Midtown Raleigh News

Raleigh’s newest bike racks an artsy way to encourage exercise

Last summer, as design teams across the city and country dreamed up their take on the best bike rack for downtown Raleigh, John and Kelly O’Brien Williard had a little friendly design competition going within their own home.

Both were competing to win RaleighRacks – on different teams.

His submitted design was a geographic outline of North Carolina rendered in metal, so bikes can be chained to the coastline or to the Tennessee border. Hers was a blocky mod design with cutouts that spell “BIKE” on two sides and “RALEIGH” down the back.

“It’s probably a good thing we both won,” Kelly said. “We both wanted to win, but we wanted each other to win, so this works out for the best; we can both brag that we both won.”

The Williards are two of Raleigh’s four winners of RaleighRacks, a design competition that drew 65 entries from across the continent and inspired one founder to donate $3,000 out of his own pocket to make sure the project came to fruition. The winning entries are on display in the Urban Design Center in downtown Raleigh pending their move to storage before they are installed around downtown this summer.

A group bike circuit of the racks is planned for the day of their installation, said Jennifer Baldwin, bicycle and pedestrian coordinator.

Raleigh is making a concerted effort to encourage biking. The city doubled its bike lane mileage last year, Baldwin said, and is working to install several new miles along Hillsborough Street, Clark Avenue and Lassiter Mill Road this year. RaleighRacks links in to that goal by providing more bike parking downtown, while jazzing up city streets with some design pizazz.

The winners, chosen by a jury that included a representative from the Raleigh Arts Commission and a local urban designer, were judged on creativity, functionality and innovation – plus that certain something that made them a good fit for one of Raleigh’s downtown districts, from Moore Square to Glenwood South.

Winners from Raleigh were Kelly O’Brien Williard’s entry designed with her team from Smith Sinnett Architects, her husband’s design with Miller Taylor and Lauren Schaubach’s acorn-shaped entry for Moore Square. John’s is set for installation near the State Capitol, Kelly’s for Glenwood South.

For the city’s other sectors, New York designer Ignacio Ciocchini created a quirky, tall structure with a wheel and pedals at the top, while Canadian architect Michael Putman designed an abstract rack made from recycled bike parts for the Warehouse District. Exact locations are still being decided.

RaleighRacks is the brainchild of Architecture for Humanity Raleigh and Richard Adelman, a doctor and bike enthusiast.

“We were thinking of something that, when you are walking around, you would remember as something unique, a visual landmark that would stick in your mind,” said Michael Greene, chapter coordinator of Architecture for Humanity Raleigh.

Adelman had spotted a similar concept while on a road trip through Louisville, Ky., a few years ago, and immediately wanted to bring it to the City of Oaks. He rounded up $9,000 in sponsorships and gave $3,000 of his own to ensure the project had the resources it needed to be done properly.

“When people look at these, they won’t just look at a bike rack, they will look at it and think what public art can do for a city,” Adelman said. “That’s what cities should be: You shouldn’t just think of skyscrapers, you should think of art.”