At the 2014 Philadelphia Flower Show the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia exhibited most of the finalists in the street art competition to create unique bicycle racks. I asked a trusted consultant with 25 years as an artist to visit the display as they were going to attend the flower show.
Out of all of the of the street art bike racks displayed was this one was their personal favorite and mine as well.
The consultant did have some concerns about display. There was no one from the BCGP to act as guide and explain what the competition was or to sign up new members. Just a computer for people to cast their vote for their favorite design. All of the signs were small, hard to read and were not at eye level. Had I not asked my consultant to do this they would have never have sought out this display and felt it failed to dazzle.
As art this project succeeded, but my consultant felt if they saw most of the bike racks on the street you wouldn't know it was a bike rack. Like this one for example:
Their concern was that if bike was locked to it someone else would get mad at them for locking it to piece of art and vandalize the bike. A sentiment echoed by Nicholas Mirra of the BCGP when he stated in this article; “Mirra said the coalition had considered attaching plaques to the pieces informingthe public that they are indeed bike racks.”
I have my own concerns if this was truly money well spent. In order to fund this project the BCGP got a $50,000 matching grant. For every dollar the BCGP contributes the grant matches that dollar up to $50,000. The BCGP was able to raise $50,000, so they had $100,000 to use for this project. Which generated a grand total of 10 bike racks, $10,000 per rack. I have to ask, could this have been handled better? My answer is yes.
I would have had the BCGP raise $50,000 in donations to purchase a standard bike rack like this:
At $159.00 for model UX-238-SF-G , 140 bike racks would be purchased at a cost of $22,260.00 and $2000.00 would be set aside for delivery. Leaving $25,740.00 for administrative and installation costs. Then a street art competition would be announced, open to public participation. Each participant would make a donation to secure a bike rack using a sliding scale for businesses, schools, non-for profits, individuals, and government agencies.
Each bike rack designer would be supplied with instructions to prep the bike rack to be painted, a list of brands of paints that will create a long lasting, weather resistant design, and instructions on how to seal the paint. The only restriction would be no business or sports team logos. Money left over would be held to create a reserve for the following year. And all of this was inspired by the creators of the Cow Parade.
In two or three years this program would start to reduce the ongoing issue of limited bike parking. Which occurred when Philadelphia removed parking meters and replaced them with muni-meters. Causing the amount of available bike parking to dramatically decrease. The BCGP's street art bike rack contest had a lot of sex appeal when it came to donations, but did nothing to increase bike parking. For $100,000 I had expected something more than 10 bike racks.