Saturday, August 09, 2008

Byrne Racks

David Byrne has designed new bike racks for New York City, nine of which are being put up all over town:

In recent years [Byrne's] interest in bicycles has expanded from riding them to thinking seriously about the role they play in urban life, as he has started making connections with politicians and international design consultants keen to keep cars from taking over the city. So when the Department of Transportation asked him to help judge a design competition for the city’s new bike racks, he eagerly agreed — so eagerly, in fact, that he sent in his own designs as well.

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,

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.”

He’s not just being modest: for his previous installation, “Playing the Building,” still on display at the Battery Maritime Building in Lower Manhattan, he said he had to battle red tape for two years before even getting permission to look inside. This time around the agency agreed pretty much on the spot to his designs and all the proposed locations. That’s when it dawned on him: “I said: ‘Oh, that’s right, the city owns the sidewalks. They don’t have to get permission to move a stop sign.’ “
In one of those New York mysteries I will never understand, the racks will only be up for 364 days. I guess so that you run out right away to see all nine.

The best part of this article is that nowhere in it is Byrne identified as anything other than "an installation artist, author, blogger, recording executive, photographer, film director and PowerPoint enthusiast." No "Best known for his groundbreaking tenure fronting the new wave group Talking Heads, David Byrne's solo work, while not as successful, is no less adventurous, encroaching upon such diverse media as world music, filmmaking, and performance art." Just "He’s even been known to dabble in music."

Gosh, I love bicyclists.

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