June 27 2012 12:00 AM

Scrappy Bike Rack Project brings functional art to town


A triceratops will soon storm the street in downtown Lansing. But he’s only hungry for one thing: bikes.

This gentle giant, along with a smiling rainbow trout, a sparkling 1,000-pound marine buoy chain, a flower, a hunting bow and a colorful abstract “Michigan wave” were created out of recycled scrap metal for the Scrappy Bike Rack Project, a program created through cooperation between the Old Town Commercial Association and the Mid-Michigan Environmental Action Council.

“One of the biggest complaints about parts of downtown is that there are not enough places to park bikes,” said Julie Powers, director of Mid-MEAC, as she explained her inspiration for creating the Scrappy Bike Rack Project.

“There has been a significant increase of people who ride their bikes instead of traditional transportation.”

To encourage this trend, Powers decided to partner with the OTCA to create a project that would bring practical art to Lansing in the form of scrap-metal bike racks. 

“Our organization and their organization aligned in terms of our mission,” Powers explained. “They want Old Town to be vibrant and attract people, and we want Old Town to be environmentally friendly.”

Ten teams submitted design plans, which were required to serve not only as unique sculptures, but also as fully functioning bike racks. 

Participating scrap artist Phil DePeal modeled his bike rack, titled “Return to Earth: Triceratops,” after a large dinosaur skeleton.

“You see a lot of t-rexes and other dinosaurs, but you don’t see the triceratops a lot,” DePeal said, motioning towards his behemoth bike rack. “It turned out great. It’s definitely up there as one of my top creations.” 

The skull frill of the triceratops was created from welding old shovel heads together. The horns came from metal chair legs and the rib cage, which was built to hold bikes of any size, was formed from metal tubing and an old wheelbarrow. 

After the dinosaur was assembled, it was covered in a powder coating donated by Martin Powder Coating that seals the metal off from the elements and protects it from rusting.

The completed pieces were displayed last weekend as part of the Festivals of the Sun and Moon in Old Town, and they will be installed at high-traffic locations throughout Lansing, such as Potter Park Zoo, the river trail and the Impression 5 Science Center, beginning this week.

However, each of the scrappy bike racks is required to pass an inspection to ensure that it fulfills city safety regulations before it can become a permanent fixture in the city.

Criteria that will be considered include the ability to be secured to the ground, the capacity to hold bikes and, equally important, each rack must be durable enough to survive the daily use and abuse of anyone who comes in contact with it.

“Basically the bike rack needs to be able to withstand a 300-pound drunk guy,” Powers added, with a laugh.

A scavenger hunt bike ride is planned to take place later in the summer after all of the racks have been installed. The contest will challenge participants to search Lansing for each of the creations and take pictures with them.

 “We hope it will help people realize that it’s cool to ride your bike and that we’ll see more people interested and excited about bicycling,” Powers said.