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Bicycle racks:'Playful' parklet debuts in Iowa City

OWA CITY — Bicycles were pretty in pink Friday during Iowa City’s Bike Downtown Day.

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As part of an initiative to make the downtown area more bicycle friendly, Iowa City officials, along with representatives from the Downtown District, unveiled a unique and colorful piece of the plan — a new bike parklet designed to hold up to 40 bicycles.

The parklet, located at the corner of Washington and Dubuque streets, was designed by OPN Architects of Cedar Rapids. It is pink and spells out the word, “Play.”

“It’s really cool to see it come to fruition,” said Nate Kaeding, retail development director for the Iowa City Downtown District. “It is a part of the city’s larger initiative to make the downtown more bike friendly.”

Kaeding called the parklet unique and “playful, with no pun intended.”

This particular bike parklet was selected in part because it can be interactive and a visual cue to those downtown that the city is supportive of bicycles. Kaeding said projects like this hopefully helps reduce the number of vehicles downtown and the burden on parking ramps.

Lindsay Mattock, of Iowa City, who biked to Friday’s event, said the parklet could serve as a good landmark or meeting place for cyclists. Kassie McLaughlin, of Coralville, who also biked to the celebration, noted the parklet is near favorite stops like the Java House and Film Scene.

“It’s very noticeable. It’ll be easy to find,” McLaughlin said. “It makes downtown seem a lot more accessible to bicyclists.”

Chris O’Brien, the city’s director of transportation services, said Iowa City has budgeted for several different bicycle projects. City officials have been working to install bike lanes and develop a bicycle master plan, in addition to the parklet.

“(It’s) just one of those projects to help as we look to increase not just awareness but actual bicycle traffic in the area,” O’Brien said.

Architects designed the parklet with the idea the city could place them throughout downtown and spell out different words. O’Brien said the success of the parklet and any possibility of growth is to be determined by the feedback Iowa City officials receive from downtown businesses groups that have an interest in bicycles.

Kaeding expects the parklet to be up for about a month before the city stores it away for winter.