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A monumental day for Zoobomb, and for Portland

Posted by on June 1st, 2009 at 9:56 am

Portlanders point with pride at the new Zoobomb Pyle, the City’s latest public art monument.
(Photo: Brian Borrello)


Friday was a day that will live forever in Portland’s bike-cultural history.

Zoobomb Pyle Unveiling-36
Portland Mayor Sam Adams
(in middle in white shirt) poses
with the crowd at the Zoobomb
Pyle public art unveiling event
on Friday.
(Photo: Dan Liu)

What started seven years ago as a fringe activity by a few fun-seeking mini-bike lovers, has blossomed into a civic and cultural institution with deep connections to our City; Zoobomb is now a tradition has been duly recognized by a public art monument on one of Portland’s most highly-trafficked streets.

A pile of mini-bikes that is used as a loaner library for folks who want to partake in the weekly ride used to inhabit a standard, u-shaped staple rack. On Friday, Mayor Sam Adams and a host of community leaders helped commemorate a new, functional work of public art that will serve not just as a place to store Zoobomb bikes and equipment, but as a visual testimony to what makes Portland, Portland.

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“Portland’s bike culture is not only fun, it’s absolutely necessary for the future success of this city…”
– Mayor Sam Adams

The event began with a meet-up at the old “Holy Rack” at SW 10th and Oak. Zoobombers old and new rolled up in every manner of costume (most of them animal-themed for reasons I still can’t figure out), joined by their more staid-looking, two-wheeled bretheren. As I worked my way around the crowd, I bumped into veteran Zoobomber, Solid Gold (a.k.a. Corey Sevigny).

Solid Gold told me he could remember riding down the hill from the Zoo and getting arrested and hassled by cops at every turn. Those legal run-ins will likely never completely subside (and they’re nowhere near as bad as this KGW story would lead you to believe), and Zoobombers still get tickets now and then, but thanks to what Solid Gold called, “active diplomacy” over the years, Zoobomb has struck a workable truce with TriMet, the Police Bureau, and the City of Portland.

Zoobomb Pyle Unveiling-27
The parade featured an eclectic mix of bikes.
(Photo: Dan Liu)

Whether it’s working with TriMet to extend their Washington Park MAX stop hours, or sitting down with the Police to share concerns and work through issues, Zoobomb has worked hard to become a recognized and respected Portland tradition.

Friday’s event was a chance to celebrate that recognition.

At the start of the parade from the old rack to the new one, one person said, “It’s like a wedding.” A man who looked more bike commuter, than mini-bike bomber, rolled over to the event after seeing it promoted by the Bicycle Transportation Alliance. He wanted to see something outside his normal commute. When asked what he thought of the scene, he said cautiously, “Ummm. It’s a blast!”

Zoobomb Pyle Unveiling-13
Artist Vanessa Renwick helped envision
and create the work along with
Brian Borrello.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Co-creator of the rack monument, local artist Vanessa Renwick beamed. She said her favorite part of the rack was “The cherry on top!,” a reference to the gold-plated mini-bike adorning a spiraling pillar that rises triumphantly two stories above the sidewalk.

After a parade that featured minis, talls, choppers, commuters, and even a homemade bakfiets, the crowd gathered at the foot of the new Pyle at 13th and W. Burnside. Shannon “Shantastic” Palermo, a longtime Zoobomber, Sprockette, and one of the people who worked long hours over the past several years to make this project a reality — grabbed the megaphone.

Shantastic welcomed Kristin Calhoun, the public art manager for the Regional Arts and Culture Council (the RACC commissioned the $10,000 project) . With an enthusiastic, “Welcome Zoobomb!”, Calhoun introduced everyone to the “People’s Bike Library of Portland” and then passed the megaphone to the librarian of the past five years, “Handsome Dave.”

Zoobomb Pyle Unveiling-30
Mayor Adams.
(Photo: Dan Liu)

Dave, who is one of Zoobomb’s most active and effective diplomats, thanked the many people who help make Zoobomb and this new monument possible. Then, he introduced Mayor Sam Adams as “A friend of mine, possibly one of the best Mayors Portland has ever or will ever see.” (Only a few people booed.)

Adams cut the ribbon After a countdown (just like they do each Sunday before careening down the hill), and spoke into a megaphone sporting a sticker that read, “Drink beer, ride bikes, go fuck yourself.”

Adams recalled when Dave first approached him with the idea of a permanent rack. “It was three or four years ago that Mr. Handsome said, ‘you know what, we need a place to catalog and store our bikes’… He said we want to do a sculpture… and he said, ‘Oh and we want you to pay for it!’”

Zoobomb Pyle Unveiling-20 Zoobomb Pyle Unveiling-9 Zoobomb Pyle Unveiling-6 Zoobomb Pyle Unveiling-5
A few faces from the crowd.
(Photos © J. Maus)

Adams, a stalwart supporter of the arts, told the crowd, “Useful public art is what we need more of here in Portland.” Here’s the rest of his speech:

“Portland’s bike culture is not only fun, it’s absolutely necessary for the future success of this city, to reduce our footprint on the environment, to make ourselves a lot more healthy… and it’s great, quirky stuff like this that makes Portland, Portland, and I was really proud be a little part of it.”

Adams helped make this project happen through a new program he created called “Art on the Streets.” The program is a collaboration between the RACC and the Bureau of Transportation to put art work in the public sphere. The RACC did not make a $10,000 grant for this project, it was funded through the City of Portland and RACC with tasked with coordinating it. The same program will help pay for upcoming artistic components of the Clinton Street Bicycle Boulevard demonstration project.

After Adams stepped off the monument, people lined up to create the first pile of mini-bikes on its specially-made base (metal loops act as hooks for the bikes). Eliza Strack currently lives in Austin and the Bay Area, but she is also one of the first women of Zoobomb and a founding member of The Sprockettes.

Here’s how Eliza wrote about the experience:

“I pushed through the crowd and handed it forth, bowing in honor of the golden b(eye)cycle winking in the sun. As I retreated to the crowd, my whole body was shaking. My hands were in disbelief. I paced in a circle and half-sigh/half-laughed and this darn smile was holding me so tight, I felt like the kiln was burning it into my clay, smile-shaped cheeks forever.”

Zoobomb Pyle Unveiling-34
I now pronounce you,
City and Zoobomb.
(Photo: Dan Liu)

As the bikes piled up, a long chain was wrapped through each one, and Mayor Adams returned to click the padlock into place. Zoobombers then jumped up and crawled all over the pile, about 18 bikes strong, then posed for a group picture with the Mayor.

Someone shook the stack — the thing has some flex. The gold plated minibike swayed in the wind.

Then there was a short sing-along by a small, ad hoc chorus. The song, whose lyrics were printed in a program flyer at the event, was called 16″ Rims. It’s based on Janis Joplin’s famous “Mercedes Benz” tune:

“Oh Lord, won’t you buy me
Some 16 inch rims
My friends all have tall bikes
I must make amends
Ride hard all my lifetime
No luck at the bins
So Oh Lord! Won’t you buy me
Some sixteen inch rims.

Oh Lord! Won’t you help me
Kill my TV
That sweet blackedned pavement
Is calling out to me.
Threw a Molotov cocktail
I killed that SUV
So Oh Lord! Won’t you help me
Kill my TV

Oh Lord! No need to buy me
A night on the town
I’m riding my bike Lord
So it’s free to get around
Got some wine and some pizza
From a dumpster that I found
So there’s no need to buy me
A night on the town!”

The crowd sang along with gusto. Dancing in the streets followed by The Sprockettes and then by everyone else.

It’s important to remember that this is not just for Zoobomb. It’s for all of us. It’s from a City that encourages and recognizes the power of creative expression and activism embodied not just in a physical monument, but in the spirit of every Portlander.

– See more of the action and faces from the crowd in our Photo Gallery.

[Reporting for this story was significantly aided by Managing Editor Elly Blue.]

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Comments
  • amos June 1, 2009 at 10:16 am

    It was amazing.

    What a beautiful town we live in.

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  • John Lascurettes June 1, 2009 at 10:34 am

    Awesome. I have not gotten a chance to get up and see it. Will definitely try to ride by it on my commute home.

    That people doing the story over at KGW (particularly the video piece now up there) does their best to make this seem like it was paid for directly out of the general tax fund instead of being paid for downstream of that by an art grant.

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  • John Lascurettes June 1, 2009 at 10:34 am

    Awesome. I have not gotten a chance to get up and see it. Will definitely try to ride by it on my commute home.

    That people doing the story over at KGW (particularly the video piece now up there) does their best to make this seem like it was paid for directly out of the general tax fund instead of being paid for downstream of that by an art grant.

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  • Marion Rice June 1, 2009 at 10:38 am

    Jonathan.. that was a beautifully written story. Thanks for capturing the moment. I wasn’t there but could absolutely feel the energy of it all through that piece. I really appreciate that.

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  • Vance Longwell June 1, 2009 at 11:06 am

    People have been bombing that hill since I was in grade-school. The ZooBombers were just inconsiderate enough, self-absorbed enough to first, ruin it for every one else, and then lay claim to the activity. Not only that, we used to have to ride up there.

    Friday afternoon as reporters watched the intersection of Kingston and Fairview, two young men bombed down the hill and through the stop sign. One was standing on his bike frame with his arms out wide.

    I’ve been subject to harassment, insults, and stripped of the ability to use my own judgment where my personal safety is concerned. Yet, posting a story about the Bombers is likely going to generate a ton of hits. Lotsa looks at the ad banners here, huh? By posting this, you are advocating unsafe bicycle riding. That makes Jonathan Maus about the biggest hypocrite in the city of Portland.

    BTW, nice picture of brake-less bicycles on the front page of your blog, that’s all about safety and stuff.

    Enjoy it newbs. The precious BTA went 0 for 3, and you people got bupkus out of
    Salem all year. This should serve to further erode whatever support you seem to feel you have.

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  • E June 1, 2009 at 11:08 am

    Great story, thanks Jonathan.

    I was one of the straight-up commuter types in the crowd. The whole event was awe-inspiring. The sculpture itself is a thing of beauty, with AND without its accompanying mini-bikes. The joyful energy of the community was contagious. I couldn’t help grinning as I followed the parade around the block. Everyone, it seemed, was in on the fun – even the tie-wearing Pearl District denizens who had not a clue what was happening. I witnessed our Mayor shaking hands with a guy in furry animal costume. I am sincerely glad of the opportunity to be a part of it.

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  • amos June 1, 2009 at 11:18 am

    Somebody needs a hug.

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  • Matt Picio June 1, 2009 at 11:39 am

    This is great – part of what makes Portland the city that it is!

    Zoobomb!

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  • jadams June 1, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    Gee, Vance, tell us what you REALLY think.

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  • BURR June 1, 2009 at 12:25 pm

    Vance actually sounds jealous

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  • steve June 1, 2009 at 12:40 pm

    Picking on Vance makes you look dumber than you are trying to make him appear.

    I think the statue looks swell. Wish someone would strap Adams to a brakeless mini and push him down the hill though..

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  • steve June 1, 2009 at 12:43 pm

    That sounded more violent than I intended. Make sure Sam has his knee pads and helmet on first, please!

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  • brewcaster June 1, 2009 at 12:59 pm
  • peejay June 1, 2009 at 1:24 pm

    Funny little story from that day:

    I was able to catch Sam Adams as he and his entourage walked past Jake’s on the way to the pile. I said “Hey Mr Adams, you want a sticker?” He looked at the “No 12 lane CRC” sticker on my bike and read it aloud and said “no, I can’t have that.” I said “I wish you could” and smiled.

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  • Joel June 1, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    Vance, you can’t actually see the front brakes on said bikes, so………lets not jump to conclusions.

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  • Quentin June 1, 2009 at 1:46 pm

    Not to be a jerk or anything, but speeding down a huge hill on a rickety old child’s bike that may or may not even have functioning brakes seems pretty #*@%ing stupid and reckless, and not the sort of activity that deserves admiration or a monument. I think Vance has a good point, making a big celebration out of a reckless, juvenile activity makes the Portland cycling community seem… well, reckless and juvenile, and therefore less deserving of serious consideration from our lawmakers.

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  • Vance Longwell June 1, 2009 at 1:47 pm

    Na. I made my appropriate comment when this exact same story was posted on this exact same site a few days ago. I congratulated, and complimented them both. So there. Nanner. Go look.

    That can’t be the end of it though, can it? Nope, gotta spend the weekend looking at how much media attention the piece was getting, not to mention Rose Festival exposure, and this post fairly smacks of a decision to re-run a new piece and cash in. No judgments either, that’d be smart. Here’s the new post though, along with my equally elevated-to-annoy comment.

    I just got in trouble so let me take some of the edge off of that. Look what you ninnies have done. You even have steve censoring himself. Speaking of which, thanks for throwing me under the bus man. I usually have your back. Nice one. Ouch.

    I was simply trying to point out, in an overly crappy way, that this is not a very safe cycling endeavor. BikePortland frequently supports safety measures for bikes in traffic that are both an annoyance, and sometimes even unsafe, to me. I thought I was pointing out some hypocrisy.

    My motivation? Right ’cause I’d have to tell you for you to really know. See, I think J is growing and changing. I see some of our viewpoints come in line with each passing day. He’s becoming more, and more sensitive with his language. So what I’m really doing is, in a very obtuse manner I guess, trying to maybe get J himself to do the inventory.

    As a skier I got ran off the slopes of Hood by snowboarders. I used to DOWNHILL before MTBs were even invented, let alone the downhill niche, and we did it down those hills. Turned 20 BMX frames upside-down, full racing leathers, and motorcycle helmets. Only thing was, the bombers came up and became a heat score. Where we were perfectly stealth, and nefarious, they were rowdy drunks and mad that what they were doing was illegal. Their fun wrecked my fun.

    Jealousy? Na. Just it’s close cousin: Resentment.

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  • Vance Longwell June 1, 2009 at 1:54 pm

    Joel #15 – Right you are. My bad for presuming. I later noticed there is only one brake set up actually showing. So, that completely invalidates my point? Argh. You folks are a tough crowd.

    I ride fixed sometimes, I ain’t saying nothin’. Again, it seems a little hypocritical to harsh on me for damning superfluous bike infrastructure, and safety features only to turn around and glorify this bunch.

    Worst part is. For all I know J feels coverage of this is obligatory, and may not even be that into it. IDK.

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  • Joe Metal Cowboy Kurmaskie June 1, 2009 at 2:07 pm

    One of the things I love about Portland is we’re not a one trick pony town, Love it or hate it, this community is an original. Whether its the strange, fossilized white suited rosarians waving gloved hands in my direction, the over the top names for businesses (Cheesus Crust Pizza anyone?) or the entire freakin community of St. John’s… Portland is one of a kind. I happen to love the Zoobomb sculpture and the zoobombers for doing their thing. I think Portland has a big enough heart for lots of these originals wheather I love em or cringe… even the one of a kind comments of Vance ;-) Though I’m not a Medical professional, meds taken in a certain order can produce unusual side effects… Vance. I’m just saying.

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  • peejay June 1, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    Jonathan:

    Thanks for the article, which is a love letter to Portland, and thanks for ignoring the buzzkills, who might consider going back to their fantastic, amazing, super-high-traffic blogs and ranting to their hearts’ content and to the betterment of their five readers. No names, of course.

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  • Vance Longwell June 1, 2009 at 2:47 pm

    peejay – #19 Really? My blog again? That’s it, that’s all you got? You can’t lay buzzkill on me. I already made appropriate comments, against my most ardent wish BTW. It’s the rehashing I’m squawking about. One post okay, have your fun, but run it into the ground and I’ll be here to point out the fun others were having that got ruined by this.

    Well it’s been fun enduring your insults, and having you ridicule MY blog.

    Where’s yours?

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  • Matt Picio June 1, 2009 at 3:45 pm

    Quentin (#16) – I’m presuming you haven’t zoobombed before. It’s pretty rare for a zoobomb mini to not have good brakes, and some of these guys REALLY trick out their rides. Zoobombers are self-policing, they leave nothing on the hill (no trash, nada), and by and large they wear helmets, and in the case of gravity bombers, pads or full leathers.

    They’re remarkably safety conscious – it’s the one-time dabblers that tend to ride no-helmet, bad brakes, etc.

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  • Matt Picio June 1, 2009 at 3:46 pm

    Which doesn’t make it *safe*, of course.

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  • Kt June 1, 2009 at 5:13 pm

    Very few things are “safe” these days. We can’t all go around wrapped in bubble wrap (because that’s like putting a plastic bag over your head), we can only mitigate the danger.

    Anyway– very cool pics, JMaus!! The statue and pile o’bikes looks very “Portland”. :)

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  • steve June 1, 2009 at 5:42 pm

    Vance,

    I was actually trying to support you, not ‘throw you under the bus’.

    I was simply pointing out that mocking you makes the the people mocking you look like ignorant little ninnies. Instead of making you look ridiculous, which I assume is their intention.

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  • Hart June 1, 2009 at 5:49 pm

    Well it’s been fun enduring your insults, and having you ridicule MY blog. Where’s yours?

    Good Lord, are you five years old? If you can’t be the center of attention you have to rain negativity down on everyone else while they celebrate something amazing? I have a hard time believing you even ride, because nobody I know who spends ample time on a bicycle in our fair city is as angry at the world as you, sir.

    Kudos to all who attended, kudos to the Mayor for recognizing what makes this city so amazing (god, could you imagine Sho doing something like this?), and kudos to Jonathan for reporting such a passionate event in such eloquent terms.

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  • Will Radik June 1, 2009 at 6:27 pm

    That thing looks so bad ass! Fantastic work!

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  • Joe June 1, 2009 at 7:41 pm

    /me shakes head at the troll feeders.

    there’s a noob born every minute.

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  • Bret June 1, 2009 at 9:15 pm

    How is Zoobomb good for the portland bike culture? Does it promote safe riding? I understand the “keep portland weird” thing but I ride a bike alot and can’t really see the point of grown ups in neat outfits riding like a bunch of jackasses. Just because you think your cool doesn’t make it so.

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  • Ashley June 1, 2009 at 10:48 pm

    <3

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  • joe June 1, 2009 at 11:37 pm

    what a beautiful new rack!

    when I first moved to portland, I met a zoobomber randomly and spent some great time on the hill. could not have asked for a more welcoming or interesting group of fun loving people.

    congratulations to all that made this happen.

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  • Vance Longwell June 2, 2009 at 8:52 am

    Hey thanks steve #25 I really do appreciate that. You’ve touched squarely upon my most ardent desire as well.

    Hart #26 –

    Good Lord, are you five years old? If you can’t be the center of attention you have to rain negativity down on everyone else while they celebrate something amazing?

    Uh – http://bikeportland.org/2009/05/28/first-look-at-the-new-zoobomb-pyle/#comments

    Ya scroll down and look at comment #39, Hart. I resent the center-of-attention remark. I’ve avoided dragging, “projection”, into the argument. Well, there you go. Check yourself. I’m in dissent. There’s a fairly uniform sentiment among most of these comments usually. I frequently voice my opposition. What? You wanna lay negative at my feet, fine. Much more to do with my education level, and inability to articulate my thoughts, than some secret, sinister agenda. Read that: I may simply be incapable of voicing my dissent in such a way as to please everybody who reads BikePortland.

    Look I don’t want to compare my perceived plight to that of Native Americans. But to me, a WASP, Columbus Day is as about as innocuous a holiday as they come. Turns out that’s insensitive to Native Americans. Is pointing that out negative? I really don’t think so. It would suck, maybe, if you were into Columbus day, but dissent is usually negative of some sort.

    I made my initial comment in hopes that that was it, and commented appropriately. BikePortland now is covering the story more in-depth. Seems to me a perfect time to comment more in-depth as well.

    This site’s very existence is a stick in the eye to some. Not me, I’m here. Complaining sure, but I’m here. It’s important to me that you understand I’m not angry with world, Hart, just people attempting to redefine Portland bike culture for everybody who rides a bike. As you’ve just pointed out, people ride for lot’s of different reasons; and still more for no reason whatsoever.

    Besides, Hart, when you single me out, and say nothing to folks like, “Dissent”, on that page with the link, you make it deeply personal. Many of my worst critics are people who actually know me, and think they are better than me. Do I know you?

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  • Hart June 2, 2009 at 10:04 am

    I ride a bike alot and can’t really see the point of grown ups in neat outfits riding like a bunch of jackasses.

    And you never will.

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  • peejay June 2, 2009 at 10:10 am

    I declare this thread dead. Spoiled by people who don’t know how to play with others.

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  • revphil June 2, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    hella article.

    I was sad to miss the unveiling. Our 1337 team was in BC showing the bikep0rn. The critical mass up there is amazing! I told lots of Canadians about the new pyle. They were very encouraged that the city was willing to spend some money (the least ever spent by racc?) to make more functional art.

    Gilding!

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  • n8m June 2, 2009 at 4:54 pm

    frikin RAD! thanks for ruining lots of kid’s boring regimented lives zoobomb.

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  • Hart June 2, 2009 at 5:16 pm

    Spoiled by people who don’t know how to play with others.

    The only thing spoiled is them. Nobody can crush our fun, especially not a bunch of “I invented that first” whiners.

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  • Carl June 2, 2009 at 6:10 pm

    Oh peejay…don’t get so sad when people disagree in verbose ways!

    I’m excited about our new pile. After spending years in meetings about it, I’m glad to see it finally DONE. You wouldn’t believe how many questions and smiles it gets from passers-by. It truly is a dramatic and (zoo)bombastic intro to a wacky and fun aspect Portland bike culture. I’m especially pleased that we finally have a place to stash our lights, tools, medic kits, and helmets (thanks Nutcase!).

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  • spandex June 5, 2009 at 10:42 pm

    zoobomb=trust fund jocks!!!

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  • SkidMark June 6, 2009 at 9:01 pm

    Like they say further north:

    Ride fast

    Take chances

    SAFETY THIRD!

    The people going really fast on that hill are riding custom 16″ bike with aluminum rims and high pressure tires intended for recumbents and brakes pillaged off of high-end BMX and mountain bikes. Any 16″ topping 40 mph is safer than you commuter bike would be going that fast.

    Trust fund jocks? Obvious troll is obvious.

    This thing took like two years of endless meetings with RACC and the city. You have no idea how many bureaucratic hoops were jumped through to get this art funding, and to get it designed with the safety and building code guidelines. I’m glad the people involved saw it through.

    All these reporters would need to do to tell the truth is interview someone from RACC. But that would be fair and objective reporting. Better to rely on rumor and conjecture. Better to look down your nose in self-righteous judgement at people you think you are better than.

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  • travis June 7, 2009 at 9:11 am

    thats pretty awesome!

    i’m not sure what to make of all these pointless hater comments…

    yeah, maybe bombing down a hill on a mini isn’t as safe as sitting at home writting buzzkill remarks on blogs, but i almost get run over every time my commute takes me through the pearl or northwest portland so nothing is really safe…

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  • In The News | Where in Portland? June 11, 2009 at 11:16 am

    [...] You can read all about it on Bike Portland [...]

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  • [...] ever-mutating, always-enchanting ZooBomb Pyle public art monument in downtown [...]

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