More than a dollar sign

August 27, 2008
By: Vicki Bell

Listen up, fabricators. Looking for a new product to fabricate? One that capitalizes on the "green" movement and, therefore, stands a decent chance of finding a market? Then look to the sidewalks of New York City.

Ignore any pigeon droppings and trash bags awaiting pickup. Focus instead on some whimsical powder-coated steel structures that look like art but meet a very practical need—one shared by communities of all sizes.

The New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) recently announced that it has installed "nine new bike racks designed by musician, artist, and biking enthusiast, David Byrne," the founding member and principal songwriter of Talking Heads. (According to my husband, the correct term is cycling enthusiast. Cyclists ride bicycles, and bikers ride motorcycles.)

The DOT said the racks were created to generate more interest in cycling in New York and also to add attractive, temporary art to the city's streets. Increased bicycle use and beautifying the city's streets are shared goals for a greener and more sustainable New York called for in Mayor Bloomberg's PlaNYC and the DOT's strategic plan.

DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan said, "By bringing attractive yet functional sculptures to our streets, we are elevating the profile of cycling, and we believe that more and more people will begin to think about cycling as a mode of transportation, and not just a mode of recreation. Regular bike riders have an eagle eye for our current bike racks, but these nine installations will capture the attention of all New Yorkers."

The new racks were inspired by New York neighborhoods and activities. A steel dollar-sign design called "Wall Street" is located in the City's commercial heart on Wall Street itself. The guitar design, named "Hipster," is located in the heart of Williamsburg, one of the most vibrant neighborhoods for music, at Bedford Avenue and North 6th Street. The "Jersey," a design of a car's silhouette, is located near the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel, a gateway to the Garden State. The racks range from 2 ft. to 6 ft. wide and from around 3 ft. to 6 ft. tall.

"It was important to me that these new racks be the same thickness and material as the existing racks-to help identify them as practical bike racks and not just modern art," Byrne said.

According to Wired, fabricating the racks wasn't a breeze. Byrne found the squarish shaped pipe the city uses [for racks] would not work for his design, but to make them practical and in similar thickness and material as the existing racks, metal pieces were welded and then the edges ground to create racks in red, black, and silver colors."

The racks will be removed in 11 months and sold as works of art. The story of how they came to be can be found on Byrne's Web site.

The racks were produced by New Project in Brooklyn. Byrne said the folks at New Project had to come up with an ingenious solution for the fabrication, as bending the pipe the city uses into the convoluted shapes would have been close to impossible.

You have to hand it to Byrne. He's gone from singing about "Air" to doing something that just might help reduce air pollution.

Fabricators everywhere & read about this project, check out Byrne's designs, use your imagination, and corner your mayor to discuss how you might produce racks to promote cycling in your area. Be inspired.

Vicki Bell

Vicki Bell

FMA Communications Inc.
2135 Point Blvd
Elgin, IL 60123
Phone: 815-227-8209