Wicker Park-Bucktown SSA moving ahead with bike rack installations

The Wicker Park-Bucktown (WPB) Special Service Area (SSA), a business improvement district, has purchased 20 specially-designed and orange-colored bike racks from Dero to be installed within the district (see a map on their website).


A beautiful work in progress. The u-rack is nearly identical to the latest model CDOT has used with the addition of a center piece showing the sustainable transportation modes residents and shoppers in Wicker Park and Bucktown use to get around. Photo courtesy of Dero. 

Dero sent the SSA a photo of the rack right before its powder coating treatment to turn it orange. Transportation committee members, myself included, will be discussing where to install these bike racks this coming Thursday at our monthly meeting. If you have an idea for a high-visibility location that needs bike parking, let me know in the comments or by email. The SSA will donate them to the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT), who will install them. Dero will probably ship the racks directly to CDOT by the end of this week.

Chicago’s first on-street bike parking

The SSA has scheduled the ribbon cutting ceremony for Chicago’s first on-street bike parking facility for Friday, July 29th, 2011, at 5 PM, in front of the Flat Iron Arts building, 1591 N Milwaukee Avenue. RSVP by emailing SSA program manager Eleanor Mayer. I’ll definitely be there in celebration and to enjoy the refreshments at Francesca’s Forno afterwards (1576 N Milwaukee Avenue). The project is a collaboration between the SSA, 1st Ward Alderman Moreno, and CDOT Bicycle Parking Program Manager Christopher Gagnon.


An example demonstration of on-street bike parking, or bike corral, in Portland, Oregon. 

Updated July 22, 2011, to add statement about project collaborators. 

37 thoughts on “Wicker Park-Bucktown SSA moving ahead with bike rack installations”

  1. Hey Steve. Tim from Schubas and Lincoln Hall here. Lincoln Hall’s corner (Lincoln, Fullerton, Halsted) is shockingly devoid of bike parking considering all the nightlife, restaurants and DePaul activity at that corner. 6 months out of the year, bikes are locked to fences, gates, random poles and benches because the few racks that exist are full. We’ve had some luck getting a rack here or there installed, but it could use so much more. It’s certainly a high visibility area. As for the exact spot, I’m not sure. The alderman is Michele Smith.

    1. Did you know that you’re in the Lincoln Avenue SSA 35?
      Your SSA can do the same thing as Wicker Park-Bucktown SSA 33 with its revenues – spend it on new bike parking.

      You can also request bike racks from the Chicago Bicycle Program, but I think your SSA, of which your business is automatically a member, should pursue purchasing its own bike racks and having the Bicycle Program (er, CDOT) install them.

      Whichever option you want to pursue, email me steve@stevevance.net and I’ll give you more details.

        1. The “speed bump” (a wheel stop, as at a parking lot) is there to keep cars from driving right into the racks/bikes. It’s outside the travel lane, marked by signs, and neither cyclists nor cars should be hitting it.

          I agree with Steven that the racks are not any less functional than the standard “staple” rack. It’s not as if I’ve ever been able to fit an adult bicycle (even mine, at the lower end of the size range) within the interior of the staple; to lock multiple bikes requires either fitting two bikes around one pole or lifting the bike over the rack.

          Congrats on joining the committee, Steven, and glad to see a few commissioners attended the event. Keep the momentum going.

          1. The “speed bump” is called a Tuff Curb, and it’s not supposed to have an impact on speed, but do exactly what you described.

            I think these photos will quell the criticism – at least for a while – on the function of these bike racks.

            I don’t know all the names of the commissioners, but I know Joe and Brent were there.

  2. While I love the idea of specific bike racks for neighborhoods, do they really have to restrict the area you can lock your bike to? I can see the height of the logo part making it difficult to have as many bikes locked to the rack as might be able. Two on the sides could claim above/below (if you have a really low frame), and then the end people are out of luck.

    Beautification is nice, but bike racks should be functional first above all else.

    1. The bike racks CDOT uses are designed to hold 2 bicycles. They may hold more, but each bike rack must have a “designed capacity” so that when cities and organizations purchase them, they know how many to buy in order to serve their goal capacity (this is more useful for schools who want to make sure, let’s say, 100 students can park their bikes daily – they need to buy 50 bike racks).

      Let’s wait until the bike racks are in and we can use them before criticizing the functionality of their design.

      1. Be happy to try them first, but I fail to see how removing a mid section where a bike could be locked can somehow even equal the functionality of a fully open loop. I am not opposed to the racks (more bike parking is always better), but I think the idea should be more like what they did in Toronto (well, before the current insanity is rolling back public services there). They got appearance AND functionality.


        I just don’t see why there’s this push to make artsy bike racks when the ones we have are barely functional enough. Didn’t this blog just have a post lamenting the lack of ample bike parking during festivals? Why make the racks so they could hold fewer bikes (whatever the supposed capacity is)?

    2. I agree with the comment on the limitation of bikes that can be parked with the “decoration” in place.

      Without the restriction on the center area two ADDITIONAL bikes can often be parked, making a locking space for four, not just two bicycle.

      Several of these are located near the Davis Theater on Lincoln Avenue just north of Wilson. Very frequently more than two bikes are locked up to the bike racks.

      Bike racks should be functional.

      1. I agree that they should be functional, but as I noted in another comment on this page, there is a design capacity that is necessary to inform those who will be purchasing bike racks.

        Purchasers need to know the *minimum* number of people (bikes) who will be served by each bike rack.

        The lack of a design capacity (or guaranteed minimum number of bikes that can be locked) is one of many reasons I will never recommend people buy “grill racks.”

    1. I updated the article in the first sentence to denote the acronym’s definition.
      I’m glad you looked it up, though, because few people know what an SSA is or how it affects them.

      If you’re not a business owner, it may be harder to see the effects. In the Wicker Park-Bucktown SSA, for example, there are recycling bins, an increased frequency of trash pickup (contracted to CleanSlate), and more frequent street cleaning. These and other services are paid for by a levy on all businesses in the SSA district. The services and programs are administered by a full-time general manager and a board of commissioners. The award-winning Wicker Park-Bucktown SSA master plan guides their work.

      *I am an “at large” member of the transportation committee.

  3. My understanding is that only the first and last rack are to have the logo on them. The middle racks will be standard u-racks.

  4. I love the branding that some of these racks will sport. Shows pride of membership in a community that supports cycling. And these will be a fraction of the racks installed (20 total). Well worth it.

    One cannot secure lock more than two bikes to a staple rack anyway – most bikes won’t fit under the U far enough to lock the frame to the rack. Thanks for the update, Steve.

      1. Well, sure, if you’re using cables to secure the wheels you could probably cram even more bikes on. But I am pleasantly surprised that the racks do allow you to lock two bikes, securing the wheel and frame to the rack with a U-lock.

  5. The uncoated decorative rack shown above is NOT part of the bike corral. There are just 20 of these special racks to be distributed on the sidewalks throughout the SSA–providing 40 (at least) bike parking spaces that otherwise simply would not have existed. These special racks do not replace the normal, unadorned bike racks CDOT will continue to install.

    There is so much to see in the public way–and so much of it is unremarkable. While some look at this rack and see limitations, I see the definition and description of a place–a place that considers bicycles a valued community asset. Just two communities in all of Chicago have made this kind of public statement about bicycles. I think this is a victory.

    Instead of bike racks, the SSA might have more easily chosen branded light pole banners, planters, or other showy objects that, while they might create a sense of place, would serve no utilitarian purpose, nor reference any particular part of the community’s culture.

    The way I interpret these bike racks is not as less than perfect bike parking, but a sign that bikes are more important than ever.

    Anyhow, I believe that even with the ornamentation, at least four bikes can be successfully, securely locked to these racks. My analysis of cyclists’ locking behavior over the years shows me that cyclists are nothing if not resourceful. It’s one of the great positives of bicycling: little can get in the way of a motivated cyclist.

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