Friday, August 22, 2008

Hot Wheels

Photos: New York City Department of Transportation

Not too long ago, pretty much the only people to be seen on bicycles in Manhattan were messengers. And with good reason: the New York City environment is hostile to bikers. The mean streets in many parts of town are too narrow for today's huge SUVs and trucks trying to squeeze through, midtown traffic is intimidating, double-parking is rampant, and the unpredictability of peds X-ing is a constant hazard for a bike rider. But recently lots of folks riding bicycles can be found tooling along the streets and avenues, on their way to office jobs or lunch meetings or school, sometimes with kids and pets in tow. What gives?

The growing national awareness of the value of green lifestyles has led to wider acceptance and visibility of transportation alternatives. But the city has also made it easier to get around safely, by increasing and improving the number of separate bike paths and greenways, and by conducting an experimental program for the month of August. Called Summer Streets, selected north-south routes are closed to traffic but open to bike riders and pedestrians for 6 hours on Saturdays. These have been well-attended by the public; after all, who doesn't like to play in the street?

Increasing the hipness quotient of the trend, David Byrne has designed a series of bike racks appearing around town, each keyed to its location. The Olde Times Square, based on the female silhouette best known as mudflap Tammy, is genius. The visual of a hot babe with bikes chained to her in bondage works nicely with the memory of the once-seedy triple-X personality of the neighborhood. Almost as good is the irony of a bike locked up to the car-shaped Jersey. Byrne hopes to eventually sell the collection as works of art upon their retirement next summer.

During their year on the street the racks are bound to acquire an accumulation of dents, stickers, graffiti, abandoned locks, and bike frame carcasses. No word on whether they will be sold as-is, but I’m all for it. The reminders of their former public service will reinforce the message that there is art in the useful act of riding around on a bike.


Asian Lance said...

Those racks are waaayyy too nice, the bike thieves will likely now leave the bikes behind and steal the rack.

biker chick said...

I love these bike racks. But where's the rack in the shape of the really big suit, David?

london bridge said...

I'm all for witty bike racks, and for cyclists generally, but in order to make this mode of transport truly viable, cyclists must follow the same traffic rules as all vehicles.

As it is, pedestrians are dodging traffic and bikes coming from both directions!!

carly said...

I love these racks! It's great to see NYC embracing the whole green transportation/biking phenomenon, and David Byrne was such a good choice for the project.

flo said...

Nice rack!