Saturday, December 10, 2011

Awkward bicycle rack designs

There is abundant bicycle parking all over Leiden... and it is usually abundantly full of bicycles.

Many racks seem full until you look closely. Often there are spots open, but hard to see (or use as intended) because of all the other bicycles. There's one kind of rack, the two level ground secured style, that is particularly troublesome.

See, here in the Netherlands, people ride dutch bicycles. It's not a trend. They just ride dutch bicycles, probably because they are dutch. Dutch bicycles tend to have enormous sweptback handlebars. Those alone, without boxes or baskets, can take up a lot of space. The classic dutch bicycle is also very very heavy. This means that most people will not lift their bicycle, ever, and that the maneuverability of it in a direction other than backwards or forwards, is rather bad.

This leads to some awkward parking situations.

The most awkwardly designed rack is the double level ground rack. There's a high slot with a wheel rest alternating with a low level ground slot. They are very close together.

Dutch bicycles are usually stolidly taking up all the low level rack slots. They were wheeled in with no lifting. Done. Great.

You may think, look at all those free spots around them! 

No. Due to the design, a dutch bicycle effectively takes up two slots. They are too wide and heavy for just one spot. (Remember, it's really best to blame the rack designer, and not start calling the bicycle "fat." That can go all sorts of ugly places.)

When I try to put my bicycle into that higher level rack slot, it ends up suspended in the air.

The wheel is an inch above the slot.
I suppose if I also had a fat bicycle it would fit, but I would have had to lift it into place...  and that is to be avoided.

Leaving my bicycle hanging from the other bicycles is poor etiquette.

If I try to go under them and into the rack, the dutch bicycles would have to be lifted just a few inches off the ground and then they would hang from my bicycle...

In the end, I and many others, simply forgo the rack slot and use a kickstand to squeeze in. It's no big deal, easy enough to do, but I imagine there must be a better rack design!

How about lifting the high level racks just a few inches? Or spacing them further apart? Or making them all ground level?


  1. I can't say I'm a fan of that design either. But some of the high-low-high-low type racks are OK. I like the tulip racks. They seem to work with whatever bike I've tried in them.

  2. Yes, those are much better! I didn't know they had a name... They require less lift too because the entry point is tilted so you can kind of roll into it. Better design!
    Thanks for the comment.

  3. Can you reverse your bike in, so that your handlebars are at the other end, not clashing with your neighbours' handlebars?

  4. These racks are from an era when the flared handlebars weren't in fashion yet. Like David points out, the racks that have been designed - or installed - more recently cope with this a lot better. The city of Amsterdam has gone a different way entirely to deal with the madness of varying bike sizes (they do get a lot more bakfietsen, too) by just designating parking areas. Not a great solution, but a clear indication that planners are increasingly taking outsize bikes seriously.