Crowd funding may bring more park benches and artistic bike racks to Raleigh

sgilman@newsobserver.comDecember 16, 2013 

  • To get involved

    To suggest locations for park benches along the Neuse River greenway, call Victor Lebsock at 919-996-4786.

    To suggest locations for artistic bike rack locations, visit seeclickfix.com.

    To donate to either project, visit neighbor.ly.

— If you like the whimsical, animal-shaped specialty bicycle racks at the corner of East Martin and South Wilmington streets downtown, or if you think the Neuse River greenway needs more benches, Raleigh city officials want your opinion – and your money.

City officials launched Raleigh’s first-ever crowd-funding campaigns last week for a project called the Raise Raleigh Campaign. The goal is to raise $6,500 for bike racks around town and $7,800 for park benches along the Neuse River greenway.

Greenway users have been complaining about the lack of places to sit along the new 28-mile trail, according to senior greenway planner Victor Lebsock.

“Most of them call in and say, ‘The trail is wonderful. I just wish you had benches,’ ” Lebsock said.

Lebsock said he estimates the new trail has fewer than 10 benches, and the city wants to install and maintain 15 more.

New benches cost about $375 each, Lebsock said, and money for them usually comes from “residual” money from construction projects and the general greenway development fund. Without crowd funding, Lebsock said, “It would probably happen over the next six to nine months.”

If the city raises its goal of $7,800 for the benches, Lebsock said, the benches could be in place in a month to six weeks.

Unlike benches, which have no particular budget, the Raleigh City Council budgeted $20,000 for bike racks. That would cover about 50 to 60 inverted-U shaped racks, according to Eric Lamb, the city’s manager of transportation planning and development.

Any revenue generated from crowd funding will pay for more artistic racks, which are more popular but more expensive. The city purchases racks from a company called Dero, where designs include a coffee cup, an oak leaf and an alligator.

Inverted-U shaped bike racks from Dero cost between $150 and $200 each, not including installation costs, according to Lamb. The decorative racks cost between $500 and $600, he said, depending on how elaborate they are.

The city periodically adds bike racks downtown. In 2011, the city paid $18,875 for 75 inverted-U racks. Decorative racks arrived last year through the collaboration of five artists, private donors and the City Council. Lamb said the racks were well-received but came at a high price:

“People responded really well to our artistic racks, but those were not off the shelf,” he said. “Those were expensive racks due to artists that were developing and then independently fabricating those bike racks.”

This time, the 10 proposed crowd-funded artistic racks will be “off the shelf” racks – less extravagant than last year’s locally designed racks, but fancier than the inverted-U.

Bike racks of any kind are important, according to Alan Wiggs, chairman of the Raleigh Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee.

“If you want to use bicycling as a true alternative form of transportation, you need a place to secure your bicycle when you arrive at your destination,” Wiggs said. “The city adding in more racks is very important.”

He called crowd funding a “neat idea.”

The money goes to the City of Oaks Foundation, a nonprofit that seeks to protect Raleigh’s greenways and parks. Contributions to the foundation are tax-deductible and will be handed over to the city of Raleigh.

As of Monday, contributors had given $105 to the bike rack project and $45 to the park bench project.

Gilman: 919-829-8955

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