A Field Guide to South Bronx Bike Racks

I have now completed my initial survey of bike racks in the South Bronx – the area south of Fordham Road, from the Harlem River to the Bronx River. Since the “My Maps” feature in Google Maps allows only up to 200 placemarks, I’ve divided the map up into two sections, a northern section and a southern section. Throughout the course of this survey, I’ve found 476 bike racks at 305 locations, which together can comfortably provide parking for 1,191 bicycles. Are there other bike racks out there that I haven’t found? Almost certainly. That fact, given that bike racks are always being added and subtracted, means that these maps will be continuously updated or will be a snapshot in time – Winter 2012. Here is a summary of the nine types of bike racks I found.

Bollard Racks

Two bollard racks in Crotona Park.

I found two bollard racks inside Crotona Park, at the northeast corner of Crotona Avenue and Claremont Parkway. These are the only two racks of this type I’ve been able to find in the survey area. These look sturdy and secure. They are a nice find tucked in behind a bush at a fairly busy intersection. There’s not much else I can say about them other than that their existence helps provide a little diversity to the overall universe of bike racks in the survey. I wouldn’t mind seeing a few more of them sprinkled around. People need to know that there are various designs of bike racks, and that there isn’t necessarily one “best” design.

Grid Rack

Grid rack at the Bronx Zoo.

In all of the South Bronx, I found just one grid rack. It is in the Fordham Road Gate to the Bronx Zoo. This is an older type of bike rack that has fallen out of favor. The idea of the grid rack is that a cyclist inserts his or her front tire in between the vertical slats, and walks away. The bike stands up by itself without the need for a kickstand. Unfortunately, there is no way to lock a bike frame under that type of usage, so using a grid rack in the manner it was designed does not lead to a secure situation. However, this type of rack is nevertheless fully functional – if you know how to use it. One can lock the bike securely at either end of the rack. If both of those attractive spots are taken, you can still lock your bike securely by hoisting your front tire up over the rack, then locking front tire and bike frame to the rack.

Hoop Racks

Hoop rack at South Bronx Preparatory School, 360 East 145th Street.

I found 63 hoop racks in the survey area, mostly in a couple of clusters just south of Fordham Road along University Avenue, Webster Avenue, and Valentine Avenue. There are also a few sprinkled in the East 160s and East 140s, including the one in the attached photo.

The Hoop rack is the current design used by the City of New York, through the DOT’s CityRacks program. It was selected through a design competition the DOT undertook in 2008 that attracted more than 200 entrants from around the world. This design is by Ian Mahaffy and Maarten De Greeve of the firm Bettlelab in one of the world’s foremost cycling cities, Copenhagen. In announcing the winning design on its blog, the City’s DOT wrote:

Mahaffy and De Greeve’s design reflects a modern simplicity that will greatly enhance the City’s streetscape. The rack is round with a horizontal crossbar, evoking an abstracted bicycle tire. Constructed of cast-metal, the design is elegant yet sturdy enough to withstand the harshest street environments.

Inverted-U-Type Racks

The ubiquitous inverted-U type bike rack.

The inverted-U rack is the workhorse of South Bronx on-street bike racks. I found 288 of them in the survey area – often in huge clusters. (East 149th Street at The Hub, Southern Boulevard, and East 167th Street all have huge numbers of them.)

The design is simple. Two vertical posts that merge in with one another at the top make for a secure, if aesthetically underwhelming, place to lock a bike. This is the former staple of the NYC DOT’s CityRacks program before the Hoop rack arrived.

The funny thing about the Inverted U rack is that nearly all of them are oriented incorrectly, and used incorrectly by cyclists. Technically, in theory, one should lock one’s bike perpendicularly to the rack, as if it were just one hump in a wave rack (see below) or one half of an M-type rack (see below). Thus, they should be installed perpendicular with the curb, so that when one locked up his or her bike, it would be parallel with the curb, and thus, not blocking pedestrians. Instead, the racks are parked parallel with the curb (which minimizes obstacles to pedestrians from the rack itself), and cyclists all lock up parallel to the rack, which can entangle bikes with one another. If they were used properly, they would put each of the bikes far enough away from each other that two could park comfortably out of each other’s way. There are some cyclists out there who like to be able to lock both the front wheel and the rear wheel to the rack, and thus, parking parallel to the rack is required for them.

The City must have resigned itself to this practice, because the Hoop rack seems designed so that you would lock up parallel to it. The funny thing, though, is that M-type racks, below, are installed “correctly.”

Most of the inverted-U racks in the study area are made of square heavy steel tubing covered with black paint, as seen in the photo. The most heavily used ones tend to have sections of paint chipped off. Some use unpainted galvanized cylindrical metal tubing but have roughly similar dimensions. Three of them, such as this one at Fordham Rd. & Southern Blvd., are narrower.

M-Type Racks

Galvanized M-type rack.

The M-type rack is or was also part of the stable of racks deployed through the DOT’s CityRacks program. It is listed as the “large” type rack, compared with the “small” inverted-U racks. The M-type rack is simply two inverted-U racks merged as one. As noted above, even though they take up more space than inverted-U racks, these M-racks are generally installed “correctly,” perpendicular to the curb, as seen in this photo. This means you could securely lock four bikes up to the rack, one against each vertical post. This type of rack also comes in either galvanized cylindrical tubing, as seen here, or as square heavy steel tubing painted black. In either case, the dimensions of the rack are roughly the same. The Yankee Stadium parking garages turned to the M rack in a big way – adding 134 of them right across the street from the stadium.

Swerve-Style

Swerve-style bike rack at the Bruckner Bar & Grill, Mott Haven.

The “swerve”-style bike rack is a modified form of an inverted U. It bends one leg of the rack 135o, then gives it another 90o bend. This form probably provides more locking options than the simple inverted-U rack. Like the Hoop rack, it essentially acknowledges that cyclists are going to lock up alongside it rather than perpendicular to it.

Right now, there are only two locations that have swerve-style racks so far. There are three at the Bruckner Bar & Grill (one is shown here), my favorite bar in the South Bronx, in Mott Haven. And the new PATH center, a homeless family intake center at 151st and Walton, has eight stainless steel swerve-style racks that were built as part of the building. They are underneath an overhang and are partially weather protected.

Triple-Triangle Racks

Triple-triangle bike rack at Macombs Dam Park.

I’m not sure what the real name of this type of rack is, but it consists of three connected vertical triangles (the third leg of the triangle is the ground), so I’m calling it a triple-triangle rack for now. In brand new parks near Yankee Stadium, 16 of these racks have been installed. Four are installed at the four corners of the elevated part of Macombs Dam Park, the part of the park that is atop the parking garage. This means that you might have to carry your bike up a set of stairs to reach this rack. They are going to be less used for that reason.

Nearby, in Mill Pond Park, there are three sets of these racks. In each set, four racks have been set up end to end, forming what looks like one large bike rack. One is in a bar-b-que area, one is tucked away behind a tennis center, and one is in the middle of the park. Hopefully, more people will use these racks as more people discover them.

These triple-triangle racks are also popular in downtown Brooklyn, where they are made of stainless steel and line the Fulton Mall.

Twin-Post Racks

Twin-post style racks at the Bronx County Hall of Justice.

Here is another type of bike rack that I really don’t know the name of. These racks consist of two vertical posts joined at the top by a horizontal bar that is reminiscent of bull’s horns. These racks comfortably hold two bikes each. You can simply lock your bike up to the vertical post as you would to any rack, or you have the option of hoisting your frame over the top bar to get more of the frame closer to the rack. There are seven of these racks in the survey area, all installed at the new Bronx County Hall of Justice. Inside a public plaza underneath the building, they are fully weather protected. This type of rack can also be found in Midtown Manhattan, for example, in the plaza behind 1166 Avenue of the Americas.

Wave Racks

Wave rack at Tremont Park.

The M-type and inverted-U racks noted above are really just sub-types of the wave rack. Besides those, I’ve found 26 wave racks in the survey area. Most have three humps, like the one in this photo from Tremont Park. There are a few with three humps, including the shiny new weather protected stainless steel one at the Yankees-E. 153rd Street Metro-North Railroad Station, or the aging yellow painted, slightly rusting one at Roberto Clemente State Park. I don’t think I found any with more than four humps. These wave racks are most often installed in parks. They may be the basic rack used by the Parks Department.

Addendum: Sheltered Bike Parking

NYC DOT bike parking shelter at Tremont Avenue and the Grand Concourse.

The NYC DOT has also installed bike parking shelters around the city, including one in the survey area at Tremont Avenue and the Grand Concourse. These shelters make parking one’s bike on the sidewalk a bit more respectable. The shelter at Tremont and the Concourse has three stainless steel inverted-U racks as well as an NYC bike map. Getting points for intermodal connectivity, the shelter is located right at the Tremont Avenue subway station on the B & D line. I would say it does get better usage than your average run-of-the-mill unsheltered bike rack.

Then there is the ultimate in bike shelters. The DOT runs a series of municipal parking garages. There are two in the survey area, and the one at 315 East 149th Street has free parking for bikes, with the help of one wave-rack. Of all the racks surveyed, this one was the one that was most oversubscribed. People really appreciate protection from the elements, but also, since this rack is located within sight of the garage attendant, at least the perception of protection from would-be bike thieves.

Free bike parking in NYC DOT municipal garage, East 149th Street, South Bronx.

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6 Responses to A Field Guide to South Bronx Bike Racks

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  2. J. Mork says:

    Fun piece, but I was really hoping the wave racks would be at Wave Hill!

  3. J. Mork says:

    Hahahahaha.

    I haven’t been in a while, but I found this
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/bicyclesonly/2490619481/

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  5. AD says:

    J. Mork: Excellent find. Actually Wave Hill was outside my survey area, otherwise this would have been noted.

  6. J. Mork says:

    Cool :)