Zoobomb “Pyle” will become official public art

[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.]

Zoobomb pile
The iconic Zoobomb Pyle
will get a new home.
(File photo © Jonathan Maus)

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.”

(File photo © Jonathan Maus)

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.

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