Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Tucson City Standard Explains Why These Racks Dinosaured Out

Hey, more of the same type of racks I saw at the Phoenix Zoo

On a previous post about bad cable locks and nice bike racks that I saw down at the zoo, I included some photos of a style of rack that I don't remember seeing in other places. On one of my recent explorations about town, I ran across some more just like them. These are located in the Rose Mofford Sports Complex, which appears to be some sort of temple built by devotees of softball and tennis, with a few other sports thrown in.

Trying out the racks
As soon as I tried to use these racks, though, I recognized the problem: first, they appear to have been designed for skinny road bikes with skinny tires, or perhaps kids' bikes. The back of my mountain bike frame was a tight fit, and it seemed like the prong unit would barely fit it, and might bang against its lovely bluish-purple paint if I forced it. If people are deterred from using it for that reason, I understand.

A rack design that faded into oblivion
I had to look no further than the Pima County and City of Tucson Development Standard no. 2-09.0 Bicycle Parking Facility Design Requirements, p. 10, to get a clear idea of why this rack design faded into oblivion, to be seldom seen any more. It said, in Figure 5, Unacceptable Bike Rack Designs That Poorly Accommodate Bicycles, "These designs are made to accommodate traditional 'double diamond' frames with small diameter steel tubes. They don't often fit modern bicycle designs, large diameter aluminum frame tubes or full suspension bicycles. These types of racks can cause paint and frame damage to bicycles and can be a hazard to persons with visual disabilities."

It makes complete sense, when you put it that way. I also like that document because it gives clear pictures of which racks are acceptable, and why. Which could help me pick out a bike rack for my own use at home. It's good to note, for example, that "Artistic designs that provide two-point support and do not have sharp edges are acceptable."

On the other hand, man, that's a relatively generous bicycle parking provision, compared to many other places. I believe there's a total of 20 positions. It would be even better to see all 20 full with shiny bike parked by happy cyclists, certainly, in the course of a typical warm January day in Phoenix, with nothing more going on than families gathered to play softball. I guess it's a clear reflection of the current low state of bicycling in Phoenix that it would be an exceptional situation to see even ten bicycles parked there, and that it's much more normal to find this empty rack. It appeared that none of the hundreds who went to the park rode a bicycle to get here, which has excellent connections to the nearby Arizona Canal Diversion Channel path.

A fun exercise, left to you, the reader, is to use the Internet to figure out, for certain, what "Class 1, Class 2, and Class 3" really mean when they refer to bike racks. Just when you think you have it, it slithers away. I'm still not sure, after checking about a dozen sites, since they seem to mix them up. Just when I think I figured it out, that Class 1 is the best, I found the site that includes "capture/lock protection" which would seem to be like these racks, as class 2, I decided to leave it as an exercise. Check out the Class 1 designs in this document, they look beautiful, and don't seem like they would scratch or dent your frame, or be a hazard to others. 


  1. Those style racks still live at the Portland building. Believe they're 80's or early 90's vintage. They were designed to be locked with a padlock, which I guess was more common in the area of chain and lock vs. U-Lock. Cool idea, poor execution. Give me a staple rack anyday.

  2. I was at a public meeting at a town hall, and both sets of bike racks were 6" too close to the wall- so at least my bike (with basket) couldn't get both wheel and frame locking. Others were locking through their back triangle, but I can't really do that with the rack/ fenders/ chaincase.

    It's frustrating when a fine rack is made less useful by poor mounting. My bike was still there with just the frame locked though- not many wheel stealers around on such a cold night,

  3. adventure! I wonder how cyclists who park at the Portland building now adapt to these racks if they have no padlock, or their bikes don't fit, or they are concerned about frame dents and dings.

    cycler, that Tucson doc also has specs for rack setbacks, which since bikes are relatively small are relatively modest, but 6" can make a big difference. Details people, details!

  4. John-I've seen people use U-Locks on these racks. I've tried to use them a couple times, and they scare me, so I seek out a staple rack.

    It's a shame, because I'm sure these racks were very expensive and marketed as the end-all, be-all rack when they came out. Now they'll get replaced with staple racks and the old racks will probably go to the scrappers, since I don't see who would ever want to buy them.


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