For the Cycle Club San Francisco, Rapha and design studio Rebar have deconstructed an iconic Rapha Citroën H-Van in order to create a ‘bookended’ public space. Known as a ‘parklet’, our design blends the cultural history of road racing’s support caravan with the contemporary cycling scene of San Francisco’s Marina District. Serving as a gathering place for group rides and the tales told upon return, our parklet is open to anyone, regardless of their bicycle persuasion.
What exactly is a parklet?
The parklet concept was born in San Francisco in 2005 as an unofficial activist project by Rebar Art & Design Studio. Parklets repurpose space designated for on-street parking by building out a platform into the parking lane. By doing so, they create a landscaped space that offers seating and bicycle parking where existing sidewalk space does not allow.
The Rapha Cycle Club San Francisco parklet is the first in the Marina District.
Ari Gelardin, Rebar:
What has the Rapha Cycle Club project been like for Rebar?
Designing the Rapha Parklet has been an exciting challenge. Rebar Associate Designer, Justin Ackerman, sought to preserve the original details of the Citroën H-Van, while giving it a new lease of life as a unique, contemporary urban space.
Did Rebar’s production team enjoy cutting the H-Van in half?
Shamelessly. Video footage of the criminal act spread like a meme through the office.
Dante Campanile, Rapha Cycle Club San Francisco:
You ride and walk through the neighborhood every day. How do you anticipate the parklet changing the character of the intersection of Filbert & Fillmore?
The Marina is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in San Francisco. The Cycle Club is sandwiched between two well-known shopping streets, Union and Chestnut. Union Street is home to the neighborhood’s old-world charm, while Chestnut has some of the best people-watching this side of Market Street. In between all that, hanging out at the Cycle Club, are Lycra-clad road cyclists and some of SF’s most dapper city riders.
What I hope the parklet will bring to the neighborhood is the same wish that I have for the Cycle Club, that anyone that steps foot into the space will discover a newfound sense of community. Whether, as a cyclist, you follow the most rigorous, threshold-inducing training regime, or are simply in search for the Marina’s best coffee, the Cycle Club is intended for everyone. It has a unique mix of characters and this leads to great stories being told around the Cycle Club’s communal tables. We hope to see that spirit flow out onto the parklet.
How will the parklet help promote the Cycle Club?
Among confused passers-by, we often get hand-across-the-forehead types peering through the Cycle Club window. Additionally, many people see us as a bike shop, or feel we’re going to ask to see their road cycling palmarès before they’re allowed in. Our hope is that the sight of folks enjoying the parklet on a perfect San Francisco day will make everyone will want to venture into the Cycle Club to see everything we bring to the neighborhood.
Do you have a name for the parklet?
That’s a great question. While every moving vessel needs a name, how do you name a stationary one? There’s a great Merckx story I came across a few months back. During one of his legendary Tour appearances, Merckx was left without support from his Faema team car. The challenging roads of the Pyrénées proved to be too arduous for the little Peugeot 404, so Merckx’s directeur-sportif took to the back seat of a press car with a spare set of wheels should they come in handy. Fifty kilometers out, Merckx fell victim to ‘fringale’. In other words, he bonked. However, Merckx somehow pulled off a miraculous solo trip over the Tourmalet and finished the stage ahead of the peloton.
While the climb up Fillmore is by no means comparable to climbing the Tourmalet, we like to think that enjoying a shot of Four Barrel espresso while relaxing on the Citroen-turned-Parklet will be the perfect cure for ‘fringale’ after your next heat-stricken Alpine Dam loop.
What plans do you have for the ‘opening’ of the parklet?
Anyone that’s been to a party at the Cycle Club knows that we take parties very seriously. The opening of the parklet will be no different. We’re going to have another transformed Citroën on site, in the form of renowned Empanada truck El Sur, which will be serving the most traditional Argentinian cuisine around… so come hungry.
History of The Citroën H-Van
Introduced to the Tour in 1910, the year the race first went into the mountains, the broom wagon, or ‘voiture balai’, follows the last rider on the road. If the broom wagon catches the struggling riders they must climb off their bicycle and retire, handing in their race number. The van literally sweeps the remnants of the peloton off the road as the race continues on.
The most iconic voiture balai is the Citroën H-Van, which became the broom wagon after World War II. This was then superseded by the Citroën HY in 1958, until Renault took over in the early 1960s. Until 1992, the voiture balai always had an old-fashioned broom strapped to its roof. Rumor suggests they still keep a broom inside today’s vehicle to satisfy tradition.
Since 2004, an original 1973 H-Van has been part of the Rapha fleet, supporting events and races such as the Tour of Britain. The H-Van has also come to be the symbol Rapha Cycle Clubs and Mobile Cycle Clubs around the world. Our San Francisco Cycle Club parklet calls the H-Van up from the rear of the peloton and provides a permanent position at the forefront of each new day’s cycling exploits.
This H-Van was discovered in a barn in the south of France in 2010.