urban welders beautify city streetscapes with sculptural bike racks

It's hard not to notice the attractive bike racks that have been popping up around town lately. Much more than simply utilitarian places to hitch your ride, these racks are at once urban sculptures and retail signage for local businesses. Many of them have been designed by Rust Belt Welding, two Cleveland entrepreneurs who are making a living doing what they love.

"We wanted to do creative, bicycle-related projects, and we knew there was a need for more bike racks because we'd ride around town and say, 'I wish there was one here,'" says Grant Smrekar, who created Rust Belt Welding with his friend Lou Erste four years ago in order to build bike frames, something that remains the core of their business. "We wanted there to be an artistic quality to these projects, and for the bike racks to represent the place they're at."

What started out as a small project grew quickly once the bike community and enthusiastic business owners grabbed ahold of it. "The local cycling group Crank-Set Rides offered to help us raise funds to create more bike racks, and that allowed us to make a few of them," says Erste. "Then places like Market Garden Brewery asked us to create custom racks in front of their businesses."

Their most recent creation, which was installed last month in front of Market Garden Brewery in Ohio City, spells out "BIKE" in red, metal letters. Rust Belt Welding has also installed bike racks in front of Phoenix Coffee, Joy Machines bike shop, Blazing Saddles bike shop and other local venues.

"We'll build pretty much anything, but the more that we can build stuff that's fun and creative, that's even better," says Smrekar, who adds that Rust Belt is planning to add more artistic bike racks around town in the near future.

Source: Lou Erste, Grant Smrekar
Writer: Lee Chilcote
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