Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Bike Racks, Easy Art

Last week I talked about how most of the restaurants downtown are within a half mile (6 blocks). Except for the slight climb up to Jus' Java, it's a fairly flat, walkable distance.

It's a very cyclable distance, too. Only one tenth of a mile to the south, paralleling Main Street, is the Schuylkill River Trail. Once the warm weather rolls in, we can expect something like 100,000 riders to pedal through N-town this year. So what can we do to get some of them to take a tiny tenth of a mile detour up onto Main Street to try out our restaurants?

I already mentioned signage in another blog about the trail. We can get high tech about it and include a CR code so that cyclers can use their smart phones to view the Norristown Business Assn. restaurant directory on Facebook and eventually link to the bigger searchable restaurant website that's planned.

But let's say we entice them here with signage. What else do we need to make them feel welcome? The obvious answer is BIKE RACKS.

If you go downtown on a nice summer day, you see bikes tethered to street signs. We can do better than that. Businesses can buy a simple steel bike rack, some for less than $80, and some in pretty nice colors. Check out this site.  I would hope that, if businesses wanted to make this investment that there would be no zoning/code glitches in the way of their installation.

But here's another option. Norristown can promote itself as an arts community with a few creative bike rack sculptures. Here are some examples from other parts of the country:

You can get some fairly artistic racks ready-made at links like They even do custom racks (picture a rack in the shape of a coffee cup in front of Jus' Java or a bourbon bottle or fire truck in front of Five Saints). Still, with the cost of shipping, ordering custom racks from Minnesota can get pricey.
Thing is, I know we have local people who work with metal. We also now have Metal Supermarkets, Inc. located in Norristown (Markley near Elm), and they can get the raw material. Keep it local and you not only save the expense of shipping a heavy steel rack, but you support Norristown's economy. Plus we end up with bike rack sculptures unique to N-town. That alone might attract some cyclers off the trail, as well as other visitors.

Maybe this can work as a partnership between the businesses and the municipality, with the municipality doing the installation curbside. Maybe organizations can sponsor racks. Maybe the borough can even spring for a rack or 2 themselves. However we do it, bike racks could go a long way towards bringing back our economy.  Let connect the dots between the potential customers using the bike trail and our downtown.

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