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Outdoor bike rack:City to Add More Bike Racks at Mead

After about 30 minutes of debate, city leaders on Monday approved installing additional bike racks at Mead Park.

The issue was brought before the Park Board on April 5 after a recommendation by the Bicycle Pedestrian Advisory Committee — a body which is supposed to be advisory to the Plan Commission, according to Mayor Mike Wiza — to increase parking options for bikes following instillation of a new parking lot at Mead.

According to Parks Director Tom Schrader, additional bicycle parking was already added at the park, but he said BPAC felt those additions weren’t adequate. The group recommended an additional four to six bike spaces — likely two or three racks, depending on the style — be installed at the park, at a cost of $130 to $600 per rack.

Schrader said there’s no room in his department’s budget for such a high expense, so his staff found a better option: a SPASH welding class.

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An example of the Shark model bike rack. (Contributed)

“I thought this was a good project we could do with SPASH students; the cost differential is quite a bit,” Schrader told the City Council on April 17. “If the council wants to put [BPAC recommended] racks in, I have no problem; it’s just that you’re going to have to find the money.”

Most of the discussion Monday revolved around the merits of the designs recommended by BPAC versus the one recommended by Schrader’s office. BPAC recommended three designs from companies outside the area including bike hitches — which the city already has in the Downtown District — the Shark model, or an inverted-U bike rack.

Schrader’s officer proposed an uplift bike dock system, placed on a granite pad adjacent to KASH playground — and welding students at SPASH have already created a prototype, which he said meets all the city’s standards, as well as those laid out by the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals.

But some on the council, along with BPAC representatives, argued the design proposed by Schrader was difficult for the average bike rider to understand.

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Downtown bike hitches aren’t always used properly — and often allow for bicycles to slide down or fall over. (Contributed)

“I, along with BPAC, remain confused about why a complicated approach is being used for what a simple approach will suffice,” said Tori Jennings, who recently transitioned from serving as BPAC chair, an appointed position, to an elected representative of the city’s 1st District. “We want consistency; we’re still trying to educate people on how to use [downtown] bike hitches.”

Jennings said she was in the process of creating laminated tags explaining how to use the downtown bike hitches — and Schrader pointed out those were the very hitches BPAC was proposing for Mead Park.

“The hitches downtown…I’ve got a picture here, this looks horrible,” said Alderman Jeremy Slowsinksi, who also sits on the Park Board. “If we can come up with a bike rack that’s economical, serves its purpose and that’s going to last, I’m going to support that. I am not a fan of those hitching posts…this looks horrible. I’ve been downtown and I’ve seen it look like this a lot; plus, it can’t be good for the bikes.”

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Schrader shows off the prototype for a new kind of bike rack, produced by welding students at SPASH. (City Times photo)

Slowsinski then held up a picture of Schrader’s proposed design, saying, “From what I’m looking at, I don’t know what’s hard to figure out; it’s basically, you put your tire on the rack and lock it down…it’s pretty simple in my mind.”

The new docking system created by SPASH would cost about $30 each.

Ald. Mary Kneebone objected to Schrader’s proposed design, saying having to raise her bicycle about three inches off the ground to mount the tire in the rack was cumbersome.

“That’s still high for an old woman like me. I know someone who’s had three rotator cuff surgeries and they’ll never be able to use this,” she said. “Anybody that’s [sic] got issues with raising their arms…I mean, you’ve got to raise this thing up on a rack.”

Ald. Cathy Dugan said both designs were confusing for her.

“I’m a cyclist of many years, and I’m not sure I’d be able to figure out either of these,” Dugan said of the designs. “Whichever one we decide on, we need to have an educational panel there to tell us how to use it.”

Ultimately, the Common Council voted 6 to 4 in favor of the design proposed by Shrader’s office, with Council members Mary McComb, Mary Kneebone, Meleesa Johnson and Garrett Ryan voting against. Alders David Shorr, Heidi Oberstadt, Shawn Morrow, Mike Phillips, Jeremy Slowsinki and Cathy Dugan voted in favor. Ald. George Doxtator was absent.

Following Monday’s meeting, Schrader said his office had not received any complaints from residents asking for more bike parking at Mead, which he would expect if there were concerns from the public.

“BPAC approached us and said they recommended more bike parking, and I told them to put something in writing,” Schrader said.

Schrader said the prototype was created by a welding class at SPASH under teacher Dan Strobel’s guidance, and he’d be working with the students during this semester and next to create additional racks.