Believe it or not, this is bicycle parking. Here’s a website in German that explains more, or you can try my extremely rough translation. In four neighborhoods around Hamburg these covered, locked bicycle parking facilities, Fahrradhäuser, have been built to accommodate bicycle parking for people living in an Altbau house, older buildings that may not have enough room on balconies or in hallways or basements for safely parking bicycles. So in the eighties they started building these suckers. You have to get a permit from the city in order to install one and they cost around 5,000 Euros, but the city comes out to do a site survey and they’ll even subsidize up to 2,250 Euro. Hot diggity!
In Eimsbüttel and Altona, two neighborhoods in Hamburg, these little houses are rather prolific. Neighborhood characteristics may lend themselves, as I’ll discuss in a minute, to this style of parking, but I think this is a great example of some creative and adaptive thinking, since it effectively alleviates the need to worry about theft and damage from the elements. It’s also relatively simple, requires little effort to maintain and keeps bicycles from clogging entryways, hallways or a person’s apartment. Not to mention the fact that it helps prevent the unsightly bicycle skeletons since the bikes are kept nice and tidy. It would be easy to ask, however, where the hell you find room for the structure on the street, between the vehicular travel lanes and the sidewalk.
I suppose it’s possible to phrase the answer this way, prioritize space for people, instead of automobiles. Streetscapes in residential neighborhoods in Hamburg have fairly wide sidewalks that are sometimes built to accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists. These can be designated in a few ways, either through signage or through the use of differing construction materials that define space usage (middle – the cyclist uses the red brick on the right.) The design of the vehicle travel lanes signifies to the driver that this is a residential neighborhood, building in things like bulb-outs (neck-downs – somewhat visible in the top picture, more pictures to come,) target speeds of 30 km (18m/h) or two-way streets that only fit one moving vehicle at a time among other design elements (the bottom picture is a two way street.)
Bicycle parking will be a constant theme here, particularly given some interesting variations. For our part in the U.S. we’re fairly fixated, from a public works point of view, on the ‘Inverted U’ type rack, though some creative modifications have been made, including special designs from David Byrne.
One thing that often gets my goat, particularly as I like to focus on language and phrasing, is the designation of cycling, or mass transit and walking for that matter, as an ‘alternative’ mode of transportation, as indicated in Denver’s reasoning for installing more bicycle parking. I believe it inadvertently affirms the personal automobile is the first form of transportation we should be seeking out and when that doesn’t work there are these other ones lying around. I understand that statistically the automobile is the most used, however that trend developed due to federal funding choices (still an issue,) lobbying and the ever-elusive theory of an ‘American Dream,’ it’s like seeing Sasquatch*. If we want to help shift the modal share away from autos, I think we need to start talking like it. This means referring to mass transit, walking and bicycling not as alternatives, but as legitimate forms of transit in their own right. Cap’n Transit has an excellent post about priorities.
*if you look at the bottom of that page from the Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization it says there have been sightings for the last 400 years. Henry Hudson sailed up that river of his 400 years ago, too. it appears we’ve been chasing the American Dream just as long as we’ve been captivated by Bigfoot. how’s that for coincidence.