The homeless will find somewhere else to camp.

Via The Guardian:

Returning after a two-day business trip, Seattle resident Jeff Few noticed something odd on a stretch of pavement underneath Highway 99. When he had left his Belltown condo there had been a homeless encampment. Now the tents and the men, women and children seeking shelter there were gone, with 18 new bike racks installed in their place.

“The new racks were clearly there to deter street camping,” says Few. “There was no transportation need for that many bike racks under a viaduct that is going to be torn down in a year.”

His suspicions were confirmed after he filed a public disclosure request for emails from Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT) employees about the installation. The correspondence shows the transport department coordinated with police to have the racks ready to install as soon as the people were removed, in order to prevent their return.

In one email, an SDOT civil engineer asks the bike parking manager if there are bike racks available to install, and writes: “This is part of the homelessness emergency response effort. The area is being cleaned on Monday and ideally, we’d be able to install behind the clean team.”

In another, an SDOT field coordinator writes that the encampment sweep is almost complete and if the rack installation crew is on its way he will “have [the Seattle Police Department] make sure it does not get re-camped”.

SDOT did not respond to requests for comment.

Few thinks it’s a waste of money and energy to displace people seeking shelter in one of rainy Seattle’s rare dry spots. “My experience with the folks that were camped out there was that they were not a nuisance to the community,” he says. “People have this impression of who is living with housing insecurity. But there were a lot of women and children taking shelter under the viaduct, people with pets – precisely the kinds of people who couldn’t depend on shelter available in the city.”

“These aren’t bike racks, they are bike-washed ‘anti-homeless spikes’,” wrote Tom Fucoloro on Seattle Bike Blog. “As someone who has been a big advocate of expanding the city’s bike parking, it is disturbing to see hard-won bike racks used in such a way.”

Selena Savić, co-editor of the book Unpleasant Design, says Seattle’s use of bike racks to deter a homeless camp is a clear example of hostile, or defensive, architecture.

“There is always an appearance of a service or beauty, which is its secondary function,” she explains. “The primary function is to deter people, or behaviours, or pigeons. Rich, large cities are definitely more prone to using unpleasant design because it’s hard to manage a lot of people. Unpleasant design removes the need for human surveillance and intervention. I haven’t heard of bike racks before, but the Seattle example fits perfectly.”

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