To the untrained eye, the new bike corral in front of Center City’s Shake Shack may be unrecognizable for what it really is – a former parking space converted into a series of bike racks capable of holding 10 to 15 bicycles. Instead, the bike corral might be mistaken for an art installation or a green space. It might even blend into Shake Shack all together.
That’s what Shake Shack and SHIFT_DESIGN were hoping for when they designed the bike corral, the first in Philadelphia to be purchased by a business rather than funded by the Mayor’s Office of Transportation and Utilities (MOTU).
The bike corral, which took over a parking space at the corner of 20th and Sansom streets, contains five freestanding recycled-aluminum sculptures. Each sculpture has several, secure locking points for bicycles of any shape or size. Each has a splash of green paint that matches Shake Shack’s branding, and each holds a plant that matches the vegetation on the restaurant’s greenroof – another SHIFT_DESIGN creation.
“When it’s not being used, it’s not a random bar or piece of metal,” said Mario Gentile, SHIFT_DESIGN founder and CEO. “You can look at it as a sculpture or a planter. The idea of having a planter reinforces the fact that when it’s not being used it’s not just an eyesore.”
When the Shake Shack opened its doors in June 2012, the company’s Philadelphia Area Director, Allan Ng, said he was surprised to see how many bicycles were in the neighborhood. While Shake Shack supports bicycling as part of its eco friendly brand ethos, Ng said the amount of bicycles locked to everything from stairways to lightposts and signs was a bit of an eyesore. Seeing a need for secure, attractive bike parking, Shake Shack partnered with SHIFT_DESIGN, and together they approached the city about a bike corral.
Working with the city
Until now, MOTU has funded the city’s bike corrals, but the office wants to establish a more developed, freestanding bike corral program – one that would pay for itself. With this in mind, MOTU was receptive when Shake Shack approached them with plans to install a corral of its own.
“It was quite an effort,” Ng said. “Our management team had to really go out in the neighborhood and ask our neighbors to sign a letter [of support].”
Shake Shack and SHIFT_DESIGN also got approval from the Center City Residents Association and from Shake Shack’s district councilperson, Council President Darrell Clarke.
“Having to kind of make sure we dotted our I’s and crossed our T’s with everybody was a process,” Ng said.
Because the city does not have a formal bike corral policy, Shake Shack did not have to pay the city any type of fee. That could change soon though. While you won’t see any new bike corrals popping up before the spring, MOTU hopes to formalize the bike corral program over the winter and to have more corrals in place before bike share launches in the fall.
“Parking for bikes is such a significant issue we have to think about what our overall strategy is,” MOTU Chief of Staff Andrew Stober said.
One change is that MOTU will likely charge a fee, potentially ranging from $25 to $75 to cover inspection and permitting. Then businesses or organizations seeking a corral will be responsible for the materials, which typically range between $1,000 and $3,000, and for the installation costs, which can range from $500 to $1,000.
As they do now, parking spaces converted from vehicle to bicycle parking will have to have space for at least eight bicycles for each vehicle displaced.
Stober said he expects to see more business-sponsored bike corrals popping up. He said businesses are realizing that bike parking is good business. Plus, traffic counts by the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission recorded 11,438 bicycle trips to and from Center City in 2010, and that doesn’t account for the number of trips throughout Center City. What it does account for, he said, is “a very real demand for parking.”