friendly nature of downtown.  That they are not be what a 19th century architect might have designed is quite beside the point!

posted by: citoyen on August 28, 2013  10:30pm

Imagination! It is what I would so love this city to accommodate more of, both politically and culturally.  We have people here who have so much of it—if only we had more of an ethos of welcoming it, instead of an overweening mentality of wanting to perpetuate the same old ways of doing things.

(Hint: I’m talking, especially, politically here, in this election season.)

Jim Travers has been making himself a city treasure. As others have said, I hope the next mayor, whoever it will be, will keep him on. Excellence deserves reinforcement and reward.

posted by: Bill Saunders on August 28, 2013  10:37pm

AL

Whimsy is the last word I would use to describe that block.

This is a case of crappy aesthetics, and putting form, and political messaging over practicality and function.

This is just bad pop art.

posted by: A Contrarian on August 28, 2013  11:48pm

Bill Saunders has a point about historic downtown, but this is Claire’s corner, Claire’s is a 40-year-old New Haven Institution, it’s the beginning of Yale’s Arts District, near one theatre and hopefully another, so perfectly suited for a bit of whimsy.  And the collaboration kept the costs down.

posted by: Bill Saunders on August 29, 2013  2:41am

Some of these bike racks are cool public art.

http://www.vixiz.com/creative-bike-racks/

Though bright colors seems to be the trend, I don’t know if it always works.  I think context is everything.

The Claire’s installation would fit in perfectly well by the Lighthouse Point water park, and would serve an educational purpose, rather than a commercial one.

If this is a direction we want to go as a city, I would suggest an open call to artists, with an independent ‘jury’ of artists, architects, and community planners to approve designs and locations.

I think that it is extremely unfair that a coalition of two artists, a local businesswoman, and a city employee determine the look and infrastructure of public spaces. 

I didn’t know Ms. Criscuolo owned the sidewalk.

But if this gets the ball rollings in terms of an inclusive public art project, it has my support….

posted by: Dwightstreeter on August 29, 2013  7:38am

I share Citoyen’s appreciation of creativity and imagination and would like to see more innovation in New Haven, whether it’s a bike rack or our failing tax system.
We can respect the historical heritage in New Haven without having bike racks that look like stocks. What would a historically correct bike rack look like any way?
It’s good to see some one take a risk once in a while, even if it’s not a success in everyone’s eyes.

posted by: THREEFIFTHS on August 29, 2013  8:42am

How about parking meters for the bikes.

posted by: TheNewZero on August 29, 2013  11:35am

Anonymous, although I feel that your critiques are colored by a clear blanketing bias which frequently sees you poo-pooing nearly all bicycle infrastructure improvements the city implements (even ones you’ve championed in the past) I do however agree wholeheartedly that without a serious commitment to hard, tangible improvements to bicycle infrastructure as opposed to ones that are more gesture based our streets will not evolve at a reasonable rate. I also agree that this is largely political, and although Jim Travers is doing as much as he can to implement improvements if it is not in the interest of the mayor and his constituents to make the changes we want to see they will not occur. My question to you is what are you doing to get a mayor in city hall who is dedicated to seeing New Haven adopt the policies of a Portland, or even better a Copenhagen? Posting vitriolic comments on NHI is barely armchair activism, and right now it looks like we are on the precipice of new political leadership that has absolutely no commitment to alternative or public transportation. Message board comments are cheap, and I hope the cycling community comes together for the candidate who obviously is dedicated to alt trans progression and change even if its merely in the form of getting out and voting.

posted by: Bill Saunders on August 29, 2013  3:35pm

Dwighstreeter,

A bike rack that looks like a pillory—not the direction I was going in…

A pillory made out of bicycles, now that could be interesting interactive public art….

posted by: Bill Saunders on August 29, 2013  3:59pm

Seriously, we can stop being ‘cute’  with city planning any time.

If we are serious about biking infrastructure, a central area to park bikes on the lower green, across from Claires,  the Upper Green, across from City Hall, and the in the Broadway triangle is such a simple and needed solution.

Whaddya say Proprietors?
It’ wouldn’t be a commercial use unless it gets monetized.

How bout u “Yale Shopping District”?

posted by: Dwightstreeter on August 29, 2013  4:14pm

@Bill Saunders:

I think I saw that pillory made out of bikes at Zane’s Spring sale. I’ll see if we can set it up on the Green.

posted by: TheNewZero on August 29, 2013  4:22pm

Bill, I think serious bike infrastructure should be prioritized on the road as opposed to on bicycle parking. I, like you, have biked this town all of my life and rarely has bicycle parking been a headache for me since the city endorses locking bikes to parking meters. Having said that, I completely agree regarding a bike corral on the Broadway Island, it was such a no-brainer when ECC was trying to turn a parking space in the same area into one when the island would be a massive untapped resource. Im honestly surprised that you’re upset about the look of these racks as opposed to the allocation of public art funds for them when arguably they should have been paid for by transportation funds exclusively and can be chalked up to yet another example of city art money being spent on only quasi-art projects (is project store fronts really an art project or an economic development one?).

posted by: A Contrarian on August 29, 2013  4:32pm

Re:  The Green

http://www.pps.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/New-Haven-Green-Placemaking-Plan-v2.pdf

posted by: Bill Saunders on August 29, 2013  5:32pm

The New Zero,

Believe me, I am equally interested in the art funding aspect, but mum’s been the word.  We, as the public, have no idea where the money actually came from, so I can’t comment on the Art Funding Angle.

Project Storefronts has been a giant sham of self-interest in it’s infancy, but now that certain ‘connected’ people have abandoned the program, it is actually trying to do what was intended.

But back to the mingling of art and transportation funds—this is a favorite past time of cash-strapped politicians.  Tell me the transportation grant used to develop the Artspace Bustop into a Public Sculpture Park wasn’t a misuse of funds….

posted by: Bill Saunders on August 29, 2013  6:09pm

TNZ,

I also think that central bike parking is cheap, relative to road improvements.  It show committment, creates safety, and community.

posted by: Bill Saunders on August 30, 2013  3:21am

TNZ,

The transportation grants that Artspace used to advertise on the trains is another great example of misused funds in the name of art.  The list is practically endless….

This is why artists are suspect of City Hall, Artspace, and any other organized political arts program.

Once you take Economic Development interests out of art, they can finally become the Economic Engine they are touted to be.

posted by: William Kurtz on August 30, 2013  6:06am

I can see where those racks might not be everyone’s cup of tea but I think they’re fun. While I agree, generally, that if the mayor and board of aldermen had the political will to do so, the transportation landscape could be transformed almost immediately, Jim Travers and his department are doing a great job and there have been substantial improvements in cycling infrastructure during his tenure. I have high hopes that the next mayor of New Haven will take the city in an even more progressive direction.

posted by: Cove'd on August 30, 2013  12:30pm

New Haven should prioritize bike infrastructure improvements.  Many streets in New Haven already have plenty of width curb to curb to install separated bike lanes.  NYC did this years ago:

https://maps.google.com/maps?q=new+york+ny&hl=en&ll=40.741122,-74.00168&spn=0.001174,0.001206&sll=41.500765,-72.757507&sspn=1.680576,2.469177&t=h&hnear=New+York&layer=c&cbll=40.741122,-74.00168&panoid=GgMk9oFbepZw9GQXO6COgA&cbp=12,31.71,,0,3.66&z=20


With this type of stuff, especially in urban areas that already have a good proportion of bicyclists, such as in New Haven, there is a build it and they will come result.  Providing separated bicycle lanes will help attract even more bicycle travel.  New Haven is well suited to become something special.  Separated bike lanes would help this along.