the idea last night.
(Photos © J. Maus)
As part of the public art planned along their Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail project, TriMet is considering something quite interesting for the new Willamette River Bridge — a “sonic bike path.”
TriMet architect Bob Hastings and Public Art Program Manager Mary Priester presented the idea to the City of Portland Bicycle Advisory Committee (PBAC) last night.
The “sonic bike path” concept is still in its early stages, but at this point, the idea is to create a series of grooves on a 150 foot section of the bikeway on each end of the bridge. The grooves would be placed in such a frequency and depth that a melody would be emitted as bicycle tires rolled over them. As for the song, the artists are considering Simon and Garfunkel’s “Feelin’ Groovy.”
If the idea sounds familiar, you might recall that Honda did something similar for a commercial back in 2008 (their road played “The Lone Ranger” tune).
Priester and Hastings were at the meeting to determine whether or not the concept had enough merit to warrant further exploration by the artists. If it does, they’ll ask the artists to create a working model to prove it could work. “We’re aware there are some hurdles in demonstrating that it could work… We’d have to figure out how to construct it so it doesn’t prevent a slipping hazard and so it isn’t too jarring,” said Priester.
Priester also added that they’re aware some people would want to opt-out of the bumps, hence the idea to only install it on a portion of the 7-foot wide bridge bikeway. The bumps are also being considered as a way to slow down bike traffic as it exits the bridge on a downhill slope (about a 4.5% grade by TriMet estimates). In addition to a safety application, Hastings (the architect who was behind the bike racks on the downtown transit mall) says the bumps could help with the mental transition from riding over the river to being dropped into a more crowded, urban environment.
“Our thought was, how to inform folks that you’re making that transition… To subtly inform them that they’re headed back into an urban zone,” is how Hastings put it.
Below is a slide titled, “Sonic Bike Path Score” that was shown at last night’s meeting. The lines are grooves of the path that, when rolled over, would play a melody:
The majority of Bike Advisory Committee members were supportive of the concept last night, giving the TriMet reps a recommendation to move forward on it. One member wondered how the melody would work if there were multiple riders. Others wondered if the noise would be a distraction or whether it would be annoying to folks nearby.
“We’re kind of excited about it,” Priester said last night, but she made it clear that they are prepared to not move forward unless the community supported it. “You’re the audience,” she said, “it’s for you.”
This idea is far from a sure thing; but given that the PBAC was supportive, my hunch is that TriMet will move forward. As for cost, TriMet doesn’t have an estimate yet, but the project would be fully funded and managed through the Percent for Art Program (meaning the cash is already set aside and can only be used for art, not for buying new buses or other expenditures).
What I’d like to know is, what do you think?