Williams Street Bikeway

Today was my first use of the new protected bike lanes on Williams Street. I picked it up at Thompson and took it all the way to Main Street and it was wonderful!

I generally feel safe riding my bike in Ann Arbor and do so almost every weekday of the year (except for February, which is the worst). Despite this I wasn’t prepared for just how much safer I felt in the protected bike lanes. When you bike you get used to the idea that all cars can be weaponized against you. After a while a defensive posture becomes part of riding. Like, you learn pretty quickly to make direct eye contact with drivers just to remind them you’re there before they turn into you.

But in the bikeway? It felt safe! I was biking and smiling and felt relaxed. Unless a driver is being willfully dangerous you are actually protected.

My conclusion after using this bikeway just once is that we need a lot more bikeways around town. The more protected lanes we have the more we can recommend biking as a primary mode of transportation. And if we’re serious about the climate emergency that city council just declared we need more as quickly as we can get them.

Bike Racks in Ann Arbor

I’m looking for feedback on this. It’s one thing to toss off a tweet about getting some cool racks and another to write over 1500 words about it. Please email me or tweet at me or find me in person to talk about this! Thanks to Workantile for helping me think through some initial ideas with this.

TL;DR: Ann Arbor should replace 20 downtown bike racks with racks designed by local artists and fabricated by local metalworkers. We should expect this to cost around $50,000 and consider every penny of it well spent.

I want a biker’s favorite bike rack to be shaped like a burr oak.

I want to be able to tell people asking for directions to turn right at the bike rack shaped like an apple.

I want tourists to stop to take selfies with a bike rack shaped like a UM football helmet.

I want this bike rack to be shaped like Vault of Midnight’s skull logo:


I want our streets to be full of unique art.

Bike Parking in Ann Arbor: August 2018

Parking a bike in Ann Arbor is straightforward and getting better all the time. Most of the time there’s a functional black hoop where you need it. Baring that, a sign or a tree will do.

Biker’s, uh, find a way.

And lately the DDA has been installing more bike corrals. The DDA and Ann Arbor’s City Council are doing amazing work responding to biker’s needs and I applaud it. Last night they unanimously voted to make a few big changes to downtown streets that also include protected bike lanes, which—wow!—what progress!

You can read more about that on the People Friendly Streets site.

Sam Firke recently tweeted about a particularly bad set of racks that I happen to use almost daily that I hadn’t fully considered:

Bad Racks

I’ve fought to get my bike around that pole more than once and even cut my head on the wayfinding sign. The DDA snapped into action and began work to remove the sign and the pole. This week they even put in a bike corral right next to the offending racks! Today, August 10th, there were four bikes on it already:

Bike Corral in front of Workantile

All of this has gotten me scheming and thinking about bike racks in Ann Arbor. We’re in a good place in that we have many functional places to lock up a bike in town, but they’re pretty boring.

What if that wasn’t the case though? What if the bike racks in Ann Arbor were fun and interesting and something that people in town and tourists talked about and enjoyed?

I think this is a great opportunity–and a rare one!–for the city to blend functionality and art in one project.

Public Art is important and bike racks are an untapped canvas

Opinions on “Leaven” the metal leaf art on Stadium range from “That’s a neat idea that wasn’t executed well” to “I don’t get it” to “Fire all of city council immediately for letting this happen”. You can read more about it at mlive. suffice to say, it cost $100,000. I’m not quibbling with the cost. That’s entirely fair for what went into a piece like that. It does, however, give us a good baseline for thinking through the size of projects the city is ready to take on. In fact, the city has been working on a list of other public art pieces that will cost around 2 million dollars.

I’d like to see one additional item added to this list and prioritized toward the top: artistic and interesting bike racks.

Electrical box wraps and manhole covers

Max pointed out on a slack conversation that the city’s electrical boxes recently got wrapped to be more interesting. This is a small thing, but adds much needed visual diversity to the city streets. Beautifying a functional piece of the city is a great way to do this.

We also recently had a design contest for manhole covers. 3 artistic designs chosen to adorn Ann Arbor manhole covers | MLive.com:

“The City Council voted 10-1 in December 2016 to approve a $27,000 contract with the Art Center using money from the city’s stormwater fund to manage the design-selection process….The council also authorized the city administrator to approve up to $27,000 in amendments to the contract.”

Manhole covers are a great example to follow for bike racks. They’re similar in that a lot of them are needed throughout the city while also acting as an approachable canvas for an artist to do something unique.

Local Business Funding

If the city can’t fund it entirely we can enlist the help of local businesses. I think it’d be an easy sell to allow local businesses to fund the racks in front of their locations. They can afford it, their employees (and potential employees) would think it’s cool, and it’d allow them to have a tangible way of giving back to the community.

What if this was shaped like Workantile’s diamond-plate logo?


What if this one was looked like an artist’s palette?

Ann Arbor Art Center

What if this was shaped like a whaling ship from Moby Dick?


I look at this like the ice sculptures that pop up on main street every year: it’s a great thing that a business pays hundreds of dollars for once a year and is extremely temporary. What if for $1000 a business could fund the cost of a rack that has a plaque on it all year round?

Bike Racks

Ann Arbor had/has bike racks that have “ART” on them. This is..well, it’s not great. I managed to track down one of the last remaining ones in town in front of DUO’s building. I’m sure this is what clinched it for CISCO:


And from the back:


These have mostly been disappeared and replaced by simple black/gray racks. Functional and boring. At best they blend in.

Other places have used their bike racks as a form of self-expression. We would not be trailblazing new ground here, but it would be new territory for Ann Arbor.

Here’s some pictures I took last year of the racks in Toledo:

Toledo is cooler than us

Here’s a link to more racks in Ohio. Apparently they have this figured out. If you only click on one link make it this one: Bike Racks in Ohio Flickr Set.

Here’s some more options from around the world:

Numbers and Budgets

You can go online right now and buy a lot of different bike rack designs from The Park Catalog.

Out of curiosity I called them about their “Turtle Bike Rack” to get an idea of the price for what I’d call a fairly complex and unique design:

Turtle Bike Rack

1 turtle would be around $1500 shipped from Minnesota. If we got multiples of the same design there are even price breaks that’d bring it down closer to $1000. This is on a fairly complicated design with many bends and welds. I’d imagine others would be cheaper.

$1500 is not nothing! It’s also not so much that we couldn’t have every bike rack in Ann Arbor be a turtle.

I like turtles.

There’s also the option of doing smaller laser cut design in a standard rack. Pretty much any simple design can be laser cut into a rack for around 450 dollars: Custom Logo Laser Cut Panel Themed Bike Rack – The Park Catalog.

Keep It Local

The Park Catalog manufactures everything in Minnesota; however, I don’t think the city should opt for buying racks from an online vendor. A bike rack is not a complicated object. They only need to have loop of strong material that is firmly attached to something that is unlikely to move. Bent metal attached to a concrete sidewalk will suffice.

I think we should hire local artists to design the racks and local metalworkers to make them. It will cost more, but will also give the city and its residents a sense of ownership. Ann Arbor likes to pay lip service to being an artist friendly town, but in practice we don’t do a lot publicly to support them. I would like us to have slots available for 20 local artists to create a design. Manufacturing can likely be done at a variety of welders in town too.

Isn’t this wasteful?

Yes, probably. I had a long argument about how it isn’t, but the reality is that it likely is to some degree. No, we don’t need this for our city to function. I do, however, want to live in a city that does things like this. I think a lot of us do.


If Ann Arbor does this, I think it shows that:

  • We care about local artists and artisans enough to hire them to make art
  • We care about non-car modes of transportation by continuing to have functional and well-placed bike racks throughout the city
  • We care about public art and the beautification of our streets

Don’t you want to live in that kind of town? I do.

Newsletter April 30, 2018

Other Newsletters

  • Ed’s Vacuum Newsletter for 2018-W17 – lots on local politics, which these days is basically all about the building (or “not building”) of places for people to live. Also, he talks about how to subscribe to the newsletter and the problems therein.
  • Patti Smith has a newsletter too! Newsletter 4/29/18 – Ann Arbor Archives – She has a great roundup of what local breweries are up to and some fun stories from Ann Arbor’s history. I liked this a lot, “Michigan Argus, April 29, 1864 – E. Ketchum of Ypsilanti would send you a small treatise on Ice Cream & the Philosophy of its Manufacture if you just send him your address.”
  • CivCity has its May Day for Local Civics! with a reminder that there’s a local election on May 8th!

Are you writing a newsletter? Let me know about it so I can include it! csalzman@gmail.com

Ypsi-Arbor D&D Gazette Update

Technically my self-imposed deadline ends at the end of the day and the zine is ready to go, but I’m going to take a few more days to add some polish. Shooting for closer to the end of the week. Layout was mostly roughed in yesterday and then I had a Thought™ and started over. I’m happier with the switch and how it’s coming together. There were 6 or so submissions plus a few other things I wanted to include. Shorter than I’d envisioned, but still quite fun. In retrospect, I wish I’d set my “release schedule” to earlier in the month to maintain momentum from when submissions came in. Oh well!

The absolute best way to hear about when it comes out is to sign up here:

If this is the first you’re hearing about it you can read more about it here:

Ypsi-Arbor D&D Gazette

Making Sure Someone Sees It

Two of the other newsletters this week mention a problem that anyone who creates anything runs into: how do you make sure that everyone who should see it actually sees it? Marketing at its best is essentially finding an answer to this. A market for whatever niche content you’re producing exists. Finding the market and delivering the content to it constitutes a very hairy problem.

A poorly timed tweet or Facebook post means it vanishes in a sea of inattention. For example, I posted a link to last week’s newsletter on Facebook and almost nothing came of it. My first tweet about it garnered some interest, but as I remarked:

11am-ish on a Monday seems to be the perfect time to bury a tweet so it doesn’t get seen that well. Let’s see how 4:40 does.

4:40pm did a lot better.

The thing of it is though, that could just be for my followers, yours are different and might LOVE an 11am reminder. Chances are you need to do multiple nudges though due to the way that social media works right now.

This’ll be my sixth newsletter when it’s published. How many of you knew there were 5 others? I’m guessing some, but not all. And I’m also guessing at least one of the others would have been interesting to you (even if this one is not).

This is why despite the annoyances of it email is still very good at getting you a direct line to your tribe (in the Seth Godin sense). It’s one of the last places where we demand that it work as close to our mental model as possible. We don’t want the computer making every decisions about what to surface up at the top or remove from the list. From there, everyone crafts their own workflow for email to make sure they see what they want to.

Strongly linked to this is RSS. An RSS feed makes email marketing easier. This blog has an RSS feed and as of today I’m using mailchimp to send out new post updates over email. This should have been setup forever ago, but everything takes time!

Sign up in the sidebar if you’d like to get future updates! I’ll report back in a few weeks about which method is “working” in terms of making sure people who want to read this are able to read this.


We moved into a house last summer that is farther away from work and daycare than our apartment was. I love the location; however, we used to bus and bike and walk almost every day. Due to the location of daycare in relation to the bus routes we’ve ended up driving essentially every day since we moved. I’m committed to figuring out how to make that not our reality so this past week I biked the kid into daycare and myself over to Workantile. My wife biked in one of those days too and then we caravaned back home down Washtenaw. It was delightful and we went almost 24 hours without using a car on a workday for the first time in about 8 months.

Time from our front door, to dropping the toddler off, to sitting at my desk ended up being about the same amount of time as driving, parking, and walking from the parking spot to my desk. Add in the fact that they’re doing construction around daycare that is causing parking issues and I could see it saving time on certain days.

I wasn’t expecting that at all. Without optimizing anything about our route, or bike setup, there wasn’t a giant measurable time cost and, frankly, I ended up getting to my desk in a great frame of mind to start the day. Whenever I bike I end up smiling. Whenever I drive I don’t.

Sam is going to let me try out his cargo bike to see how that goes. My thought right now is that an electric assist bike could cut the commute down a few minutes while making the hills slightly easier to take on. Getting in shape will help too.

Who should own a website?


Everyone would do well to have that place on the internet they can put the thing. I’m a broken record, but twitter and facebook are not that place if you want it to exist in perpetuity (for certain values of perpetuity).

My favorite parts of the internet are the far away places. The clear passion project niches. Take this site for example:


Welcome to the one-stop destination for images and information about Action Transfers and Instant Pictures, and the home of SPLAT (the Society for the Preservation of Letraset Action Transfers).

You don’t know you need this site until you need it.

It also doesn’t map well to a series of facebook posts, tweets, or an instagram story. It likely doesn’t map well to most CMSes either. Yet the care that went into organizing it means that it can exist as a resource and a delightful thing to stumble on.

For the Ypsi-Arbor D&D Gazette I needed to match the fonts on the original D&D boxes (yes, needed). Kirith.com has already done the legwork here and has a fantastically compiled list of links for it:

TSR Fonts

On the homepage for that site is this statement:

”Couple of interesting facts. The site has averaged 120 unique visitors a day. ~1200 portraits were submitted to the Baldur’s Gate image gallery.”

Number of visitors is all relative. Some people would be thrilled with 120 visitors a day. Others would be panicked at how low the number that is. Your reach and your success is something you get to define. There’s a blog post on my website that I don’t care if anyone ever visits, but I’ve used it a few times while standing in Home Depot and found it extremely important:

Paint Colors · Chris Salzman’s Website

Having a URL for the paint colors for our house that I can call up on any device with an internet connection is an amazing ability. I think more people should have the ability to do that without getting flummoxed by technical jargon.


This week’s newsletter was written at Workantile and Sweetwaters in Kerrytown. Drafted in Bear and published using Hugo.