One of the first cyclists to try Curbee in Chicago. Steven Vance

A Copenhagen urban-biking staple finds its way to Chicago.

Cyclists in Chicago just got a sweet new treat called Curbee, a streetside footrest and handrail that will make waiting for the red light much more enticing. 

Designed and installed by Steven Vance and Ryan Lakes, both active members of Chicago’s cycling community, the Curbee now lives at the corner of Milwaukee and Ogden Avenue. 

Though it's definitely inspired by biker footrests in Copenhagen, the Curbee is designed a little differently. For example, where its Scandinavian counterpart features a circular steel tube, the Curbee uses a square tube in order to prevent vandalism via pipe cutters. And taking a note from Chicago bike racks—which Vance says have proven largely durable—the Curbee is mounted right on top of the sidewalk rather than buried within it. 

The finished product may look simple, but the actual process of getting the Curbee up and running was long and complicated. Initially conceived in March 2013, the rollout for this first Curbee took over a year. Just to get started, Vance and Lakes had to enlist the help of a slew of local organizations: The bicycle law firm FK Law  funded the project, the Pedal to the People bike repair service fabricated the Curbee, and local bike non-profit West Town Bikes sponsored the public-use permit required for any sort of "street furniture." And in order for the permit to be approved by the City Council, the Curbee also had to get the blessing of the Chicago Department of Transportation and the local alderman. When the permit was finally approved about a month ago, the Curbee was installed shortly after. 

Vance and Lakes, testing out Curbee. 

Interested in installing a Curbee in your city? The team behind Curbee is taking custom orders online. The cost for one Curbee will range between $600 and $1,200, depending on the length of the rail, the height of the curb, and additional color and design options. But before shelling out a grand for the steel, it’s critical to first understand how a Curbee addition will affect its surrounding area. For example, if you want to put one in a business district, talking to the business alliance there might uncover whether the location is really a suitable one. In a phone interview, Vance says they had monitored the current Curbee location to make sure there was little pedestrian traffic—and of course, no bus stops that it would block.

In the week following its installation, Vance and Lakes have been observing how people are interacting with the Curbee. For example, they've noticed that the Curbee’s function is not totally obvious to some cyclists at first. That’s why the pair is considering adding a graphic of a footprint on the footplate, so people can look down and think, Oh, my foot belongs there. In any case, Vance expects people to catch on quickly over the next few weeks as they watch one another figure out their way around the new amenity.

(h/t Streetsblog Chicago

All images courtesy of Steven Vance.  


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