The house of 880 Upham St. was easy to spot thanks to a rainbow-colored archway made entirely of bicycles. The community supports the Bike Arch, according to the builder; however, regulations and vandalism threaten its continued existence.
Mechanical engineering senior Rory Aronson said he and his roommates ride their bikes to school everyday and attend all bike month events and causes in town. He decided their house needed a grand archway—one made of colorful bikes.
“We’re very active in the biking community,” Aronson said, “and I’ve always liked rainbows.”
Andy Olson, one of Aronson’s roommates and 2009 Cal Poly alumnus, was out of the country at the time the arch was built. However, he said he really appreciated the arch being out there.
“I think the arch is a wonderful example of creativity and individual expression,” Olson said. “It embodies our love for biking as an alternative lifestyle.”
Aronson said the arch is well-accepted within the community. Both him and Olson called the arch a landmark item. Not a day went by without someone giving him a thumbs up sign, taking a picture or coming up to the porch to compliment the arch, Aronson said.
“It’s fun to be out on the front porch because people are always coming up and asking about (the arch) or about us,” Olson said.
“We received a complaint about several issues at the site about what was described to us as a ‘dangerous bike structure’ in the front yard,” Girvin said.
The city responded by doing an inspection of the arch. Girvin said regulations allow items to be only so tall and wide and the arch surpasses those limits. This means Aronson will need a construction application and a building permit.
Aronson said he doesn’t know who complained or what their intentions were, but the city was just doing its job.
In order to keep the arch, Aronson has to get the City of SLO Community Development Director John Mandeville to make an exception to a few clauses in the zone regulations, he said. Girvin said the exception being looked at is one dealing with fence height. Girvin said a fence was the closest thing the arch could be compared to.
“You have to admit this is a bit unusual,” Girvin said. Normally, Girvin and his staff enforce codes for conventional materials, he said. When they come across something built in materials not in the codes, he said they are forced to go in another direction and get more information.
“There’s nothing in the codes about if something is built of bicycles this is how it should look and be safe,” Girvin said.
To get an exception, Aronson needs to show why he should keep the arch. The easiest way to do that in the 21 century — Create a Facebook event.
“Rally for the Bike Arch!” has 549 people “going” to the event, and support is growing everyday, according to Aronson. He sent his application to the city with over 70 testimonies and 340 names gathered from the event, he said.
“It shows the support the community has (for the arch),” Aronson said. “Their words and names mean so much more than what I can say.”
Complaints aren’t the only issues plaguing the arch. Recently, the Bike Arch suffered from vandalism, Aronson said.
“It appears someone hung from the arch and bent it pretty bad,” he said. Aronson said the famous rainbow colored arch was beyond repair. However, Aronson is working with the city to obtain a building permit to rebuild the arch “stronger and more legitimate than before.”
Girvin said Aronson has been asked not to put the arch back up until he gets approvals to do so. The Bike Arch could be subject to a minimum building permit fee of $209, according to Girvin.
So, the big question remains: will the Bike Arch be resurrected?
“I have good hopes the city will come around and grant the exception,” Aronson said, “and that the community will support us if we need help doing anything.”