In Norfolk, new bike racks will receive an artful spin


A buoy to mark the city's nautical ties. A "Frankenstein assemblage" of bicycle frames, welded together in a geometric pattern. An enormous fork trailing a single metal strand of "fettuccine" behind it down the sidewalk.

All three will soon be public art dotting downtown. They also will be something more practical - bike racks.

The Downtown Norfolk Council on Wednesday unveiled the designs of five public art bike racks commissioned to promote a "bike friendly" city center.

It's something cyclists say is long overdue. Residents who bike downtown often run across the problem of where to leave their two-wheeled transportation, said Wes Cheney, of the advocacy group Bike Norfolk.

Over the years, Cheney and his wife have ferreted out safe bike rack locations tucked away in parking garages. But for the uninitiated, he said, it can be a confusing and discouraging process.

"People won't go where they don't know there's parking," he said, adding that what's true for drivers is the same for cyclists.

Cheney, whose "U Lock" design of metal loops will be installed near MacArthur Center, said he got involved in the public art project because bike racks need to be more prominent and more plentiful downtown, where bike use has gone largely ignored.

Although planners drew up a citywide bicycle plan in 1981, the city's general plan a decade later stated cycling was "not a major component of Norfolk's transportation system," planning director Frank Duke said.

Now, he said, Norfolk is working to tie in older suggestions with existing amenities such as the Elizabeth River Trail. Other work includes zoning and long-term plans to improve routes through the city and encouraging bike riding as a transportation choice.

"We really need to start changing our attitudes about bicycles and start seeing them as a solution," Cheney said. "It can be part of the answer for Norfolk."

The Downtown Norfolk Council has been working on the project for a year and a half, having secured its board's approval to fund the project and pay the artists chosen through a design competition.

For Thom White, the architect who designed the "Flat Iron Fork," a towering utensil dragging behind it an unruly metal "noodle" that will accommodate at least six bikes, the bike rack challenge presented an opportunity to not only provide function but also fun.

His installation will go into Flatiron Park, a triangle of what is currently an empty lot facing Baxter's on Granby Street.

"I love downtown," he said. "I want to see it be a place that's more engaging to pedestrians and residents. A place where people stop and hang out. The art aspect gives some more identity."

Downtown Norfolk Council President and CEO Cathy Coleman said the organization hopes to have all the bike racks installed by spring.

Meghan Hoyer, (757) 446-2293, meghan.hoyer@pilotonline.com

Posted to: Arts News Norfolk Traffic - Transportation

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I'll take whatever we can get to jump start

some visibility to Norfolk's potential as a bike friendly city. I bike Norfolk extensively, and see so much potential with the already existing city's structure. Granted, this is but a mere token to what looks more like a further beautification of downtown.

Thanks to Wes Cheney for his getting some city official's ears open on this subject. We are thirty years behind the times for not having already become a bike metropolis.

Norfolk is a prime time city to get in on a bike campaign. All the pieces are already in place, a flat terrain, moderate climate, and a modern city striving for some identity.
Seeing a biking community thrive in our city would attract visitors, new residents, and new businesses. It's a win win situation for all.

They're nice bike racks. But

They're nice bike racks. But "Downtown Norfolk Council has been working on the project for a year and a half" ? Suggest investing time in park expansion, infrastructure repair, traffic flow, streamlining traffic lights, and other necessities. Downtown could be very nice if we focused on the basics first. Not enough park space here, not by a long shot. Currently we have too many intersections with qualifiers - 'no right turn on red except the first Wednesdays and Fridays of the month and during Ramadan.' What are they smoking? Can we avoid more traffic lights or must we put one at every sidewalk intersection? What about the bad neighborhoods around downtown - let's encourage self-reliance to disrupt the criminal element. Thanks.

I think you are serious so ...

I think you are serious in your comments so if not I am sorry.
Over half of the items you complained about can be eliminated by, bicycle riding more.
Less traffic, less lights for you to worry about, park expansion would happen as more people go outdoors. People feel better with exercise and have more hope and thuse less crime.
I am a part time bike commuter and those are my best days of the week.
Try riding for just 15 mins and work up from there ..
I promise you will be using one of those bike racks in 6 months.

as a bike rider

you still need to worry about lights. If you ignore them, you'll end up with your own article in the VP.

i have to agree on traffic lights.

Because of construction and lane closures, Duke and Brambleton, coming from the Chrysler, headed towards Downtown, has become a mess now. Traffic has sometimes gotten back as far as Olney. Whatever they are doing to Boush Street, they need to hurry up.

Government sponsored art.

Government sponsored art. Brilliant. How much did it cost the taxpayers? Have they paid for light rail yet? I've noticed the sparking new trains cars that the city is paying interest on sitting idle in front of NSU.

Did you say art?

What? art and bikes? Has Norfolk's city council lost their minds? Money is being spent to promote a valuable asset like riding bikes downtown and providing the citizens and guests with an artful solution? Come on. Norfolk should be investing all of it's time and money finding creative ways to support the overtaxed and unemployed citizens and their concerns.

DNC is not City Council

You have confused City Council with the Downtown Norfolk Council. Different organization. This is not taxpayer money here. It is funded by generally by memebership dues and fund raisers.

I hope so

If you're correct and no tax dollars went into this, then fine. But if taxpayers are paying wasteful dollars for bike racks under the banner of art, then it would be yet another example of politicians spending like Peg Bundy. Private funding? ...just fine, enjoy your art!

A opposed to tax dollars spent on cars?

Given the billions of dollars that are spent on cars and parking for cars, just in the Va. Beach area alone, a few thousand spent on bike racks is nothing. Given the huge subsidies of car use and ownership why not give the cyclists a few crumbs?

Public Art

Public art is in no way a waste of money. While this undertaking is not a result of City Council's action, I believe they should take note. As a tourist, I look for public art because it is interesting and takes many different forms. Our region does not have much public art, but hopefully this is a step in the right direction. Seattle has an entire park dedicated to public art. Cloud Bean in Chicago's Millennium Park? Greece and Rome did it too. People, ie tourists, enjoy public art and they can help identify an area. How many people know where to find the Statue of King Neptune in Virginia Beach?

Have they also made the

Have they also made the roads safe so that cyclists can actually get to these racks?

Why it isn't safe

It is because most of your neighborhoods have no outlets other than going out onto major roads such as Princess Anne, Independence, Shore Drive, etc.

I live in Newport News and the riding is great. You can get from downtown at the shipyard almost to Williamsburg without having to go on a non-residential road other than about a mile of Warwick Blvd where there is a well maintained 8 foot wide sidewalk. All of this through the best parts of town, several large parks, and neighborhoods on the James River.

Unfortunately, still nobody takes advantage other than kids from the neighborhoods and avid cyclists.

every road you named

is in VB.

This article is about downtown Norfolk.

Not Quite

Shore Drive and Princess Anne Rd (depending on which Princess Anne Rd you're referring to) are in Norfolk (granted, yes most of Shore Drive is in the Beach)

The point is still valid though

true enough

but again, even of the roads that run through both cities, or have a namesake in each city, none of them run Downtown. The closes is Princess Anne Road. and most people consider "downtown"'s northern boundary to be either Brambleton or VB Blvd(depending on who you ask).

The Roads

I cited those roads because most people on this board seem to live in Virginia Beach and relate better to postings about Virginia Beach. Same could be said about Norfolk. There is a decent bike/jogging path that runs the waterfront from West Ghent to Harbor Park, but unless you live in West Ghent, biking to work downtown would be impractical for the same reasons. If they could build a pedestrian bridge/tunnel through the railroad tracks to ODU/Powhatan, it could be a viable option for ODU and Larchmonters. As of now, they would have to either ride on Hampton Blvd or Colley through the 'hood, neither of which are safe options.

Yes, it is about downtown Norfolk,

but it should be about the city of Norfolk.

And Va. Beach, Chesapeake,and Portsmouth come to think of it.

It's a shame

This area with its flat terrain and comfortable weather, should be a bikers haven.
It's not.
I'd ride my bike to work and the store if I were not worried about getting run over. We need more bike lanes. Racks are nice but a safe place to ride is what we need. 'Round here, even the cops will run you over! Be careful riders!
BTW, have you checked out the old Hwy 17 swamp road? Great place for the family to ride bikes and be safe!


All of these can hold at least 2 bikes!!! seems worth it to me how much did they cost for these "art" pieces! 5 racks 10 bikes, seems good enough for norfolk! alot like lightrail 15 trollies for 5 passengers!


Why is there no meters on these bike racks. When I park in this God Forsaken place I have to pay. Now we are going to put who knows how much these things cost and not charge the parker. What a crock!


Are you serious? We are trying to encourage the use of alternative forms of transportation, not stifle it. Maybe you should just walk downtown next time or call FRED and not worry about paying for parking if that is such a major issue for you.

poor biking infrastructure

I've live in 2 major metro areas in my life (NYC and Chicago) and now live in the VAB/Nor area. This area scares the hell out of me for riding my bike. Many residential areas are located off of major thoroughfares (that don't typically have bike lanes), and with so many waterways in the area, there are often a limited number of ways to get to a certain area. The roads aren't the greatest for a biker trying to ride in the gutter/curb area in the street and sidewalks are usually not wide enough to accommodate lots of bike and pedestrian traffic. Relative to a cold windy place like chicago, I still don't see even a fraction of the bike traffic here as there was there (even in the winter there), which has been very disappointing. I also have kids that I used to put on my bike to get to daycare, and I will not do that here because the only way to get there from my home is to be on no less than 4 major streets that are not bike friendly. As others have commented, the bike racks are fine and nice, but people need a way to get there!!

Change in attitude

"We really need to start changing our attitudes about bicycles and start seeing them as a solution,"

Norfolk is starting to get it. If only Virginia Beach would get a clue!


Norfolk is a City with a downtown and a lot of housing near it.

Virginia Beach is a sprawling suburb with no downtown and significantly less density

Are you suggesting the

Are you suggesting the better course would be to not try and do nothing? But you know the train will fix a large part of this. I am glad you are starting to see the light.

Va. Beach could become a bicyclists paradise.

You don't ride do you ?

Sorry, I Was Wrong

I commented earlier that the bike racks were created via Norfolk City Council but it was by Downtown Norfolk Council. Kudos to downtown Norfolk council for creating these wonderful and artistically designed bike racks. My point though was we cannot forget about the arts and promoting other desirable assets like being a "bike friendly" city. I would like to think that Norfolk is an art inspired city as well and it is. Not everything is about death and taxes. What about quality of life! Nice job Norfolk!

Olde Towne Portsmouth has also recently added attractive new bike racks downtown and bikers do enjoy riding there too!

Indeed this is a nice look.

It would be nice to see people start using bikes to commute instead of cars. However, when planning roads we have to make sure that they accommodate cars, trucks and bikes. There are many days that it would not be feasible to ride a bike due to excessive heat, rain, excessive cold, snow and ice. That means the infrastructure must be made to accommodate the additional cars and trucks that would be used when the weather does not permit biking. As far as Norfolk being a "bike friendly" city, I don't see that. At least VA Beach has a bike path on the boardwalk and along some other roads. Hopefully the city will put out bike racks at shopping centers and other areas that will encourage using bikes.

it's alright!

I don't have a car, and I've used a bike to commute downtown for almost a year and a half now.

I've had to stay home for weather maybe 5 days.

Four of those days, the office was closed because many employees' cars couldn't get there in the snow or flooding either. There were some chilly days and some hot days, and I've gotten soaked a few times, but a little extra clothing has cost a lot less than car maintenance would've.

Love the racks, looking forward to de-cluttering your parking meters! (And, for what it's worth, I appreciate the racks that the city already put inside some of the garages - sheltered parking's awfully nice - but they're almost always full by the time I get to work!)

'excessive heat, rain, excessive cold, snow and ice,..

ohmie !!


are reducing hours. Aren't libraries much more important than bike racks?

No, not really. Libraries

No, not really. Libraries suffice in their current hours. Art contributes to the downtown area and bike racks are a necessity. If anything should be reduced it is on street parking in Granby.

Yes, But

Only if you can read.

These are great. I love them, but there's always someone

out there who will ruin the whole thing. Some idiot will trip over the string of spaghetti and sue the city, or an intoxicated patron from one of the downtown establishments will be riding his bike at night wearing dark clothes, cut in front of a car, and the driver will be arrested.

I hope the racks are going

I hope the racks are going to be well bolted to the ground so they don't get stolen along with the bicycles.

Good Point

The other issue for bike riders is avoiding being hit by a motorist in downtown Norfolk as they attempt to navigate around all the lane closures.

Another good friendly reason to venture to DownTown Norfolk -

eye candy the selected sculptures are very inventive and contemporary, nice compliment to the area. It should be noted that Norfolk Public Art Fund afforded the DNC to purchase these. The fund is a percentage of construction cost to build new bldgs, the bldr pays. the new Wells Fargo Office Bldng contributed $$ to the Public art fund. So let's get our story straight. NOw, this is not a new effort by any mens - and as recently as 2009, my hero in human creativity, talking head lead man, David Byrne has created significant styled bike racks for NYC, he has loaned them to the city and they are fun eye candy for all who view them; I look forward to many more bike racks around Norfolk, let's become a little more european in our lifestyles,fewer mopeds and cars more strolling and biking. It wasn't so long ago that there were no dining patios in Norfolk, Todd Jurich was first to burn the city red tape,and look whats happened since, the area has visualy opened up. keep it up. Eye candy ~ http://www.davidbyrne.com/art/bike_racks/index.php

A bike friendly city.

The main problem with Norfolk is selfish and inattentive drivers, weird thing is most of the cars that come close to hitting me have an OBAMA '08 or an 1.20.09 bumper sticker.

One would think progressives would be more friendly to bikes...I suppose it just shows their lack of multitasking and situational awareness skills.

Riding in Portsmouth

I used to ride my bike to the shipyard in Portsmouth until I got a brick thrown at me and then a glass bottle a few days after that. It was on County Street between Effingham and Elm. That was the end of my bike riding days in Portsmouth.

You need to learn how to fight back



I can see the headline now.

"you need to fight back"??? Unbelievable.

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