[Editor’s note: This is the first article by new contributor Carl Larson. I hope to bring you more of his writing in the future.]
The “Zoobomb Pyle,” that colorful jumble of janky kids bikes chained to the bike rack across from Rocco’s Pizza at SW 10th and Oak, has
finally been recognized as “art.”
Thanks to pressure from Commissioner Sam Adams‘ office, the Regional Arts and Culture Council (RACC) has given the project a budget of $10,000 (that’s less than 20% of the budget for “Pod,” the enormous metal shuttlecock-on-a-tripod that usually ends up in the background of tourists’ pictures of the beloved Pyle).
The RACC — in concert with PDOT and Zoobomb — plans to build a purpose-built structure at W Burnside and SW Stark to which the bicycles can be locked without the threat of citations or removal by the city.
Taking a big step in a process that started nearly a year ago, RACC issued a call to artists (PDF here) on Monday as part of an effort to legitimize and legalize the local icon.
The Pyle is also known as “The People’s Bicycle Library of Greater Portland” because the bikes are available for use every Sunday night for Zoobomb, the 5 year-old institution centered around riding MAX up to the Zoo and bombing down the sleepy streets of the West Hills on kids bikes, or “minis.”
Some wonder why this project needs a budget at all, many Zoobombers included. Even RACC public art manager, Kristin Calhoun, agrees that the Pyle is a delightful ever-changing sculpture as it stands.
Unfortunately, the Pyle is locked to a public bike rack and the short list of things allowed to be placed in the public right-of-way — like permitted sandwich boards or city-installed benches — does not include piles of children’s bicycles. So, the Pyle needs to be designated a public art, and public art is managed by RACC, and public art must be commissioned.
Zoobomb has every intention of making the most of this opportunity. Pyle librarians, Zoobomers who maintain the Pyle bikes, have asked that the new structure include a lockable compartment for storage of loaner helmets (which currently sit under the Pyle, out in the weather), lights, a first-aid kit, and some basic tools.
The new site for the rack (in front of American Apparel at SW 10th and Oak) has higher-visibilty than the current location. This will hopefully provide more security for the bikes, which are often tampered with, stolen, and vandalized.
What the new Pyle ends up looking like is up to the artist chosen by the RACC’s selection panel. I am serving on that panel alongside two other Zoobombers (Cupcake and Shantastic), Linda Ginenthal from PDOT, and a few local artists and representatives of neighboring businesses. Some Zoobombers plan to submit their credentials and I encourage you to as well.
Recognizing that, for some of our applicants, this might be their first time dealing with a formal application process, we have scheduled an informational pre-application workshop on Tuesday, October 9th. This is an opportunity to find out what RACC expects, hone your application, and get questions answered.
It will be interesting to see how the selected artist works with Zoobomb, a large, diverse and vehemently anti-hierarchical group. Likewise, it will be interesting to see how their design works with the Pyle, a group of bicycles almost as messy and colorful as the folks who ride them.
I guess it\’s better than half a sheep in a vat of urine.
Really, $10k for this? How many usable bike racks would $10k pay for?
Ten grand to maintain a pile of bikes? Of all the possible solutions to this problem…
I got to get some more bikes so I can lock them together in public and get paid!!
Oh-oh-oh! This is SO quintessentially Portland! Yep, 10 grand is a chunk o\’cash, but you can\’t deny that there\’s a a particular ridiculous genius to it. Viva the Pyle!
(a.O, you should totally apply for the grant.)
\”(RACC) has given the project a budget of $10,000.\” Carl larson
Incredible. $10,000 to shelter/secure junk bikes. Will this $10,000 bike rack ever have any room available for commuting bicycles too? As if many people with a good commuting bike would want to lock their bikes up to that pile.
RAAC is a public agency, correct?
It might be possible to find artistic inspiration in the ever-changing pile of bikes across from Rocco\’s but to define the zbombers functional storage of their bikes as art, where doing so involves receiving a significant sum of public funds, just to divert the efforts of police to harass them is insulting.
Too bad Food Not Bombs, 3-4 blocks away in North Park Blocks can\’t figure out a way to make what they do look like \”art\”. I\’d sure rather see them be getting this $10,000 than I would the Zbombers for this nonsense.
Anybody care to venture a guess as to what what that \”Public Interactive Art Sculpture\” on the triangle island across from Rocco\’s cost? It is at least as ugly as the bike pyle. I bet it cost more than $10,000. Or is all public art a waste of money?
Also Zoobomb went thru ALL the proper channels for about 9 months just to get to the approval stage. If you want to get your own grant for a bike art/rack a suggest you draw up a proposal and wade thru all the red tape yourself.
I don\’t think public art is a waste of money. In fact, it\’s something I really like about PDX despite the fact that I don\’t personally care for some of it (ballsack not included).
However, if anyone locking a pile of bikes to a rack on a public street is \”art,\” then … sign me up for some cash!!
But seriously, this issue could have been — and in my opinion SHOULD have been — solved with far less public money. I think in this particular instance, this is a waste of tax money. I know this is going to become a rallying point for local anti-tax douches.
If a sculpture already existed, would you be wise to pay $10k to \”commission\” it? Why not just pass a resolution exempting the pile from the regulation in that particular location? Or just direct the over-zealous PPB to focus its efforts elsewhere? Those options are FREE.
Of course the one thing I leave out of Carl\’s piece turns out to be most important.
Here is a sentence I initially left out (but have just added):
By the way, I understand those options I suggested were not options for the ZBers themselves.
I guess now you and the cops have something in common — both on the public payroll. See you in the gravy train line!!
This is what I Love and Hate about Portland.
The fact Portlanders do things differently is great, but I have to question spending that kind of $ when there are so many other more pressing issues.
I guess the good part is that in reality, very little will go into the actual installation and the rest will go to the pork of permits, planners, architects, artists, etc.
Yeah the main stream.
\”I have to question spending that kind of $ when there are so many other more pressing issues.\”
The RACC is not in the business of addressing \”other more pressing issues\”. they commission and pay for public art. that\’s it.
Given the iconic nature of the Zoobomb pile and the tradition and legacy of Zoobombers in general (whether you like them or not is irrelevant), combined with the fact that this project is cheap compared to other public art projects, I don\’t see the downside at all.
I am glad to live in a city that 1) values public art and 2) respects bike culture enough to officially recognize it.
\”Expose yourself to mini bikes.\”
This is really fantastic, and I can\’t wait to see some of the designs.
Nice article, Carl.
While we\’re at it; I have a recycling bin at home that\’s equivalent art. Can I get some cash for this too?
I must say if this is the kind of \”pressuring\” Sam Adams\’ office is spending time doing, I am going to have to rethink endorsing him come election time. $10,000.00 for a bike rack designed for a collection of crap..er mini-bikes to be locked up to? Good luck defending this one.
Sam Adams had nothing to do with this other that suggesting that we do it. He didn\’t \”pressure\” anyone in the City to approve or for that matter even look at it. From the beginning, it has been an effort that members of Zoobomb have been putting forth.
Art is relative. There will always be people who love a specific piece and people who hate it.
It seems the bigger issue is that this public money will be looked at by many as a stamp of approval by the city of what the Zoobombers do. This will be shocking to many. I don\’t know enough about the Zoobombers to approve or disapprove, but I thought most outsiders think the Zoobombers engage in an dangerous, illegal and annoying activity.
Again, I don\’t know if that is the case, but regardless if the local media jumps on this \”funding\” and implied stamp of approval, the public outcry will be there. $10k is not very much, but the people complaining will be doing so more on principle.
I think this is actually an extremely pioneering effort. RACC has apparently just agreed to fund public, interactive art. From here on, art has just acquired a whole new meaning in Portland. No longer is it just something static to look at. Now, it\’s something that you can actually use! For, of course, non-productive purposes.
This is great news, and another feather in Portland\’s cap.
Naysayers be damned.
Personally, I\’m not sure the stainless steel dinglebob with whiskers sculpture across the street from Powell\’s was such a worthy expenditure of public money either, especially $200,000 of it. (I actually talked to that artist for a few minutes at the time of its debut. He\’s a fairly nice guy).
The difference between that work and the pile of junk bikes across from Rocco\’s, is that the StStl Dinglebob is art by virtue of its having been conceived as art for the purpose of artistic expression and inspiration. The zbomb pile is art only on the slimmest of valid definition, and defined so purely as a strategy to avoid regulations.
I think that big traffic island up by American Apparel really needs some kind of feature. The zbomb pile might be attractive there too, but is siting it there a responsible and fair use of public space? Has sufficient, careful consideration been given to the determination of whether giving that space over to this very small special interest group is the use that would serve the greatest number of people that could benefit from it?
Plenty of ZooBombers also think this is an enormous waste of resources and wish the city would just tell their own employees (PPB and PDOT) to stop confiscating and or ticketing the bikes at their current location and just provide a plaque explaining what the bikes represent, in order to make the current location \’official\’. The lady from the RAAC also as much as said that the bikes themselves are a sculpture as-is. It was Commissioner Adams idea to fund a public sculpture/rack for the ZooBomb bikes. OTOH, plenty of people complained about the cost of the Eastside Esplanade and plenty of money flows to less functional public art. And, IMO, public art is a good thing.
The cheapest option is just to permit the bikes to stay where they are. Cost 0$. They still provide their contribution to urban art and provide funtion to the bombers. Just have the city provide a variance for the use.
I can\’t rationalize the argument of spending $10k to so that it can rightfully be on the street. Silly argument
From the original article on oregonlive dot com:
\’Junky\’ bike pile spurs iconic idea
Sam Adams offers artistic fix for Zoobomber brouhaha
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
But for many bicyclists, the unwieldy stack of pedals and handlebars — dismantled every Sunday night for the daredevil ride down the hill from the Oregon Zoo — is a revered icon of the city\’s bike culture.
Trying to keep businesses and bicyclists happy, Commissioner Sam Adams thinks he has the perfect Portland solution: public art.
Sometime in the next month, Adams plans to propose a Zoobomb sculpture, located near the current pile, that could also be used as the bombers\’ bike rack. And maybe, if done right, the art-slash-parking spot might get more people on two wheels, he said.
\”People in their cars will see that stack of bikes and get a reminder that they\’ve got transportation options,\” said Adams, who is both the city\’s arts and transportation commissioner. \”Well, maybe not the minibike, but a bike.\”
If you really want someone to blame, the owner of the Aura Restaurant and Lounge was the person who complained to Sam\’s office.
And besides, the new Zoobomb ArtPile will only cost a bit over 1/2 of the amount of properly equipping one soldier for combat in Iraq, once, according to this article:
So, I say, bring one soldier home, and put up two of \’em! 😉
I\’m biting my tongue as I think back to an impromptu lecture that Mayor Vera Katz gave to me and 200 other angry high school students who invaded city hall about \”different colors of money\” during the PPS school funding crunch five years ago, but here it goes.
The question of whether or not this money would be better spent on regular bicycle parking facilities is irrelevant, because the funds are designated to be used for public art. This money *cannot* be used to build bicycle infrastructure; it can only be used for art.
Now, bicyclists of Portland, would you rather have vanilla public art, or public art dedicated to our unique bicycle culture? The answer is obviously the latter.
Agreed, Elliot. I\’d definitely rather have public art dedicated to our unique bicycle culture than something generic.
Let me pose a further question: If you already had something that cost a lot of money, would you pay to buy it? Or would you rather use your money to get something valuable that you didn\’t already have?
Regardless, this is one of the funniest things that has ever happened in PDX, IMHO.
Elliot\’s point is right on.
\”Regardless, this is one of the funniest things that has ever happened in PDX, IMHO.\”
Most Zoobombers would agree with you there, a.O.
We didn\’t ask for $10K, but if the city wants to give it to us…we\’re going to make the most of it (and I don\’t mean a new pair of 16\” Hookworms for everyone). Being able to securely house tools, lights, and helmets at the Pyle is something of which we\’d only dreamed. It\’s sure to make Zoobombing even safer for helmetless newbies who hope to ride pyle bikes.
As for the \”is it art?/my kid could do that\” crowd: A colorful pile of crappy little kids bikes on a beautiful plinth, to my jaded art-history addled brain, is GREAT art. Don\’t start with me.
Also, forget about the Zoobomb angle. RACC is building a monument to bicycles (most folks don\’t know or care what Zoobomb is). The fact that it\’s functional just makes it that much better.
I\’m sure some of you might envision something else when you picture your ideal bike-themed public art, and that\’s fine. I think you may have a shot at making it a reality if Sam is elected.
It\’s depressing how snippy people are about this. Hardly a dime spent on anything couldn\’t be better spent in someone\’s opinion. I think it\’s fantastic and I\’d rather the Zoobombers get the 10k than a lot of other plop artists. I congratulate them and look forward to their shiny new art pyle.
If it is the case that Sam did not exert any political influence to fund this \”art project\” then I gladly back off my post…however it appears that, based on Jonathan\’s article and numerous posts thereafter, that you would be the one mistaken. Props to the ZooBombers for taking advantage and shame on the RACC for funding another pointless (probable)eyesore.
Steve, you saw the excerpt from the oregonlive article that I posted, right?
I went to the original meetings with Linda Ginenthal. Sam Adams was not there. I am pretty sure this whole concept stemmed from a conversation between \”Handsome\” Dave and Sam Adams at the Made In Portland Bicycle Show and Art Exibition at City Hall. The idea that Sam Adams was pulling strings for this is laughable. You have no idea how many meetings were held to get this far.
I would like to thank the Zoobombers who stuck it out, and got it this far.
Sorry but this is pure bullshit. This is in no way art.
I dig what Carl (#27) says. Even as I take exception to the notion that the pile is art, I recognize that there is an artistic sensibility amongst the zbombers, and believe as Carl says, that they will make the most of the money, and come up with something that\’s practical but also, borne of artistic expression.
Still, I can\’t help but be annoyed with some of the contributing factors to this things genesis. Basically, I blame the cops. Any argument that money is being misapplied here, can be directly traced to those fools, or their bosses, whichever is the true culprit. I just wish this thing had come about differently.
Also, in some ways, I think the location next to Rocco\’s is better for R&R(rest and recuperation). But who knows? Maybe this will boost business for the The Roxy (as if it needs it), or bring about another pizza joint in that immediate area.
Some have made the argument that since the money is designated for public art, there fore it must be spent. If it must be spent, incorporate the art into everyday objects that are funtional and artistic. I do comend the Bombers for proposing 2 bike racks that everyone can use, although I would ask that they self regulate and minimize the amount of space dedicated to the mini bikes so that it can serve public funtion.
One last question, how many supporters of this would take a dollar out of their pocket to fund it? If the answer is no, then why is it ok to tax us to do it. This thing is just the tip of the ice berg. How many other manadatory spending initiatives are there.
I\’ll shut up now.
Speaking personally, I would have taken $5 out of my pocket to fund it, and I\’m never even participated in Zoobomb.
Carl\’s post (#27) argues the case very well. RACC money cannot be used for bike infrastructure – only art. There *are* a number of bike racks around the city that could be considered art, and sure, RACC money could be spent on something like that. But as you can see from the above posts, ANY use of RACC money involves 9 months of meetings and paperwork. Kudos to the Zoobombers for walking through the entire process.
I think this is great – there\’s a lot of public art in Portland that I look at and scratch my head and say \”we paid for this?!?\” – I may not understand it, but like Jonathan, I am proud to live somewhere that values, maintains and installs public art.
#33 Spencer, RACC commissions art for approximately 2 million people, so the real question would be how many people would take out a penny, cut that penny in half, and then use that half penny to build a bike rack because that is what it will cost each of us on average, 1 half of one penny.
Public art rules, someone should ask Mayor Clark to expose himself to the rack when it is completed.
Personally I think it should have wheels, and it should be bombed down the hill a few times before they weld it to the ground to become the new rack.
Any public art that reminds people stuck driving on Burnside that there is another way is IMHO a good thing. If they are able to keep tools/helmets/lights there securely it will be safer, and lead to fewer trips to the emergency room. I know from personal experience that repairing a broken body is much more expensive than preventing the damage. People will ride down the hill even if they have to ride up it first. $10k is a lot of money, but that money can only go to public art, and would you rather that it was bicycle art with a purpose, or some random sculpture? I think it\’s benifits will outweigh it\’s costs in a short amount of time.
As an active ZooBomber for more than five years, I am pretty neutral on this whole thing. Yes, I would have been happy with the Police and Parking just leaving our Pyle alone in a legal limbo for ever. However, any time they want, the police and parking can come by and take our bikes/art. As \”Art\” they can\’t do that.
and seriously, come on, would you rather have some ridiculous Giant Metal Nutsack or a functional artistic monument (not paid for by corporate \”donations\”) to The Greatness of Bike Culture in Portland? That $10k is going to be spent on public art. period.
i like the idea by Spencer #20 – apply a variance to the Pyle, and save the $10G for something else
this is in response to #24 who said \”Now, bicyclists of Portland, would you rather have vanilla public art, or public art dedicated to our unique bicycle culture? The answer is obviously the latter.\”
I personally would rather have art by Vanilla Cycles than a pile of ZB bikes. Those bikes really are art. But I agree, art is great, bike art is better and I\’ll get it how it comes.
I like the idea of public art being functional as well as having aesthetic value – neat idea. Can\’t wait to see what design gets chosen.
One thing though. How come an article about a single bikerack gets 38 responses, and an article on (the far more important) Sellwood Bridge (the most important bike-related project in Portland, according to the BTA\’s Blueprint for Better Biking!) only gets six?
OMG! Bjorn (#35), Best idea ever!
\”someone should ask Mayor Clark to expose himself to the rack\”
Everyone has pretty much said everything there is to be said otherwise. I\’m all for the RACC\’s Rack, I attended many meetings and we tried to do this every possible way w/o costing the city any money. believe me, DIY is zoobomb\’s ethic. Unfortunatly, even the concept of \”legitimizing\” the current rack was too rule-bending in the city\’s eyes. Nope, instead we need to \”define it as art\” (?), submit to the art regulating agency, go through a spider\’s web of red tape, and finally have the city pay someone we might not know very well to make the zoobomb rack. Really, when you say the $10,000 could be spent better I agree, but that\’s just not how it works.
That said, I am very excited about the new rack! Truely a step forward to make portland wierder.
As well as actually SAVING the city money if we can get the newbie morons to use lights and helmets and avoid expensive traffic stops by the PPD and emergency room visits.
Of course the greatest danger here is that between the friendly meetings with police and offical public art, the Zoobomb gang will lose their outlaw edge which brings some \”salt & pepper\” if not spice to city that needs all it can get.
Watch out you don\’t get hugged to death.
don\’t worry, noone in the general population is gonna start hugging zoobombers to death anytime soon.
Case in point:
I love how some people seem so angry about the money spent on this. Everyone is entitled to their opinion of what \”art\” is but saying ignorant things about how you have some art laying around at home makes you sound like a dilettante. I also agree with Jonathan, the RACC is there to administer an annual budget and that is it. It\’s not like they went down to a local homeless shelter and slashed the budget by 10 grand. If you want to pontificate about budget spending for every public institution it would take quite a bit of time. Public art is important, what you condider art is subjective as is what the RACC considers art. Finally, piles of tiny bikes are rad in my opinion.
I\’m missing a piece of info. Why are the bikes left there in the first place? I see a few people lamenting that the police can take them or ticket them. So why don\’t the owners just take them home?
If it is in fact because the zoobombers consider it to be a form of art, then it does seem that making an exception to the rule would have been the most practical solution, and also the one that respected the background the most.
The bikes are not owned by anyone. They are loaned out on Sunday night for Zoobomb (weekly downhill bike ride starting at the Zoo). People who want to Zoobomb meet @ Rocco\’s Pizza, they are loaned a bike if they need one, they take the MAX to Washington Park, where the Zoo is, and then \”bomb\’ the hill.
It was not originally intended to be art, but the random tourists and photographers that have captured it\’s image seem to think it is art, as does Sam Adams, and apparently the RACC.
One thing that has changed about the pile, is that the bikes were often customized, or at least painted all crazy, so it used to be a little more \”artistic\” than it is now. Maybe the bikes will get some artistic attention too.
SKIDmark, thanks for the info. I understand the issue better now.
SKIDmark, you have put me to sleep.
Six sentences. That\’s a mighty short attention span you got there, dr.monkey.