Why Small Things Matter: Artistic Bike Racks in a Transitional Neighborhood

JesseHughson2
by Monica Finger, NeighborWorks® Rochester

The intersection between healthy, stable, and prosperous neighborhoods and those neighborhoods that support infrastructure for alternative transportation is well-documented. Communities that are walkable and ‘bike-able’ have reduced congestion, pollution, and noise; they promote interaction and neighborly connectedness at a grassroots level; they are visually appealing and desirable. Such neighborhoods also may be less likely to suffer from disinvestment, as the “walkability of an area increases the per-foot price of commercial and residential spaces” [1].

NeighborWorks® Rochester, a non-profit community development organization founded in 1979, provides many services to tenants and homeowners in the Rochester area, including first-time homebuyer counseling, financial fitness education, low-interest loans and grants for home improvement, and free energy assessments. One of NeighborWorks® Rochester’s initiatives, Healthy Blocks, makes a 5-year commitment to a transitional city neighborhood — one that could either experience a regeneration or slip into poverty and disinvestment [2] — and works with residents, business owners, and other stakeholders to stabilize property values, increase resident investment, and improve neighborhood image.

When Healthy Blocks chose The Triangle of North Winton Village (the neighborhood bordered by Culver, Merchants, and East Main) as its target neighborhood, there was a noticeable lack of bike racks in its commercial district — only one set, and not much to look at. Now, if you visit the Triangle point (and you should — it’s home to some fantastic local places like James Brown’s Place, L & M Lanes, Johnny’s Irish Pub, and Merchant’s Bar and Grill), you’ll see four unique, detailed, functional, and visually striking artistic racks made by local artists Matty & Clay (MetalSomeArt) and Jesse Hughson of SkillHoarder.

So, what does it take to turn artistic bike racks from a dream into a reality? Well, besides patience, the short answer is the power of collaboration. NeighborWorks® America provided the grant funding, a team of residents helped to prepare the Request for Art and review submissions, the fabricators crafted the racks with care and quality, the City of Rochester installed them, and Healthy Blocks coordinated it all. Efforts like this — that bring permanent community assets into a neighborhood — may have a small footprint, but the impact can be enormous. Our hope is not only that more people ride their bikes to the area instead of driving, but that these structures will become points of pride, defining elements of place and space that transcend to the level of neighborhood icons. We want one neighbor to say to another: “Meet me at The Triangle, by the bike rack with the fork on it.”

Why not come celebrate these new racks with us? Healthy Blocks is holding an event to promote the artists, the businesses, and the neighborhood on Friday, September 16, from 4 to 7 pm in the Culver-Merchants parking lot outside 1382 Culver Rd. More information is available at the Triangle Facebook page. You’ll have a chance to admire the sculptures, talk with the artists, meet the neighbors of the Triangle, and check out the local fare. Better yet, ride your bike and park it at the rack and get special discounts from participating merchants. In the meantime, you can win a $30 gift certificate to Tryon Bike Shop by cycling up to the racks, taking a picture of you and your bike and posting it to Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook with #trianglebikerack included.

See you there! Want to publicize this event around town? Use this flier.

[1] http://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2016/2/12/americans-want-walkable-neighborhoods
[2] HUD designated a census tract as poverty-level when it reaches 20% poverty. Rochester has the third highest concentration of poverty census tracts in the US. When neighborhoods reach 20% poverty, there is a very small chance that they will recover and stabilize. The Healthy Blocks initiative chooses neighborhoods that are close to 20% poverty to work in. The Triangle’s poverty rate is currently 17%.

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