As Detroit becomes more bike friendly, more and more businesses and institutions are installing bike racks -- which is great, no doubt about it. What is frustrating, though, is to see funds and good intent wasted when, simply put, the bike rack is not functional. This occurs when the rack is poorly designed or poorly placed. The sad thing is that it is not inherently more expensive to buy a properly designed rack, or even build one. A great example of a do-it-yourself rack is at the Woodbridge Pub. It uses varying lengths of metal pipe and couplers for a functional rack that even has a cool industrial look to it.
Landscape Forms, which is a Michigan-based company, makes a couple of very functional racks with pleasant designs. The Pi is a take on the inverted-U and the Bicilinea is based on a design you might see employed in Europe. We really like how the angle makes it easier for many frame sizes to lock up to the rack. Another great basic design can be seen right here at Rivard Plaza. (Not at all our doing!) There are lots of them, they are well-spaced and well-placed! This rack is a step up from the inverted-U and the post and loop because the angle, like the Bicilinea above, accommodates many different sizes and shapes of frames. They do take up more room though, so if space is limited go for the inverted-U or post and loop, which are both perfectly adequate.
The worst bike rack of all is the classic "comb" rack, the kind you probably used at elementary school. There's one of these at the Coleman A. Young Municipal Center as well as at the Broadway People Mover Station. There is no place to lock a U-lock to, except at either end, and all the interior spots are great -- if all you care about is your front wheel. Say no to comb!
Here are some links that talk about good and bad examples of racks, they really help you get the idea.
One last quick note. Designing your own rack, whether to save money or to add a creative bent to a functional item, is awesome. And totally encouraged. Just make sure to consider the goal of the end object: something to lock a bike to. If that sounds obvious, well, you should see some of the racks out there. They look rad, but if you can't lock your bike to it, it's just an ornamental sculpture. A prominent example of artsy racks can be found in NYC, where David Byrne, an avid cyclist, designed nine iconic racks. That, importantly, also work.
If you are thinking about installing a rack - yay! - swing by the shop or shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Kelli and Karen have tons of information on styles, specs and prices.