This is a photo of my bicycle parked at a set of bike racks at a shopping center in St. Louis Park, MN.
This is a great example of incorrectly installed bike racks. The two racks were installed end-to-end, rather than side-to side. The result is that the capacity of these racks is effectively half of what it should be. This type of rack, most often called an “inverted U”, is designed to allow bikes to lean up against it so that the bike frame is in contact with the rack in two locations – exactly how my bike in the photo is leaning against the rack on the left. Notice how the rear tire on my bike (and that trash can) is pretty well excluding anyone else from using the second rack.
These two racks should provide enough space for four bicycles, each of which would have two points of contact per bike. The way these are installed, they’re effectively only accommodating two bicycles. If cyclists rotated their bikes 90 degrees, this would effectively be a wave configuration, and could accommodate three bicycles, but each bike would have only one point of contact with the rack, making them much more likely to fall over. It wouldn’t have required any additional time, effort, money, or space to rotate each of these racks 90 degrees when they were installed.
So how do bike racks get installed incorrectly like this? I suspect it’s usually a simple oversight by a contractor who doesn’t know any better. This is the sort of detail you’re probably not aware of unless you’ve had the experience of trying to lock your bike to a poorly installed rack before. The contractor was probably given a plan set that specified only the number of racks to be installed, and a general location for them to be installed.
The good news is that most cities are pretty proactive about managing racks installed within public rights-of-way. You will typically only find incorrectly installed bike racks on private property (like this shopping center).
In the future, the best approach would be for the construction plan set to provide additional details about how the racks should be installed. For example, the construction plans could specify that the racks be installed in accordance with Mn/DOT’s bicycle parking guidelines, or they could specify that the racks be installed according to the manufacturers recommendations.