By Sue Botos
For many, the idea of croquet conjures up the image of Alice in Wonderland, and the Red Queen yelling, “Off with her head!”
But thanks to the Rocky River Beautification Committee, cyclists can soon keep a cool head with a croquet-themed bike rack, a stylish spot to store their rides while visiting the Don Umerley Civic Center.
The bike rack project started rolling last year when committee members were discussing projects that would “give back” to the city and could serve all residents. “Our goal was to find a project that would serve residents ages 5 to 95, be centrally located and highlight our commitment to improve the appearance of the city,” stated Gail Liggett, chairwoman of the bike rack subcommittee.
Once the idea of a bike rack, to replace the standard metal one outside of the recreation center, was decided upon, the committee and then recreation Director Tom Fattlar felt it should be a colorful work of art with a sports theme.
“We thought about what the recreation center had with the pool and weights, and we felt none of that would make for a colorful scheme,” Liggett noted.
Settling on 16 as the number of bikes that would be accommodated by the structure, Liggett and committee members set out to do thorough research on bike racks, looking for a style with form, function, durability and safety. They soon found that there is much more to the structures than simply choosing a type and installing it. “I have a four-inch-thick file of notes,” Liggett said.
She added that area experts in the biking community were consulted, along with Marty Cader from the Cleveland City Planning Commission; Bryan Mauk, director of social enterprise at Lutheran Metropolitan Ministries; Alex Pesta of Cleveland City Architecture; and Richard Wong, director of planning and development in Cleveland Heights.
But when Liggett came across a croquet-style rack, she knew she had a winner. “Everyone liked the concept,” she said of the croquet theme. According to plan, the bike rack will be bracketed by two 6- to 8-foot-tall mallets, with color banding in red, blue, green and yellow. Eight “wickets” in the form of an inverted “U” will accommodate two bikes each. A croquet post, with a ball nested against it, will divide the structure. The structure will be parallel to the building and not obstruct the sidewalk.
Liggett said the committee is now accepting bids from fabricating firms for the building and installation of the structure, which is hoped to be in place by May or June. Funds from the Beautification Committee’s Perennial Plant Sale and Light Up River will be used to pay entirely for the work. Liggett stated that she could not share any budget numbers.
The only down side to the design is that many younger people probably have no idea of what croquet is; but Liggett said there are some plans in the works to change that. “We hope to buy some croquet sets and have some competitions,” Liggett said, adding that the game could be played by anyone from seniors to youngsters. “This will a new family activity,” she predicted.
Beautification Committee Chairwoman Liz Harmath agreed, “While it is an unusual form for a bike rack, we feel the spirit fits well with the traditional character of the city.”