Some Benicia residents make a fuss over new ring-shaped bike racks
- Published Thursday, January 13, 2011, by the Vallejo Times-Herald
New Benicia bike racks become city issue
By Tony Burchyns
BENICIA -- To some, fancy new bike racks along this city's historic main drag are as welcome as a flat tire -- maybe two.
That's the case in downtown Benicia, where some residents are crying foul over horseshoe-shaped racks recently placed along First Street.
Others, though, have praised them.
To settle the matter, the City Council is expected to authorize a task force later this month.
"I don't think the bike racks are attractive and appropriate in our town," Historic Preservation Review Commission member Toni Haughey said. "They are very contemporary and out of place." She added that the city should have considered other options.
Not everyone is as upset.
"I don't think the ones (the city) installed are eyesores," Benicia Bicycle Club president Joe Marks said. "The other day, I saw four bikes locked up. When they first went in, nobody made negative comments about them."
Marks added he doesn't mind the ring-shaped design, which was chosen to deter skateboarders looking for places to do tricks. "To me, they look like a bicycle wheel," he said.
The issue stems from a $30,000 gift for bike racks from the Good Neighbor Steering Committee. The money came from a May settlement agreement amendment that involved the committee, the city and Valero over the refinery's environmental effects.
In September, the Benicia Community Sustainability Commission approved the design and location of the racks.
According to the meeting minutes, at least one downtown merchant -- Studio 41 owner Leah Shelhorn -- said she was pleased with the plans. Kimble Goodman, a member of the Benicia Economic Development Board, praised the project, saying the public had been asking for bike racks for a long time.
Installation began soon after the meeting.
However, city officials and the council soon began hearing complaints that the racks clashed with downtown's historic character. First Street is part of one of three city historic districts.
Another problem was that public works officials apparently forgot to ask the city's Historic Preservation Review Commission to weigh in on the project. Technically, the panel is only required to review development projects; in the past, however, it has been asked to look at street sign placement and other downtown changes.
With the installation of 17 more bike racks -- mostly within the historic district -- now on hold, the City Council has been asked to form a task force to resolve the matter. The panel will represent various downtown interests and bicyclists.
It's possible that the city will have to find funds to remove the racks and place them elsewhere.
"It's important to have bicycle racks," Haughey said. "It's also important to maintain the character of the town." She added that she is looking forward to meeting with the task force to find a solution.
"Hopefully," she said, "this will be resolved by the time the rain subsides and people take to their bikes again."
Contact Tony Burchyns at 707-553-6831.