New racks at H.D. Cooke Elementary. Photo by Nancy Shia.

The H.D. Cooke Elementary School in Adams Morgan was just renovated, with an addition containing a gym and cafetorium, a modernized library and media center, new playing fields and more. The renovation also included some bicycle racks. Unfortunately, parents, staff and students discovered that the racks were installed too close together and too close to the wall, limiting the ability of cyclists to lock their bikes securely and to fit many bikes on the racks.

ANC Commissioner Nancy Shia sent along these photos of the bike rack. They use the inverted U design, which is a good type of rack. However, they don’t comply with DDOT’s standards for bike rack placement. When racks line up against a wall, as they are here, the standards require the edge closest to the wall to be at least 2 feet away, and DDOT recommends 3 feet. These racks are only 18 inches from the wall, which makes it impossible for some cyclists to lock the front and back wheels to the rack if they so choose.

Worse, the racks are only about 11 inches apart, measured from the center of one to the center of the other. DDOT’s standards require 30 inches. Widely spaced racks allow two bicycles per U, one on each side, whereas this spacing only accommodates one. And, with the narrow spacing, the handlebars of one bicycle conflict with those on either side.


Left: The racks are 18 inches from the wall. Right: They are only 11 inches apart.
Click on an image to enlarge. Photos by Nancy Shia.


WABA’s Eric Gilliland said, “We all want DC kids to be more active and installing bike parking at elementary schools is a good start.  However, for the bike parking to be effective the right type of rack needs to be selected and installed correctly.  The intent here is good, but the execution leaves a bit to be desired.”

The good news is that the racks are close to the entrance. The DDOT standards require placing racks within 120 feet, and preferably within 50 feet; these look to be about three feet away from the door area. That’s great, as more prominent racks ensure people know about them, and if the entrance sees regular foot traffic, makes it harder to steal bikes unnoticed.

The Cooke renovation designers had the right idea in including racks, but either the architects or the contractors failed to read the instructions. Hopefully Cooke can get the racks moved quickly.

David Alpert is the founder of Greater Greater Washington and its board president. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle.