Designs for new bike racks being installed around Powell River include a bear, an octopus, a jellyfish, a caterpillar, a hockey goalie and a face. Each design is inspired by grade four students at School District 47 (SD47) elementary schools.
The bike racks are part of a larger youth active transportation project that was a partnership between Divisions of Family Practice, Vancouver Coastal Health, Powell River Cycling Association, SD47 and City of Powell River.
“We decided that along with the bike skills and health education that’s happened for youth, we would have a design competition for grade fours to design these bike racks,” said Chris Bratseth, social studies teacher at Brooks Secondary School and one of the project leads.
Designs were then handed over to local metalwork sculptor Colin MacRae, who shaped and created the racks using metal tubing.
“I thought, ‘Yeah, how am I going to build it?’” said MacRae. “I’ve never done this before; it’s a bit of a spontaneous project.”
MacRae said he thought the idea of a youth-inspired project was inspirational. After seeing rudimentary bike racks in other communities he thought Powell River could do better.
“It’s such a great idea,” he said. “The idea of taking a kid’s imagination and designing it and building it, and they can own a piece of it, is really quite wonderful.”
Since the racks have appeared around town, MacRae said he has been asked about designing more.
“This a unique project beyond Powell River,” he said. “Even in cities, there’s not a lot of functional art. That’s always been a big inspiration for me is to get more functional, creatively designed work into public areas.”
As an educator, Bratseth has also been inspired by this project. He sees the bike racks as an example of 21st-century learning.
“It’s a remarkable reflection of community-based learning and allowing students to credibly and meaningfully give back to their community,” said Bratseth. “Kids were very excited to draw unique bike racks and now the real joy is seeing them come to fruition in the community. These grade fours have created legacy pieces for our community.”
According to MacRae, the city should be investing in these types of initiatives. He said he thinks Powell River is at the beginning of an artistic movement toward more functional public art.
“The city is really taking an issue to beautify and to make it inspiring,” said MacRae. “Powell River has the potential to become this incredible gallery of what can be done.”