Green metal bulbs are sprouting along Broadway.
They are bike racks, equal parts infrastructure and public art at 22 bus stops along north Everett’s main road.
Everett redid Broadway’s bus stops between 34th and Tower streets in recent years. Several now jut from the existing sidewalk to the road, which helps with bus schedules since drivers don’t have to wait as long to get back in the lane compared to pull-off stops.
They’re called bus bulbs or bulbouts. A $3 million state grant paid for that work.
The city used its 1% for the arts fund that sets aside a portion of some capital projects for the bike rack bulbs. Artist Brian Borrello made them as a visual reference to the bus stops’ plant-based shape and “should evoke a sense of organic growth,” the artist said via city spokesperson Kimberley Cline. The agreement is capped at $110,000 and includes four large sculptures.
The larger sculptures, expected to be installed this summer or fall, depict the bulbs’ full growth in blossom.
As of mid-February, 12 of the racks were installed, and the city had received the other 10 from Borello. City workers planned to install the rest as they had time in coming weeks.
Beauty and function are in the eye of the bulb-holder.
“They’re striking and the color pop is great for highlighting their presence,” said Barb Chamberlain, Washington State Department of Transportation’s active transportation director, in an email.
But she said intuitive design helps people figure out how to properly secure their bike to the rack. A picture of the bike rack bulbs didn’t immediately show how riders should best position their bikes.
Should the front or rear tire go in to the center? Should they lean against the outside and be locked on two of the green uprights?
They’re not the only creatively designed bike racks in the county or the country.
A pair of leaning crosses serve pedaling parishioners outside of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Catholic Church in north Everett.
Edmonds Downtown Alliance installed inverted U-shaped racks with “Ed!” middle pieces for branding in 2015.
Luke Distelhorst, a former Edmonds City Council member, found the rack outside of a Lynnwood post office didn’t fit his electric bike’s wheel in any of its slots. Instead he had to lean his bike on its kickstand.
Oh no, I found a #WorstBikeRacks 😱
It’s like a plastic toddler gate, not even securely bolted to the concrete. USPS office in Lynnwood on 68th. @BarbChamberlain @spokesmama pic.twitter.com/Xctz3xpeCw— Luke Distelhorst (he/him) (@LukeDistelhorst) February 9, 2022
It’s a common enough experience there’s even a hashtag on Twitter: #worstbikeracks.
The Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals published a guide for bike parking in 2015. Some essential criteria for good bike racks: two points of contact with the frame, at least 32 inches high, design accommodates variety of bikes and attachments, allows securing of frame and one wheel with a U-lock, and intuitive use.
“Bike parking may go unused if it’s not more appealing to users than the nearest sign post,” the guide’s authors wrote.
They distinguish between short-term (about two hours) and long-term bike parking. Their top choices were inverted U, post and ring, and “wheelwell-secure” racks.
Chamberlain said parking is an invitation. People who can park their car near a store will go there. It’s the same for people who get around on a bike. If they can lock it up nearby, they’ll come, she said.
“End-of-trip facilities such as bike parking, including secure bike parking in a building or garage in addition to racks on the street, are really important elements of an overall plan to increase bicycling,” Chamberlain said. “It needs to be good bike parking. Rack design, location, and secure attachment all factor into this.”
Some features that can hinder bike rack use include being too close to a building or other structure so that it precludes use on both sides, Chamberlain said. It’s also important that the racks are securely fastened to the ground.
She said the Pullman Chamber of Commerce commissioned racks that reflect the wheat fields of the Palouse.
Everett’s bike rack bulbs are meant for short-term use. They have five curved posts meeting over the center of a ring base in a variation of the loop. That makes sense given their location near bus stops.
Everett Transit buses have bike racks on the front. But if those spots are taken, drivers won’t let it on board.
Other transit options let riders bring a bike in. Community Transit’s Swift buses have interior roll-up racks near the rear door. Sound Transit light rail has cabin space for someone to hang a bike.
Other long-term options are in place across the county.
More transit hubs are installing long-term bike lockers.
Everett Transit has 20 at Everett Station. They cost $50 a year to use, plus a $50 refundable key deposit.
Community Transit has monthly bike lockers and on-demand lockers, but is phasing out the former for more flexible use. Bike lockers are at Canyon Park Park and Ride, Edmonds Park and Ride, Lake Stevens Transit Center, Lynnwood Transit Center, Mariner Park and Ride, Marysville Ash Avenue Park and Ride, Marysville Cedar and Grove Park and Ride, McCollum Park Park and Ride, Monroe Park and Ride, Mountlake Terrace Transit Center, Smokey Point Transit Center, Snohomish Park and Ride, Stanwood I Park and Ride, and Swamp Creek Park and Ride. Users need a prepaid BikeLink card, similar to an ORCA card, to access an on-demand locker.
Sound Transit has bike lockers at Edmonds Station and South Everett Freeway Station. Snohomish County has bike storage for employees in its garage on Oakes Avenue, between Pacific Avenue and Wall Street.
Edmonds and Everett community colleges have bike lockers, as does the University of Washington Bothell.
Monthly bike lockers cost $60 per year and can be reserved on a first-come, first-served basis by contacting 425-353-7433 or email@example.com.
If there are other bike racks with interesting designs in Snohomish County, send in a picture.
Have a question? Call 425-339-3037 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include your first and last name and city of residence.
This story has been modified to correct a typo in artist Brian Borrello’s name.