The Washington, DC region is great >> and it can be greater.


New Cooke school bike racks too close together, too close to wall

The H.D. Cooke Elementary School in Adams Morgan was just renovated, with an addition containing a gym and cafetorium, a modernized library and media center, new playing fields and more. The renovation also included some bicycle racks. Unfortunately, parents, staff and students discovered that the racks were installed too close together and too close to the wall, limiting the ability of cyclists to lock their bikes securely and to fit many bikes on the racks.

New racks at H.D. Cooke Elementary. Photo by Nancy Shia.

ANC Commissioner Nancy Shia sent along these photos of the bike rack. They use the inverted U design, which is a good type of rack. However, they don't comply with DDOT's standards for bike rack placement. When racks line up against a wall, as they are here, the standards require the edge closest to the wall to be at least 2 feet away, and DDOT recommends 3 feet. These racks are only 18 inches from the wall, which makes it impossible for some cyclists to lock the front and back wheels to the rack if they so choose.

Worse, the racks are only about 11 inches apart, measured from the center of one to the center of the other. DDOT's standards require 30 inches. Widely spaced racks allow two bicycles per U, one on each side, whereas this spacing only accommodates one. And, with the narrow spacing, the handlebars of one bicycle conflict with those on either side.

Left: The racks are 18 inches from the wall. Right: They are only 11 inches apart.
Click on an image to enlarge. Photos by Nancy Shia.

WABA's Eric Gilliland said, "We all want DC kids to be more active and installing bike parking at elementary schools is a good start. However, for the bike parking to be effective the right type of rack needs to be selected and installed correctly. The intent here is good, but the execution leaves a bit to be desired."

The good news is that the racks are close to the entrance. The DDOT standards require placing racks within 120 feet, and preferably within 50 feet; these look to be about three feet away from the door area. That's great, as more prominent racks ensure people know about them, and if the entrance sees regular foot traffic, makes it harder to steal bikes unnoticed.

The Cooke renovation designers had the right idea in including racks, but either the architects or the contractors failed to read the instructions. Hopefully Cooke can get the racks moved quickly.

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. 


Add a comment »

And this is why you check your interns' work.

by цarьchitect on Aug 28, 2009 11:27 am • linkreport

They need to fix this- but -it is a relief to see schools finally recognizing the value of students walking and cycling to school. Just one rack?
They should install more of them and space them better this time. Too many bikeracks are not built to accomodate workbikes or cargo bikes and as the USA grows up and people use bicycles more frequently- including students- more upright and larger style bikes need to be included in their planning.

Skinny tires are going to become a specialty- and not the dominant type for all cyclists.

by w on Aug 28, 2009 11:53 am • linkreport

Please look up the definition of an architect and revise your post. Architects are not responsible for selecting bike rack supplies or for installing them or for reading instructions or recommendations for installation. They design buildings.

by ogden on Aug 28, 2009 3:06 pm • linkreport

ogden--it's possible the architect (mis)specified the location of the bike rack. As David states "either the architects or the contractors . . ." unclear who messed up, but architects can make mistakes like this (for example, my toilet that was too close to one wall).

by ah on Aug 28, 2009 3:29 pm • linkreport

ah--you make the mistake that anything that is installed falls under the responsibility of the architect. Rarely are 'fixtures' as they are termed in the profession under the purvue of the architect. There are many fixtures which are the responsibility of the interior designer, but as bike racks aren't on the interior this would not be the responsibility.

Do not confuse your personal experience with a residential architect with that of this school or any other commercial project. Commercial and residential architecture are almost different professions. Residential architects are very often one-stop shops designing not just walls, floors, ceilings, and enclosures, but also engineering services, landscape, interior design. Often the contractor or builder is contracted through the architect, and thus the architect is responsible for the work the contractor does.

Commercial architecture is completely different. The architect's contract with the client is separate from the contractor's contract with the client (except in design build circumstances, in which case the architect works for the contractor not the other way around). As the contracts are separate, it is the client who is responsible for enforcing the terms of the contract and making sure the contractor builds according to the recommended procedures or the design. And the design of landscaping, interior design, and engineering are usually also separate contracts and the client is the only one who can dispute the design or construction with any of these parties.

by ogden on Aug 28, 2009 5:31 pm • linkreport

ogden, you're right about the legal structure of a construction project, but I don't see the point. It says a lot about why architecture and construction are such inefficient, fractious industries. It'll be a fine day when every client is demanding more collaborative contracts, or as they say in the industry, "integrated project delivery."

School design is also much different from office commercial work in terms of scope. It's quite possible that they specified a type of bike rack for a bounded space, or simply a number of racks. It's also possible they contracted it off to a landscape architect. Installation and project supervision are different purviews, but someone made a mistake, and the endless buck-passing of construction is a waste of time and money for everyone.

by цarьchitect on Aug 28, 2009 6:49 pm • linkreport

uarbchitect, you can start a philosophical debate on the status of the architecture profession, but it won't change the facts in this case. The architect who was hired for the renovation of H.D. Cooke elementary is not responsible for the bike racks.

Regardless of it is a school or a house or any other type of structure, the laws in place regulating the architecture profession not only absolve the architect of responsibility but in fact prevent an architect from directing, instructing, or interfering in the work on the jobsite. They can only advise the client about actions or circumstances observed on the job site. And all of this is because architects themselves have lobbied for their own professional regulations to restrict their liability.

And all of this assumes that the bike rack installation was in any way related to the school renovation. It is entirely possible that the fixtures were ordered through a district requisition process and installed by the school facilities maintenance staff.

by ogden on Aug 28, 2009 8:04 pm • linkreport

Also, I think that electrical outlet cover isn't in code anymore.

by shy on Aug 28, 2009 9:45 pm • linkreport

Ogden, why not have philosophical debates It's the internet, not a courtroom. You seem oddly defensive over the project.

by цarьchitect on Aug 29, 2009 12:18 am • linkreport

I am on the board of Eastern Market and as most people know, it went through some reconstruction recently. As ogden is trying to communicate, in terms of a commercial building project, there is a construction-project manager who coordinates the construction and completion of the project. The architect designs the building sure, but the design is only the beginning of the project, which is constructed separately, by a myriad of contractors and subcontractors each with different responsibilities and expertise.

With Eastern Market, the project was coordinated by the construction division of the DC Office of Property Management (now it has a new name). Curtis Clay, an architect as it happens, was the project manager.

Frankly, I think he is an unheralded hero of the project.

The project manager brings together all the various pieces, including installation of bike racks.

However, the Eastern Market project was aided by public oversight, specifically the capital improvements committee of the Eastern Market board, which has a bunch of incredibly detailed oriented members (not that I always agreed with them), and members of this committee often attended the project construction coordination meetings (either the OPM ones or the DDOT meetings wrt the reconstruction of 7th Street).

And yes, frequently there were differences of opinion between the architects, DDOT, or other participants in the total project.

We had this level of involvement wrt Eastern Market because of the law governing the market's operations. But typically public projects like this (and certainly private construction projects) do not have this kind of community involvement, which we can call another set of eyes if you will, making these kinds of errors (the bike racks) more likely. (And having more eyes isn't perfect either, as I could recount to you battles on the skylights--the vendors didn't want them, how many trees for North Plaza--I say 3, they say 5, where bicycle racks should be placed, parking policy for the back parking lot--I say put in meters, etc.)

by Richard Layman on Aug 29, 2009 7:54 am • linkreport

Although I guess the issue comes down to who was responsible for creating the plans that called for the installation of the bike racks, and did the plans provide for the incorrect amount of space between each rack, and an incorrect amount of space between the wall of the building and the installation of the racks.

The only way to know is to be able to look at the page of construction documents for that item.

by Richard Layman on Aug 29, 2009 7:57 am • linkreport

shy -- are bubble covers required for all wet locations now? I thought the flat, sealed covers were okay for wet locations so long as something was not constantly plugged in (e.g., LV lighting or a fountain pump).

by ah on Aug 29, 2009 9:14 pm • linkreport

ah- I believe the code was updated recently to require a cover that functions while a plug is inserted.


by shy on Aug 30, 2009 12:01 am • linkreport

shy -- I think those are required only when the plug is regularly in use and the location is wet. The flat-style cover is permissible in wet locations for "attended use" plugs, such as a saw, mower, etc.

by ah on Aug 30, 2009 9:54 pm • linkreport

Add a Comment

Name: (will be displayed on the comments page)

Email: (must be your real address, but will be kept private)

URL: (optional, will be displayed)

You can use some HTML, like <blockquote>quoting another comment</blockquote>, <i>italics</i>, and <a href="http://url_here">hyperlinks</a>. More here.

Your comment:

By submitting a comment, you agree to abide by our comment policy.
Notify me of followup comments via email. (You can also subscribe without commenting.)
Save my name and email address on this computer so I don't have to enter it next time, and so I don't have to answer the anti-spam map challenge question in the future.


Support Us