Seattle says shop's bike rack is illegal, owner says it's art

SEATTLE -- When the city turned down a local business owner's request for a bike rack, the woman went ahead and paid for her own, but now the city says the rack is too big and must be removed.

The offending bike rack sits in front of the Kaffeeklatsch coffee shop on Lake City Way.

The shop's owner, Annette Heide-Jessen, said last year she asked the city if it could put in a customer bike rack on the sidewalk. She said the city told her it didn't have the funds to provide the rack, so Heide-Jessen commissioned her own.

The rack is a basic, welded metal frame mixed with recycled bicycle parts, but Heide-Jessen said it beautifies the neighborhood.

Plus, it's one of only a few racks in the area.

"The next (bike rack) is way down there at the end of 125th and the next one is way up there at the end of the brewery. So it's necessary. It gets used a lot," said Justus Jessen.

Employees remove the rack at night, but it's kept on the sidewalk all day, and city officials say that's a problem.

According to city code, bike racks must be three feet from the curb and five feet from the business. All parties agree that Heide-Jessen's creation breaks the rules.

"It clearly creates an obstacle for pedestrians, the disabled and the fire department," said Richard Sheridan of the Department of Transportation. "We're ready to install a bike rack at that location now as soon as they remove the temporary, improper bike rack."

Heide-Jessen admits she should have boned up on city code prior to having the rack built, but she said it's been there for a year and hasn't had any complaints.

"The city has actually offered to put a bike rack out there, but of course it wouldn't look as nice as ours so I'm just asking for mercy," she said.

It the city does put a rack outside of the business, it would be one of 300 new racks it plans to install across the city this year. Each rack costs about $600, and the money comes from the city's 10-year Master Bike Plan, which is now half way complete.