John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.
The metal fixtures, already used in European cities, support riders as they wait at intersections.
Cyclists who want to relax while waiting at traffic lights—without performing a troublesome, potentially crotch-crushing dismount, that is—can grab a sign post or put a foot on the curb.
Or, if they're in Seattle, they can slide up to these swanky, new "leaning rails" and take a load off:
The city's first-ever rails look like industrial metal rectangles standing at 25th Avenue NE and NE Blakeley Street on the Burke-Gilman Trail. They're made from dull-silver tubes, have both a foot platform and armrest, and are situated next to poles with crosswalk-activating buttons.
Seattle's DOT explains how they work:
[The leaning rails] allow bicyclists to rest their foot and have something to hold onto for balance while waiting at the traffic light rather than using traffic light posts or other poles around them.
The rails also help align bike riders to one side of the trail so the sidewalk is kept clear for pedestrians, making it safer for all to cross the street.
Leaning rails appear to be a rather recent phenomenon in cities looking to improve their cycling infrastructure. I found just a handful of places that use them: Copenhagen has similar ones cyclists can use to "push off when the light changes," writes Copenhagenize. And Portland has some form of leaning rails, though they look geared more toward pedestrians waiting for transit.
There are also spiffy-orange leaning rails in Malmö, Sweden, according to Bike Portland. Writes site editor Jonathan Maus: "The hand and foot railings at traffic signal is the bicycling equivalent to the cup holder on your car's dashboard. You know you are in a City with advanced bicycling infrastructure when it offers this level of comfort and convenience on bikeways."