ALBANY -- If you think you've been seeing more and more of those colorful bike-shaped bike racks popping up around town, you're right.
Seven of the racks were installed the week of July 15 and two more are expected to be installed in front of the Royal Cafe by the end of the summer, according to Amy Smolens of Albany Strollers and Rollers. By that time, the city will have 25, all told.
There are two racks in front of St. Alban's Episcopal Church. There's a rack in the Bridgewater Condominium parking lot. One in front of Gathering Tribes and another in front of Prins Chiropractic. Albany Children's Center? Check. Jewel's Terrace Park? Check. BevMo? Check.
Smolens said the idea is to provide safe, secure parking areas for bicycle riders right in front of area businesses.
"What are some of the reasons people don't ride? One of the reasons they don't ride is they don't feel safe leaving their bike," she said. "That's something to fund."
She added, "We're putting the parking right in front of the window. You can have your eyes on your bike."
Strollers and Rollers splits the cost of the bike racks with the businesses. The city installs the racks at no charge — city worker Mark Matherly provided the labor.
Businesses volunteer for the project. Smolens and Dan Lieberman come out and figure out where exactly to place the rack so that it doesn't block doorways or interfere with pedestrians. Making sure that there's enough room for people in wheelchairs to pass is a key.
Up to four bikes can be parked on each rack. Twenty colors are available, and nine have been used in Albany. Smolens said red is the most popular, but businesses can choose a color that goes with their décor.
"I haven't been able to sell purple," she said. "Daniel Winkler and Associates got the green one, Bua Luang got the wine red, Grazzy Burger got the green which matches their interior."
Smolens said vandalism has been rare and that the late Mayor Peggy Thomsen, who didn't ride but appreciated the installations, once told her, "I like those bike racks. They have whimsy." And it's giving the city a reputation.
"We're sort of known now as the city with the bike racks," Smolens said. City Community Services Manager "Chelle Putzer wanted one to mark the Albany-Berkeley border. It's at Solano and Nielson."