Bike beautiful?

I like bikes. Great for transportation, great for exercise, fun for the kids, what’s not to like?

Unfortunately, I’ve found a fault with bikes in the past week which I can’t seem to shake.

It started a few months ago when I cleaned out my garage so well I could fit a car into it…as long as the bikes were vacated. No problem, we hung hooks on the ceiling and hoisted the “spare” bikes up to the ceiling, and put the two daily-use bikes in the semi-covered atrium near the front of our house. The atrium is secure yet makes for faster bike entry and exit compared to the garage or the side yard. As a result, moving the bikes has had an unexpected side benefit — we use them more because they’re right there, ready to go. But the new location also has an unexpected consequence: the bikes are quite visible through a big glass window, from every part of the living room. There they sit, just leaning against the plants. Ick.

Then this past week, we reorganized the TerraPass office space. A by-product of the reorganization is that all the bike commuters now have their desks in the same large room. The same large room where I have my desk, in fact. Since we have an open space with no cubicles or dividers, the bikes are, shall we say, prominent aspects of the room’s décor. Everywhere you look you see a bike hung with locks, train tags, helmets and sometimes clothing. It’s not unusual to have a half a dozen bikes strewn around the big room. Ick again. To me, it makes the place look like a either a parking lot or a dump.

Which brings me to the challenge. Is there no way to beautify a parked bicycle?

I scoured the internet for creative, interesting ways to store bicycles at home and found next to nothing. Most solutions — hooks, trees, cables — were described as “perfect for the garage” and at least as ugly as a bicycle. I looked for cool bike racks, and found a few great examples (see here and here and here), though most are designed for commercial applications and none of which would work inside an office.

As the bikers start to arrive at the office this morning, I notice that they park their bikes behind their desks, out of their sightline (but directly in mine). Even the diehards would rather not look at them.

Anyone have good ideas for beautiful bike parking? I’m looking…

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  1. BCC - August 26, 2008

    My bike is directly in my line of sight. It’s a Cervelo Soloist Team, and I love looking at it.
    If you want a nice bike hangar, I’d try something like this, and then get- wait for it- some sort of nice wooden lockers for everyone’s helmets, etc.

  2. Anonymous - August 27, 2008

    My bike is pretty prominent in my living room. I cover it with a sarong. Easy to get on and off, easy to change up, cheap, easy to personalize but just as easy to standardize. This may not be the permanent solution you’re looking for, but it just might work. Sarongs can be really nice to look at if you get pretty ones!

  3. Alana Green - August 27, 2008

    I have a small apt with no storage. I have been parking my bike in the kitchen. Not so hot.
    I plan to get one of the garage pully bike racks, such as this and hoist my bike up (I have high ceilings) to clear floor space. I might install it outside under the stairwell to the second level, but it would still need to be locked in it’s elevated position.
    I’m a professional organizer, so a general rule is keep things like bikes out of eye level and look up and under for storage.

  4. Jorge - August 27, 2008

    Make ONE cubicle … for the bikes, and perhaps paint an artistic rendering of a bike on its wall. Alternatively chain them outside, around the building.

  5. Holly - August 27, 2008

    Putting the bikes in a cubicle is a great idea! That is what I would do.

  6. Keith - August 27, 2008

    At work we use the Bike Wheel Grip. They are secured to the wall, efficiently storing bikes. We must have 15 of them on one wall and it is impressive to see all of them filled this time of the year. This discussion has prompted me to go out and order one this morning for home.
    Here is the web site for the product, the Bike Wheel Grip is the bottom corner picture.

  7. Phil Lepanto - August 27, 2008

    Our office is located in a semi-industrial building. The entrance to our space passes through a room that serves as a carpentry shop/cargo staging area. For a long time, those of us that biked would simply lean our bikes against some spare wall real estate, but we recently purchased some standing bike racks. You see these types of racks a lot at bike stores as a sort of retail display. This keeps them tidy and neat looking.

  8. karen - August 27, 2008

    How about designating a parking area in one corner or along one wall, and then hiding that area with a freestanding screen or two like these at
    More elegant and homey than a cubicle and adjustable size, but the same basic idea. You might still want some wall or floor hardware to keep them from toppling over.

  9. Malia Campbell - August 27, 2008

    I have an old cruiser bike, rusty & worn, that is displayed with great pride on my balcony or in my living room. I am not bothered by its appearance so much as its bulk, which takes up precious space in my small condo. However, I compensate myself for this loss of space with the freedom this bike provides me. We must embrace the bicycle – be not ashamed or afraid of that perfect transportation bulk parked in your hallway, kitchen, or office! How often do people try to hide cars parked on the streets? Bikes should be seen – it’s one more way to subvert the dominant vehicle!
    Viva la bicycle!

  10. kathryn - August 27, 2008

    One day, maybe we won’t have to keep our cars in the garage — and they’ll be free for bicycles!

  11. David - August 27, 2008

    I like the $0.75 wall hooks attached about 5 feet off the floor, at about a 45 degree angle, anchored into something solid in the wall… it gets the bike off the floor enough to sweep underneath it, and saves half the floor space since it’s vertical instead of horizontal. It won’t work in a post-moderne room that’s all made of windows… but in a basement or other wide long space you can fit a lot of bikes into a small area, still very accessible and they don’t fall over into one another.
    I agree that this is a minor flap, we need to appreciate the elegant utility that the bicycle as a vehicle, an invention propelled by human power, truly an agent of freedom and sustainability represents in our lives. Celebrate it, don’t hide it! Did I mention bikes have a zero carbon footprint per mile? Slap a big ole Terrapass sticker on the whole bike parking area!
    Biking to work is a great part of my day. Bike parking done right can complement the workspace and need not be perceived as a real estate burden by anyone. It is important that any place selected be secure so that riders can trust their steeds will be there when needed for the next journey (home in the evening, or out to lunch at noon). Bike on!!

  12. Vickie - August 27, 2008

    We have a garage so that works for me, but if I had to move them inside I would put them where we hide some old ugly file cabinets in a corner behind an open door in our home. The angle is perfect so that you can’t see the file cabinets (stacked atop one another) unless you are directly in front of them. This could work for the bicycles too. They would need some hardware to hold them on end up against the wall. A nice artistic screen would make it even better.

  13. nick - August 27, 2008

    Seriously? I can’t believe you’re asking this. Cars are ugly as snot, and no one debates how to “beautify” their parking.
    Why? Because businesses and developers provide designated car parking. Why doesn’t TerraPass, for all its hipness, have a designated bike parking room somewhere in the office? I bet they have allotted car parking spaces somewhere, which means they’re still supporting cars over bikes. Boo!
    I agree that bikes are beautiful and I’d love to look at them all day long, but if that’s not your schtick, then do what you already do with your car – provide it a real parking spot. Ditch the car, use the garage. That’s what I do. Demand that the employer provide somewhere just as safe/accessible/sheltered for parking bikes as for cars.
    I guess in short, I think we need to stop thinking of bikes as some sort of “cute” accessory and begin to treat them like the wonderful and essential daily tool that they are.

  14. Alana - August 27, 2008

    One thing to consider when choosing a bike rack/cubby is if the bikes have baskets. I am continually annoyed trying to lock my bike up to racks that don’t accommodate baskets.

  15. Erin Craig - August 27, 2008

    There are some great ideas here! I love the notion of decking out a bike with a sarong or pareau… I’ve got a couple of those from long-ago tropical vacations. I was so certain I’d wear them when I got home (what was I thinking?)
    Also, I must clear TerraPass’ good name here… Nick, no TerraPass employees regularly drive to work. We are all bike/train/BART/Muni commuters. On the exceptional days when a TerraPass employee drives in, parking is available in nearby public lots (our building has no parking) for $15 – $20/day. Plenty of incentive to leave the car at home!

  16. Buffy - August 27, 2008

    Erin, glad you like the sarong idea (sorry for my previous post being anonymous, that was accidental). I live in Hawaii and have constant access to so many pretty sarongs–I can’t stop myself from buying them so I have to think of good ways to use them. The more I have, the more uses I think of for them. There are so darn many! A great beach blanket, a very light travel towel, wall decorations, and cover for anything you don’t want to look at!

  17. JP Collins - August 27, 2008

    There are a lot of solutions to the problem mentioned. If you’re in San Francisco, go check out the SF Bike Coalition’s office They have a parking area for employees and guests.
    Also, go to the David Baker + Partners web site, there’s a photo of their bike suspension system:
    Their office is close to the SF Terra Pass office, you might call them to get a tour and see for yourself.
    Finally, check out Delta Cycle’s bike storage racks, named for artists: I agree with the others, I don’t think bikes are ugly but they can present a mess just like anything unorganized.
    For me, my building doesn’t want me storing my bike in my office, but the basement has a space with racks. Typical of the kind of bike parking most SF office buildings that offer bike parking, it’s an unpleasant place to be but I don’t have to park on the street and I’m happy for that.

  18. Lisa (San Francisco) - August 27, 2008

    I like this topic and I’m going to come back and check for more good ideas.
    I have a total of 7 bikes (three road, one triathalon, two mountain and one fixie)
    While most of them reside in my mom’s garage, (no one has been able to park there for at least 5 years) I have two at my small loft. One of them is in my bedroom on a trackstand, making me never want to take it off and ride it, and the other one is in my bathroom, which is near the entrance.
    I’ve thought about hooks for the front tire, hanging them up in a row, from the joist in the garage, but they’ll still take up a lot of room this way.
    As an architect, I have to suggest the following–designate an area like this, with hooks, and partition it off with screens.

  19. Roger - August 27, 2008

    Bikes at the office…just keep a spot for EVERYONE’s bikes and hang them like art, different types of hangers and different heights, designate each person their own hanger, then see how they do coming up with bike art, each day or week. Now for home, if you have a garage pretty simple hang it from the wall when not in use. No garage put it where ever.

  20. Roger - August 27, 2008

    Make a Slow Rotating Carrousel for them and have them on display “Locked In” of course.

  21. Anonymous - August 27, 2008

    Erin — I find this piece very offensive. Referring to bikes as “icky” numerous times, seeing parked bikes as the visual equivalent of a garbage dump, & defining a bike as one of those inconvenient things you have to clear out of the way to make room for your car — this is not exactly what I would call “eco”.
    I’ve never read any of your other columns, but this one paints you as someone who makes a career out of trashing bikes for progressive causes. For those of us who love, worship, and adore our bikes for the plethora of joys and blessings they continually bring us, there are few designs on earth more beautiful than these two-wheeled miracles. It is sad that society has taught someone like you to see them as an “eyesore”. The real “eyesores” are right out there on the street, in overwhelming numbers, mowing us down, killing and maiming us, polluting, deafening us with their noise, and generally destroying the planet. Go cover those up with a sarong! Then let me admire my bicycle, that most wondrous work of art, artisanship, and human inventiveness, in peace.
    If Terrapass is serious about promoting environmental causes, that means taking bicycles more seriously and giving them the respect they deserve. Otherwise, you might as well rename your organization, “Terra?? no thanks — I’ll pass.”

  22. Jym Dyer - August 27, 2008

    =v= “Icky?” Good grief. People biking to eco-groovy jobs are are “die-hards?” Good grief. I’ll have you know that my bike looks great in my office and leaning up against plants:
    Maybe you just need to get a nicer bike. Maybe this guy can get you a discount:

  23. Mab Morb - August 28, 2008

    OOh, I know. Throw away that _really_ ugly thing that’s taking up so much room in your garage.

  24. bike<3er - August 28, 2008

    Mab Morb *SNAPS!*

  25. karen - August 28, 2008

    I think I disagree here. “Form follows Function”. Erin’s not trashing the Function one bit, to me she’s placed it on a pedestal by wheeling the transportation vehicles into the work space. That doesn’t mean they’re not cluttery and distracting in this setting. Personally, if I were in her shoes, seeing all those bikes in the work area would send out a subtle vibe that people are about to leave – something like wearing your jacket in the house. If she wants a little “form” to go with her hearty helping of “function”, I totally get it.

  26. Ted Lemon - August 28, 2008

    You could have a dress code for bikes – make sure everybody rides a bike that’s beautiful. But that might be hard – tastes vary.
    When I was living in New York, I used to have my bike on a hook-stand that kept it up near the ceiling, and it was one of the things I really liked about my tiny room. So it’s hard to relate.
    But if you really want to solve this problem, it’s not hard to solve. Just make a credenza behind each person’s desk that’s the size to fit a bicycle, and then they can slide their bicycle into the credenza when they get to work.
    Added bonus: Now you have some space to store books or potted plants, and maybe a little more privacy, since the credenza will have to be taller than a desk. There are a lot of ways to build one of these – I guess the easiest would be to just get some industrial kitchen shelving in the right dimensions and drape curtains around it.

  27. Katherine Roberts - August 28, 2008

    Karen — some of us love the form, as well as the function, of bikes. To those of us who haven’t been brainwashed by the establishment into thinking that a beautiful car can be a work of art, but bikes are merely “clutter”, a bicycle can be one of the most beautiful machines ever invented. I’m always greatly reassured by the sight of a pile of bikes somewhere — it means the beautiful people who are riding them are serious about not destroying the planet. And having your bike parked inside your home or office doesn’t necessarily mean you’re about to leave, it just means that you want to make sure it’s still there when you do need it, as opposed to leaving it on the street and risking having it stolen. Just like the proper place for a Rolex is on your wrist, and the proper place for a Stradivarius is safely in its case, the proper place for your prized bicycle is safely in your line of vision, so you know where it is at all times. That’s the only foolproof way to hold on to it, and anyone who works in a senior position at Terrapass should know that.

  28. David - August 28, 2008

    Erin, I live in a San Francisco loft and have 8 bikes in my entry way. I a the “Bikes-A-Loft” rack that can hold 4 bikes, and I hang the rest under my staircase. I know at least one Terrapass employee uses the same rack at his place. It’s a sturdy, stable, stand-alone rack and can actually hold 6 bikes if you put two on the back of it. It’s now sold by performance bike:
    That said, in my office I just lean my bike against the wall inside my cube. -David

  29. Erin Craig - August 28, 2008

    I think the world would be a far less interesting place if we all shared the same aesthetic sensibilities. I hope others find good ideas here, as I have. I’ll have some more to say about our impassioned commenting population in an upcoming blog post. In the meantime, check out these cool community bike racks now appearing in New York City:

  30. Paul Dorn - August 30, 2008

    Aesthetics are largely subjective, informed by social acculturation. However, car parking lots are always unsightly blight, whether filled with cars or empty. Few things annoy me more than suburban office parks with expansive parking. What a waste of space, weekdays when filled with cars (a waste of metal, sitting rusting) or empty on weekends. I’ll take bikes anytime.

  31. karen - September 1, 2008

    Katherine – I think the topic’s about run its course but I just can’t help beating a dead blog, lol. I think the concept of biking is beautiful. What The Bicycle represents is awesome, especially when it starts to outrank The Car for importance. The physical form of the bicycle is pleasing to me, too – the sleekness, the compactness, the feeling that this is Just Enough for one person. More Bike visibility? COOL!!! A bike I trip over every time I want to use the bathroom? Not quite so awe inspiring. Perhaps I didn’t word myself very eloquently, it’s not the form of the bicycle I object to, just its placement.

  32. Lisa (San Francisco) - September 2, 2008

    While I had the same reaction, initially, as others, I understood what you meant.
    Having seven bikes is “cumbersome.” While I have been accused of loving my bikes a little too much, it does get to be visually distracting and cluttering up my field of vision.
    I understood you 😉

  33. billy bob joe jim jones jr. - September 16, 2008

    OK crazies. Get over it. Bikes can cause clutter. I like bikes. I like biking. I even like uniciking. On my unicike. But bikes can (and do) cause clutter.
    Forget about comparing them to cars.
    Stop whining about how bikes are so great for the world. To quote (one example) “a bicycle can be one of the most beautiful machines ever invented.”
    If it’s a rusty pile of junk it can look ugly. That doesn’t mean it isn’t useful.
    Let’s all say it together, now:
    Bikes can be ugly.

  34. Evan Bacon - October 6, 2008

    Maybe you could write a grant to buy everybody nicer looking bikes. I for one spend the majority of my free time either riding, or looking at bikes. What could be better than a room full of lucious steel beuties with succulent hand polished lugs. Ohhh…

  35. Duncan Watson - October 7, 2008

    To be honest, the original complaint strikes me as a bit silly. If you don’t make designs or storage available for bicycles then of course chaos will result. And many people find chaos aesthetically displeasing.
    1. Bikes aren’t icky. If you approached me and called my bike icky, the conversation would not move in a positive direction.
    2.Take a look at RAKK bike storage stands This stand is designed to be used inside by bike store owners. Dedicate a bit of space to your cyclists.
    Don’t whine about dirty bikes. Sometimes the real world intervenes and life is dirty.

  36. Alisha - July 30, 2009

    Wow. There are so many good ideas for bike storage. Now, I just have to decide on the best one..Hmmm