Philly’s new bike rack will prevent cars from parking near fire hydrants


With muscle, power tools and even a few cans of spray paint, three competing teams of young engineers and designers set up their prototypes Wednesday in the South Second Street parking lane near Walnut.

They had worked for months to design and build efficient and stylish corrals that would salvage unused plots of the Philadelphia streetscape to chain bikes while keeping parked cars from blocking access to fire hydrants.

After sprinkling the teams with questions, the judges would choose the best of the three as the winner of the Rack ‘Em Up Philly contest, which brings in a prize of $ 3,500 and, perhaps more valuable, the chance to be pioneers in urban design.

“It was a fun puzzle,” said Emma Fox, marketing and business development specialist in the Philadelphia office of Kimley-Horn, a planning and engineering consulting firm.

His team’s entrance was built around pretzel-shaped bike racks, a nod to a Philly icon. (If Kimley-Horn wins, Fox said, the pretzels in the final design would be painted to look like the real thing, with salt stains and a bit of mustard.) White waist-high walls would protect riders locking their riders in. rides and be visible to firefighters.

The design includes a mural of the side of the wall facing the street, hence the spray paint for the purpose of the competition.

In Philadelphia, parking is prohibited in front of and within 15 feet on either side of a fire hydrant. Last year, the Philadelphia Parking Authority issued 31,380 tickets to violators.

“We prefer not to hand out tickets but to use the place to protect the standpipes,” said Clarena Tolson, deputy executive director of PPA and former city streets commissioner. And also, she said, to achieve another authority goal: to give a growing number of cyclists safe places to park without obstructing sidewalks or forcing them to lock their bikes to fences and other private property.

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She said she found inspiration for the project in Copenhagen during a study trip with other government officials led by 880 Cities, a foundation that promotes urban design on a human scale.

“I was watching how they treated the street and the public spaces,” Tolson said. On the one hand, people had jumped from a high bank into the river to swim, where they were often “in trouble and had to be rescued”.

So Copenhagen cordoned off an area and built an accessible promenade with ladders and life jackets, Tolson said.

“They took a forbidden space and made it attractive,” she said. “This is what we want to do.

The competition was sponsored by the PPA, the city’s Office of Transportation, Infrastructure, & Sustainability (oTIS), the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, the Philadelphia Fire Department and the city’s Office of Emergency Management. The Philadelphia Chapter of WTS, an organization that works to advance women into professional roles in transportation, recruited sponsors and launched the competition.

Patti Gibson, vice chair of the Rack ‘Em Up committee at WTS, said the selection committee will meet and notify the winner by Monday.

Gibson said 17 teams initially entered the competition, five were shortlisted and three finalists were selected. There might be a difficult choice to be made.

Along with the pretzel shelves was “Harbor,” created by a group of friends who studied together as part of Thomas Jefferson University’s Masters in Industrial Design program.

“We started our research by asking cyclists what their concerns were,” said Grace Choi, a member of the group who graduated in May. “A lot of it has to do with safety and security, so that’s what our concept is built around. “

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The installation is designed so that cyclists can use the space in front of the fire hydrant to stop and direct their bikes to the racks, made of steel tubes. Solar lights in a canopy would turn on when users entered the interior, providing security, Choi said.

A team from AECOM – “Free the Wooder” – built a modular rack measuring 4 by 6 feet, with a stainless steel liner with a wave-shaped design, as well as stainless steel racks bolted into the floor of the structure, which is raised and can be adjusted according to the different heights of curbs and pavement.

“We didn’t want something that you would need a forklift to set up or move,” said Doug Robbins, senior planner for AECOM in Philadelphia. “We tried to emphasize flexibility.

Robbins said his group couldn’t find a city that used fire hydrant areas for bike racks in their research, although it’s possible they missed a small project somewhere.

“It just makes sense to use a fire hydrant,” he said. “It’s an innovative idea.


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