Below, sketches of new bike racks recently installed around New York City by the city's Department of Transportation, dreamt up by none other than musician, artist and cultural curator David Byrne, who is also an avid longtime cyclist.
Asked to help in judging a design competition the DOT is running to design the city's new bike racks, Byrne sketched a few neighborhood-specific rack ideas on a whim. To his surprise, the agency asked him to build them:
They were simple shapes to define different neighborhoods around the city: a dollar sign for Wall Street; an electric guitar for Williamsburg, Brooklyn; a car — “The Jersey” — for the area near the Lincoln Tunnel. “I said, ‘Well, this disqualifies me as a judge,’ ” he recalled, “but I just doodled them out and sent them in.” He figured maybe they’d be used to decorate the contest Web site, nycityracks.wordpress.com.
Instead, much as when George W. Bush asked Dick Cheney to find him a vice president, Mr. Byrne ended up landing the job for which he was leading the search team. Well, almost: the competition for new standard racks is still on, but on Friday nine racks made from his own whimsical designs were installed around the city. “They immediately responded, saying, ‘If you can get these made, we’ll put them through,’ “ he recalled. “I was kind of shocked.”
The racks will remain in place for the coming year, after which they will be sold:
His Manhattan gallery, Pace/MacGill, along with PaceWildenstein, agreed to have the racks fabricated in exchange for the chance to sell them, down the line, as works of art. But for the 364 days that the racks will be out on the streets, Mr. Byrne doesn’t want them to be admired as artwork, he said; he wants them to be lashed with heavy chains, banged with Kryptonites and scratched by gears. He wants them to be used.
To avoid confusion, he kept the same square metal tubing used in the familiar U- or M-shaped racks — which Janette Sadik-Khan, the city transportation commissioner, unlovingly compares to “handcuffs chained to the street.”
Equal parts functional street furniture and site-specific art installation, the bike racks signal civic optimism as well as shifting tastes, particularly in the way city-dwellers use their physical environment:
Ms. Sadik-Khan said she believed that the involvement of an artist like Mr. Byrne would raise the profile of cycling citywide. “The idea that it’s cool to bike really helps,” she said, and “the New York City Department of Transportation is not necessarily known for its cool reputation.”
Mr. Byrne isn’t anticipating a revolution, but he does sense a shift in the wind. Riding a bicycle, “used to be completely uncool,” he said. “Now it’s cool in different ways: for some people it’s cool if you have an old junker. For other people it’s cool if you have a racing bike.
“Anyway, it doesn’t immediately relegate you to nerd status anymore.”
(My apologies for the cringeworthy lyric pun title...I struggled for awhile. if you have a better suggestion, let me know.) More coverage here.