03 October 2016

Pittsburgh's Artistic Bike Racks

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The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust recognized that the local bike community was growing. Bikes were being observed more and more moving through the Cultural District, but bike parking wasn’t keeping up with the increase. With insufficient bike racks, cyclists were locking to trees, parking meters, trash cans – whatever they could find.

Rather than complaining about the helter skelter lock ups, the Cultural Trust decided to kill two birds with one stone. They could add bike racks AND public art if they combined the two. A call went out for artists to design some original, functional artwork that could hold two bikes minimum, and the first five designs were chosen for phase I. At the end of August 2014, those first five art–racks were installed and the response was good. So good that a second call went out to artists for more designs that they installed in 2015.

2014 Installations:

Bicycle Bridge by Will Schlough:

Will Schlough designed Bicycle Bridge. He set out to build more than just a physical bridge though. His goal with this design was to build another kind of bridge. One between the (sometimes adversarial) cyclists and drivers. He said that he wanted a design that brought both sides together in their pride for this city. We do love our bridges.

Bicycle Bridge is also painted the same color as the city bridges, which (in case you’re curious) is Aztec gold. A kind of perfect design to represent the City of Bridges.

This particular bike rack far exceeds the requirement to hold two bikes. We think six will fit comfortably and it has a great variety of heights and angles that will accomodate pretty much every size and style of bike.

Lightening Cloud by Carin Mincemoyer:

Carin Mincemoyer told us that the design for this bike rack references the symbol for a thunderstorm seen on a weather report. She explained to us that most of her artwork involves our relationship to nature. She feels that biking changes our relationship to the environment by making us deal with the weather more directly.. That it does.

Carin has designed other weather inspired bike racks. We found this information about her Partly Sunny, Snow, and Rain bike racks that won a similar design contest in Philadelphia.

Contrails by Toby Fraley:

We contacted artist Toby Fraley and he sent us the proposal that he originally submitted when the Cultural Trust put out a call to artists for the project:

My goal with this project was to not just make a bike rack, but also design a piece that could stand on it’s own as a new piece of public art for the city of Pittsburgh. The fact that it can act as a bike rack as well is an added benefit.
My bike rack concept incorporates a constant distraction of mine – contrails left behind by jet aircraft. Airliners glinting in the sun, laying white streaks across the sky have always captivated me. The way some contrails intersect on the blue canvas they fly across almost seems purposely composed by pilots unconcerned with flight destinations. Maybe I’m alone in finding those man–made intersections of white lines high above mesmerizing, but I hope not. I believe bringing them down to ground level as a piece of art may cause others to notice them more. Maybe some passersby who encounter the piece downtown will start looking up themselves, admiring the contrails above them between our city’s tall buildings.

Perambulating Ebb by Colin Carrier:

This is the only abstract design in the first phase of Pittsburgh Cultural Trust's project. In an interview with Triblive writer Kellie Gormly, Colin Carrier said I saw the project come up, and I thought it could be kind of fun to make something blending arts with functional parameters. It was a lot of fun. I wanted to do something to really push the limits of what I can do in terms of manipulating the metal. I wanted something kind of elegant and smooth and refined and minimal.

When we asked Colin about the piece, he told us that it’s made of solid, forged steel, and that the shape was driven by its need for functionality and my own desire to use a smooth flowing line without much flourish.

Untitled by Connor McNabb:

This piece was untitled, but instantly recognizable as a piece of one of our iconic bridges.

2015 Installations:

Word Balloon by John Peña:

Word balloons are a recurring theme in artist John Peña's work. His 2009 mural in Lawrenceville Thoughts on a Blue Sky used them. He also did a series of three dimensional sculptures in 2016 in Buffalo, NY. Regarding that display, Mr Peña explained on his website that I wanted to explore how the act of speech has the capacity to carry a significant intellectual and emotional weight. On the bike rack he explains: I wanted to create a functional artwork that combined preexisting elements of the city with a more playful and silly visual icon like a word balloon. As a regular biker, I often lock my own bike up to street signs suspended with steel tubing so it made sense to use such a common material already found in the landscape. I then elevated the word balloon off of the sidewalk to try and lessen the visual and physical clutter while also directing pedestrians attention upwards to the surrounding architecture of the city.

Hot Pants by Brandon Boan:

We contacted Brandon and he told us this on the design:

"Hot Pants" was created around an idea of tracing thermal work. I used thermal imaging software to take samples of downtown Pittsburgh work (of the infrared type) near my bike rack installation site. After the initial imaging I then created a trace / drawing utilizing the heat information that I received.

I think of the bike rack as a sketch of hidden work.

Time Travelin' Mike by Myra Falisz:

We found this information about Time Travelin' Mike on the Pittsburgh Artist Registry: Start with one intriguing bit of history: the wristwatch came into being when bicyclists, unable to readily access a pocket watch while riding, began leather-strapping timepieces to their wrists. Blend in cultural influences from that same period -- Pittsburgh's rich industrial heritage, slices of Jules Verne and H.G. Wells topped off with a splash of Alice in Wonderland. Meld history, invention and fantasy with off-kilter scale and the result is Time Travelin’ Mike, named for my steelworker father to honor his creative spirit. As an artist who is passionate about place-making, my hope is to deliver public art that's ferociously fun yet functional, appealing to pedestrians and cyclists alike.

A Fence bikerack by Robert Raczka:

On Mr Raczka's website we found his own statement on the design: ...I sought to integrate function, aesthetics, and history. My first concern was function, with the requirements stating that it must be possible for at least 2 bicycles to be locked to it. When I can’t find a bike rack, I do what many bicyclists do: look for a sturdy fence to lock my bike to. Much of Pittsburgh was built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and there are still a lot of iron fences around, so I thought referencing that would be a good way to acknowledge Pittsburgh’s history both in terms of the time when it developed and in terms of the city’s past as a major iron and steel producer. Taken together, I feel that those references constitute a relationship to Pittsburgh’s historical context...

For Nate and Jakob by Brett Yasko:

This piece was inspired by the bike rides Mr Yasko took with his sons while they sang the Queen song Bicycle Race. He titled it in honor of his boys.

Steel Building by Josh Caputo and Elise Watson:

An obvious nod to the city's history of steel. We were unable to contact the artists or find any more information on this one.

Persistence of Bicycling by Stephan House:

We didn't even notice that the wheels on this were clocks until we read the article by Ed Blazina of the Post Gazette where he said: Stephen House, 30, of Highland Park designed “The Persistence of Bicycling” to show a bicycle with one wheel as a clock to highlight the different times it can take to ride a set distance depending on the terrain. Mr. House is a bicyclist and graduate student in material science engineering at the University of Pittsburgh who moved here from suburban Chicago, where almost every road is flat.

River by Finnbogi Petursson:

An abstract design saluting the rivers that the city is famous for. The curving lines give a sense of rolling waves while providing an interesting look which is practical and clean.

Passing this bike rack one day we noticed four bikes had locked up to it. There are so many places to thread a u-lock through, it makes it really easy to work with all different bike sizes and styles.

Sprouting Tree by Alanna James:

We've found no additional information on this one and have not been able to contact the artist.

Vertical Compound Engine by Keny Marshall:

This is actually the second bike rack in the cultural district that Mr Marshall has had a hand in. In the first phase of these bike racks, he helped with the fabrication of his wife's design Lightening Cloud listed above.

Keystone U Lock by David Calfo:

David Calfo describes himself as a salvage artist. We haven't been able to confirm if this piece was manufactured specifically for this design or if it was, in fact, created from salvaged pieces he had on hand.

Other cool, local bike racks:

As long as we were documenting all of these artist designed bike racks we thought we should mention others scattered around town.

Three Rivers designed by Wall-to-Wall Studios and fabricated by Red Star Iron Works

These are the bike racks that you see all over the city. About perfect in their simplicity, the design reflects the basic design of the city itself - at the confluence of the three rivers. You can thank Bike Pgh for getting them for us back in 2004. They pushed to get city approval for them and found the funding so it wouldn't cost the city or local businesses. Thanks, Bike Pgh! And that's a bike lock hanging on this one in Lawrenceville.

Millvale's bike racks

Also made at Red Star Iron Works, this book design first showed up at Millvale's public library. After that the town apparently adopted the design and placed more of them around the business district.


We don't have information on the origin for this one yet. We found it (where else?) in Squirrel Hill!

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