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The Good, the Bad and the Non-existent Bike Rack

As more cities and towns are trying to figure out how to deal with traffic problems and to reduce air pollution, many of these places are looking to increase biking as a possible answer those issues. Typically this entails adding or enhancing bike lanes of various types. However, it seems there is one critical bicycling infrastructure item that often gets overlooked or ignored: bike racks and bike parking. If bike parking is not easy to use and readily available, that is one more item a bike rider might add to their list of reasons not to ride their bike to run errands or commute to work.

The best bike rack is one if the simplest: the inverted U bike rack. This plain design looks just like the name implies, an inverted U shaped metal pipe that can be attached to the ground plane via welding to metal plates that are then screwed to the ground. Another installation option is setting the ends of the pipe in sub-grade concrete footers.

A good, basic inverted U bike rack.

Why is this modern classic the best bike rack design for bike users? It provides two stable points of contact to lean their bike; the bike frame can be placed close to the pipe for easy locking and securing (proximity is crucial when using a U-lock bike lock); and you can easily lock two average size/shaped bikes (one on each side) to one U bike rack. 

The advantages for a property owner or a municipality who might install a rack is the basic inverted U bike rack is relatively inexpensive, and, unlike consolidated racks (multiple slots for several bikes all connected to one frame) you can install just one, or several racks. Additionally, the inverted U rack is a minimal site furnishing element that can be easily tailored to various building architectural styles.

Another good bike rack: a customized rack that is similar (in function) to an inverted U rack.

Variations on the U-rack abound. Usually they work as well as the basic U, but if too many extra pieces are added to it, such as logos or other parts, this can impact the ease of use of the rack, frustrating the users.

Some of the worst bike rack designs are ones where the bike owner can only secure and lock their bike wheel, and the frame of the bike does not get close to the part of the rack where a user can attach a U-lock. This can put torque or force on the wheel which could bend it. It is also not as secure as getting the frame of the bike as close to the rack for locking. Fortunately this design seems to be old and falling out of favor.

A perfect example of a bad back rack. It is difficult to get the bike frame close enough to use a U-lock, unless you lift the bike over the top bar which this bike owner had to do.

Another bad bike rack design is any type for which the bike owner must lift their bike to attach to the rack. Considering some bike users may be a child or an elderly person who may not have the strength to lift the bike up, this kind of rack is not a good option.

And the only thing worse than a frustrating or mediocre bike rack is a non-existent bike rack. Such a situation may lead to the bike owner locking their bike in unwanted areas such as against the trunk of a young street tree, or in a location that might impede pedestrian traffic. Or, it could possibly lead to the bike owner leaving the premises, and going to a different business where there are proper bike racks. If you are a property owner who is considering what site elements and furnishings to include around your property to foster a healthy customer base, I highly recommend that you include bike racks and if possible, make them some form of the inverted U bike rack. Your bike riding customers will be grateful.

This is the official blog of Outdoor Design Group, Colorado Landscape Architects.  For more information about our business and our services, click here.

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Colorado Tree View

From time to time, we here at Outdoor Design Group like to hand over the reins of this blog to a guest writer. This allows us to peer over the fence into the realm of another business, and bring our readers new views on topics related to our field of work.

This week, T.J. Wood from Plan-It Geo (a company that Outdoor Design Group has collaborated with in the past on various projects) gives us a description of an application they developed for the Colorado State Forest Service. This online tool helps Colorado communities assess their public street and park trees locally to provide a statewide picture of tree diversity and health.


At Plan-It Geo, we specialize in “Trees and Technology.” A tree inventory combines both of these elements seamlessly by management of this important natural resource with use of mobile devices and technology in the field. The Colorado State Forest Service contracted Plan-It Geo to develop a web-based application that communities, campuses, and HOA’s can upload their tree inventories and view important state-wide tree data summaries. To access all of our web and mobile GIS software applications, click here.

A screen shot from CO-Tree View

A screen shot from CO-Tree View

Colorado Tree View:

Project Profile: Colorado Tree View

Project Title: Colorado Tree View – Statewide Inventory and Ash management Application

Client: Colorado State Forest Service

Timeframe: February 2015 – Present

Description: Tree inventories provide critical information for cities, neighborhood associations, and other entities to proactively manage their urban and community forestry resource. This project provided a tool to help diversify the planning and planting of tree species. It also provided a first-time statewide view of the structure of Colorado’s urban forests. The tool is a starting point for a long-term strategy and provides substantial new technical support to communities.

Outcomes: A statewide web-based application was created for Colorado. This application has the built-in ability to “crosswalk” a wide variety of inventory data into the application. The main fields collected are species, dbh (diameter breast height), condition, and location of each tree. The application has a hierarchy of log ins based on city and user approvals with different functionality at each level. A customized dashboard was created for the state to view important number and population statistics on each community or organizational inventory.

A screen shot from CO-Tree View

A screen shot from CO-Tree View

This is the official blog of Outdoor Design Group, Colorado Landscape Architects.  For more information about our business and our services, click here.


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Lessons from the Desert – What Principles Can We Apply in Colorado?

Two weeks ago I took a road trip to Phoenix to visit some old friends.  We had an amazing time!  The desert landscape is so interesting.  Since I was visiting in late March, I was not subjected to the 100 degree + temperatures that come in summer, it was a comfortable 80 degrees most of the time.

My friends Brian and Colleen were nice enough to allow me to stay with their family.  I brought my camera everywhere, with an eye on photographing and studying the landscape to see what ideas could be incorporated into our landscape designs back home in Colorado.  Below I list some of the highlights of places I visited and observed.

Residential Landscapes

phoenix residential landscape

Brian and Colleen’s back yard with “totem pole” cactus – Beautiful!

Saw some interesting things- good and bad…  Most homes have no lawn in the front yard, and large back yards typically have a limited amount of lawn.  I think this is a good approach that saves water.

So what was used in place of lawn?  It seems that at least 50% of the homes have swimming pools, and I saw some very well designed large outdoor patios and outdoor living spaces.  For the landscaped areas, the ground cover of choice is small rock mulch (about 3/8″, angular rock).

Within the landscaped areas, I thought some of the plantings were a little thin.  Creeping groundcovers, ornamental grasses, and massings of plants could be used more effectively to help cover the rock areas.  Other features used in place of lawns were sport courts, outdoor kitchens, and shade structures.

Visiting the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix

purple prickly pear cactus

Purple Prickly Pear at the Desert Botanical Garden

This is truly an amazing garden!  So many interesting cacti, agave, succulents, and native desert landscaping.  They also were featuring some incredible glass sculptures by Dale Chihuly.  I highly recommend visiting this garden if you are ever in the area!  They have a great Facebook page as well, check it out.

Highway and Roadside Landscaping

One of the more striking features as you drive through Phoenix (and it is a very automobile dependent city) are the large swaths of roadside landscaping along the highways.  Most of these areas are highly maintained slopes of rock with a few plants here and there.

My friends told me that there is a constant battle trying to eradicate the weeds from the rock- seems like a silly design solution to me.  The nicer areas, in my opinion , had more plants grouped together in random, natural plantings.  Other areas had formal planting in patterns and rows, or even just different color rock placed in patterns…

phoenix highway landscapes

Aerials of Phoenix highway landscaping. Left- one of the nicer designs I saw, with random natural plantings. Right- this section had no plantings, with patterns of colored rock- not a fan of this approach.

Touring Local Nurseries

I had a chance to tour a local suburban Phoenix Nursery.  I was interested to see what plants and materials were commercially available.  I was happy you see that the trend of edible landscaping was equally as popular in Phoenix as it is in Denver, with a large selection of herbs, fruit trees, and other culinary delights.

agave, yucca, and cacti

Agave, yucca, and cacti at a local suburban nursery

This nursery also had an impressive collection of sculpture and pottery- These items can add interest to a residential or commercial landscape, require little maintenance, and can serve as interesting focal points to the eye that break up large areas of rock.

One of the more interesting items for sale were packages of two Praying Mantis eggs- for natural pest control.

Hiking in the Superstition Wilderness

On my last day in the Phoenix area, my friend Brian and I went hiking in the Superstition Wilderness area.  This turned out to be a very challenging hike to the top of the “flatiron” with amazing views and even more amazing native plants!  I couldn’t help but think, – Why couldn’t some of those roadside highway areas be allowed to naturalize like some of this wild landscape, which received no maintenance and no irrigation?

native desert landscaping wildflowers

Native wildflowers- the orange flowers are Desert Mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua), which grows great in my Denver garden!

native desert landscaping

Native landscaping in the Superstition Wilderness area- Why can’t the highway roadside areas be naturalized like this?

This is the official blog of Outdoor Design Group, Colorado Landscape Architects.  For more information about our business and our services, click here.


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Outdoor Design Group on Team Completing Premier China Resort Master Plan

The team of landscape architects at Outdoor Design Group, Inc. are thrilled to be partnering with Bud Surles Signature Resorts of Victor, Idaho to create a master plan for an exclusive new resort project in Tangshan Bay, China.  The 285 acre park and resort on the Pacific coast will be one of the first of it’s kind to be completed in China, and will feature commercial space, lakes, trails, water features, marinas, and numerous active recreational amenities.

Tangshan Bay Resort Master Plan DRAFT

Outdoor Design Group, Inc. was founded in 2004 by Denver landscape architect Matt Corrion.  The firm’s office is located in Olde Town Arvada, Colorado.  Additional details about the Tangshan Bay Resort project will be shared as they become available.  For more information please contact Outdoor Design Group at 303-993-4811.

This is the official blog of Outdoor Design Group, Colorado Landscape Architects.  For more information about our business and our services, click here.


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Developers Find New Ways to Create Positive Cash Flow for Stagnant Projects

RV Resort DesignThis is a guest post by Bud Surles.  The owner of Bud Surles Consulting Group, Bud has over 30 years of award winning parks, resort, and environmental management and planning experience.  He has won national awards in both the public and private sectors in the design and management of resort and public recreation areas.  Outdoor Design Group has recently partnered with Bud Surles Consulting Group to provide planning and landscape architecture services for resort projects throughout the country.

New Times Demand New Ideas

Most of us can fondly remember the housing bubble of the first decade. It seems that all you had to do was “build it and they would come.” Billions were invested in well thought out and not so well thought out housing developments, sub-divisions, and second home resort complexes. Each one seemed to build upon the success of the other. Of course, all that came to a terrifying close in 2008, and today the landscape is littered with evidence of the failure of over-development. People were millionaires one day and bankrupt the next. Individuals were secure in an ARM one day and facing foreclosure the next. Good jobs were lost and economics were drastically turned upside down across our land.

Today, many well-conceived housing developments of a few years ago lay dormant on the landscapes of lakes, rivers, mountain areas, and beaches. Lots cannot sell and developers are hanging on waiting for better times to return. However, economic indicators give little hope for that to happen within the staying power of many. But there is good news. It requires a change of vision, but there are opportunities to convert the investment in planning, roads, and infrastructure into a meaningful and profitable cash flow. It is time developers who are in the position of “hanging on” to re-think their investments and look to converting their developments into RV and Resort properties.


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