Full marks to the visionary New York transport authorities who approached former-Talking Head band-leader David Byrne in 2008 to help them lift the profile of cycling in New York. The New York City Department of Transportation, invited Mr Byrne to join a panel selected to judge a design competition for outdoor and indoor bicycle racks. Byrne was inspired by the city’s initiative and submitted some of his own original design ideas, named after specific locations and neighborhoods in Manhattan and Brooklyn. One of his sketches (intended for The Olde Times Square) is shown below:
Mr Byrne asked the Pace Gallery to cover the costs of fabrication. In return they would be given the right to sell these items as original art works later on (the original intention was to display the racks for one year only). According to the New York Times, PaceWildenstein, guessed that the racks might sell for $10,000 to $20,000. However, it was considered very important that they be practical bike racks and not modern art.
The city authorities enthusiastically agreed to install the racks. They are now on permanent loan to the city, and will remain in their locations. The agency agreed to Byrne’s designs and to all the proposed locations. Later, shadows were added to the pavement by a local artist, emphasising the visual impact.
Byrne recalls “I said: ‘Oh, that’s right, the city owns the sidewalks. They don’t have to get permission to move a stop sign.’
Regarding the wider transport policy perspective, according to the New York Times journalist Ariel Kaminer (8 August 2008)
“Since his congestion pricing plan was killed, Mayor Michael Bloomberg seems to have transferred his bets to cycling as the next best way to reduce automobile traffic. Green bike lanes are appearing all around the city. Serious people are discussing a bike-sharing program. And the Department of Transportation is making way for thousands of new bike racks around the city.”
Regarding David Byrne’s contribution, Ms. Janette Sadik-Khan of the New York City Department of Transportation commented “The idea that it’s cool to bike really helps…..the New York City Department of Transportation is not necessarily known for its cool reputation.”