New bike racks for Columbia: Useful and chic

jholleman@thestate.comMay 1, 2013 

  • National Bike Month Events planned during May in the Midlands.

    Columbia Family Bike Rodeo, May 4, 9-11:30 a.m., Finlay Park

    Bike-themed movies: Breaking Away, May 6, 8 p.m.; Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, May 10, 11 p.m., and May 11, noon; Klunkerz, May 18, noon; The Bicycle Thief, May 25, noon; all at Nickelodeon Theatre, 1607 Main St.

    Handlebar Happy Hour, May 8, 6-7:30 p.m., Publick House, 2307 Devine St.

    Ride of Silence, May 15, 7 p.m., starting at Summit Cycles, 716 Meeting St., West Columbia

    Bike Summit, May 16, 8 a.m.-1 p.m., Big Apple, 1000 Hampton St.

    Bike to Work Day, May 17, various routes, riders gather at State House at 8 a.m.

    Bike Safety Course, May 18, 9-11:30 a.m., Soda City Market, Main Street, Columbia.

    Ladies Bike Ride, May 28, 5:45 p.m., Jake’s Bar and Grill, 2112 Devine St.

— When Stewart Sneed visited Oregon, he noticed bike racks along streets almost every 50 feet.

“Why don’t we have something like that in Columbia?” he thought.

As a cyclist, he recognized a need. As a welder, he saw a business opportunity.

That was the seed that grew into Cyclestops, Sneed’s new company. The fruit of the company will be popping up all over Columbia in coming weeks as Cyclestop’s distinctive palmetto tree bike racks are installed in front of businesses.

The installation of those racks is among several initiatives and events scheduled in May in the area to mark National Bike Month, being announced at a news conference Wednesday morning.

In terms of cycling infrastructure improvements in the city, progress in recent years has been in baby steps. The 600-foot trail in a former rail tunnel connecting the Vista and Finlay Park opened last year, and the city converted several vehicle parking spaces into bike corrals.

Cyclestops’ bike racks will be more ubiquitous than those other projects. The city already has placed an order for 50 of the distinctive metal structures, with plans for another 50 in the works. They’re selling them to businesses for $225.

Sneed has turned the construction of bike racks into a new business. While he still uses his welding and metalwork skills to build everything from wrought-iron fences to barbecue grills for his other company — 803 Iron — his warehouse home base off Bluff Road is full of bike rack pieces these days.

He builds the frames of the racks by cutting, bending and welding 20-foot iron tubes. Then he attaches the metal palmetto tree and bike logos cut at a company in Charlotte. The curved tubing on the sides allows two heights for attaching a bike lock chain. Two bikes can be attached to each rack. [Watch a bike rack come together in a series of 7 videos]

The design might look simple, but Sneed had to follow guidelines in a thick handbook put together by the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals.

When the base is set in concrete in front of a business, “it gives you a little curb appeal and is extremely functional,” Sneed said. “When people start seeing these pop up, it’ll be a trend.”

Some business owners tell Sneed they don’t have cycling customers, so why should they pay to install a rack outside their store. He tells them the racks not only have the potential to draw cycling customers, they are like an advertisement saying the store owner cares about the environment.

While the racks the city has ordered all feature the palmetto tree-and-bike design, Sneed would be happy to create individualized racks for businesses. For example, an optometrist could request one that looks like a pair of eye glasses.

Sneed is donating 15 percent of his proceeds from the racks to the Palmetto Conservation Foundation, which promotes pedestrian and cycling interests.

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