The first of four unconventional, but fully functional, bike rack collections are now in place in the Beltline and response to the art pieces has been overwhelmingly positive.

“Art in Calgary is a funny thing,” explained Alyssa Kelle, one of the ‘Project Bike Racks’ designers. “It needs to be something that people can engage with, resonate with, and it makes sense to them. The cool thing about this public art is that we have to think about it as art you can use, not just something to look at and question.”

Cyclists can now lock their ride to a series of hands that spell out Y-Y-C in American Sign Language at the corner of 17th Avenue and Centre Street South or to the eight bright yellow letters that spell BELTLINE along 11 Avenue Southwest near the entrance to Last Best Brewing & Distilling.

“Before we’re designers, before anything, we’re cyclists,” said Kelle. “We wanted to make something we knew that we could use just as easily as anyone could use on the cycle track.”

“All of our designs are made with multiple locking points so, regardless of what kind of lock you have - whether it’s a U-lock or cable lock, whether you’re pulling a Chariot, whether you’ve got a step-through frame - you’ve got multiple options to lock up.”

The racks came to fruition after the four-member strong design group’s grant proposal submission in to the Beltline Community Investment Fund (BCIF) in late 2017 was approved.

 “Some of our proposed sites have changed as we’ve gone,” said designer Willis Hoff. “We really wanted the designs to reflect the space that we were in. I think it definitely helped the design process rather than just giving some finished designs and finding a place where they might fit.”

Hoff says the team found inspiration in similar projects in cities around the world, ‘even Vancouver has some custom bike racks that are pretty sweet’, but their designs are uniquely Calgary and have been embraced by locals.

“It’s been really cool to watch. I don’t think we expected it to blow up the way it has but people love the designs so far, especially the one on 11th Ave in front of Last Best.  It gets a lot of traffic.”

The third art piece has been built, is being painted and is expected to be installed on a location along 17th Avenue in the coming weeks.  The current series of BCIF-approved bike racks is scheduled to be in place near Mikey’s Juke Joint on 12th Avenue Southwest by summer.

Art-installation bike racks are expected to appear in more locations around the city in the not too distant future as the ‘Project Bike Racks’ design group says it has already been approached by several interested parties including the Inglewood Business Revitalization Zone, the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation, and a few small private businesses.

With files from CTV's Kevin Fleming