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Garden-fresh infrastructure

Pass by the corner of College and Chapel tonight at 6 pm, and you'll see a pack of people making a fuss over nothing more than a bike rack. Well, actually, it's something more: the rack outside the beloved vegetarian restaurant Claire's Corner Copia forms a trio of abstract vegetables: broccoli, carrots, and—if your imagination is forgiving—yellow squash. The rack, which was installed in late August, is being dedicated this evening; it's the first installment in a project involving the city government, Yale students, and local artists.

Looking for ways to promote cycling in New Haven, Ben Green ’14 and some fellow students hit upon the idea of building "a unique bike rack that would double as public art," Green says. The project really got going, though, when Green landed a summer job as a Yale Presidential Public Service Fellow, a program that puts 35 students to work each summer in New Haven government agencies or nonprofit organizations. Green had gotten acquainted with city transportation director Jim Travers, so he applied to work as an intern in Travers's department.

From there it was a matter of finding a willing shopkeeper (Claire Criscuolo of Claire's), commissioning a designer and builder (Ann Lehman, a sculptor and cofounder of the Creative Arts Workshop), getting approval from the city, and making sure the design worked both formally and functionally. So far, it's won admiration for its whimsical form, and as for function, there always seem to be three or four bikes attached to it.

Green says the project will continue this year, with maybe three or four site-specific bike racks to come in the spring, probably in public spaces like parks rather than in front of stores. The project now has funding from a city grant and, through Yale, from a project called Design for America.

Green, who is looking to a career in urban planning and transportation, says New Haven is "better than a lot of people think" as a town for cyclists. "Even in the past two years, there's been a real culture shift" toward bicycling. Whether the new rack will encourage cyclists to eat their vegetables remains to be seen.

Filed under bike racks, Claire's Corner Copia, Ben Green
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