Student’s design turns city parking meters into bike racks

By University Communications
September 15, 2014
Michelle Mailey Noben, MFA in Design graduate student, with her design for a bike rack.

Photo: Michelle Mailey Noben, MFA in Design graduate student

A University of Wisconsin-Stout graduate student has come up with a modern-day hitching post.

Instead of hitching up a horse, Michelle Mailey Noben designed a rack that attaches to a parking meter for riders to “hitch” their bikes to.

Mailey Noben, in her second year of the Masters of Fine Arts in Design program, completed the rack for a class in Sustainable Design Practices taught by Jennifer Astwood.

Astwood, School of Art and Design, developed the project with the city of Menomonie to create a low-cost campaign to promote bicycle use and provide bicycle parking downtown.

Mailey Noben, of La Crosse, and fellow MFA student, Sarah Johnson, of Wausau, collaborated on researching a marketing and branding plan to increase bicycle use and provide parking based on Menomonie city requirements.

The two studied downtown Menomonie’s approach to bicycling by surveying business owners and workers as well as bicyclists. They met with Randy Eide, director of Public Works for the city of Menomonie, and members of the pedestrian and biking committee.

They also looked at bike-friendly solutions and marketing campaigns from other cities.

Research and design

“When researching commercial bike parking solutions, I noticed a mass-produced ring bike rack designed to be installed on parking meters and other permanent posts. This type of solution seemed to be a perfect fit for Menomonie's downtown,” Mailey Noben said.

“I have worked mostly as a graphic designer in my career before UW-Stout and only in very niche types of product design.

“Designing this type of product was a totally new experience for me and probably the biggest challenge,” she said.

Her plan and design took into consideration installing racks in popular areas, easy removal for repairs or winter weather and the opportunity for downtown businesses to become involved by sponsoring or fundraising for units near their locations, alleviating some cost for the city and taxpayers, she said.

“It is a simple and durable design that allows for easy installation and removal,” she said.

Each student came up with a design for the rack. They were then submitted to the city’s pedestrian and biking committee.

City of Menomonie funds prototype

The committee said yes to Mailey Noben’s design.

The city paid for a prototype to be constructed at Stark’s Metal Works in Menomonie and had it installed in July on a meter outside the Waterfront Bar and Grill, 512 Crescent St.

Mailey Noben’s rack is circular, “to echo the bike chain image for consistency and recognition,” she said, and bright green. The rack, designed for one bike, measures 18 inches in diameter with the word “bike” written across the center. It is attached on the street side of the pole with a bracket and bolts.

The prototype has been a success with lots of positive feedback, Eide said. A post and pictures of the rack on the City of Menomonie’s Facebook page reached more than 1,880 people and garnered plenty of likes, he said.

Also since the installation, six downtown businesses have requested a rack, Eide said. The next step is to find funding to install 10 to 15 more racks in town, he said.

Working with the students was a great process, Eide said. It was rewarding working with “young, good talent with great ideas,” he said.

"This project provided a phenomenal experience for the students,” Astwood said. “It puts a smile on my face every time I pass by Michelle's bike design.”

Mailey Noben is excited to see her creation in use and is looking forward to getting feedback on her design.

In the fall, Astwood plans to work with the community in developing a project that focuses on recycling.

MFA in Design program

Julie Peterson, program director for the master’s program, said, “This project is a perfect example of how the graduate students and faculty identify local initiatives and develop viable, not to mention sustainable, design solutions in a creative, collaborative and effective manner. This is what this program is all about.”

The MFA in Design started in fall 2012 and is a 60-credit creative terminal degree with courses delivered in formats to accommodate a variety of design students and industry professionals.

The program offers a cross-disciplinary approach to design, including primary courses in graphic design, interactive media, industrial design, entertainment design, interior design, design education, sustainable design, studio art, art history and design ethics.

For more information about the Masters of Fine Arts in Design, go to or contact Julie Peterson, program director, 715-232-3490.