Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Cooper Young Bike Racks

'Fine-art bike racks' in Midtown Memphis spotlight artists
By Christopher Conley

Don't think of them as bike racks, but rather sculptures with the functional purpose of securing your bicycle.

Two artistic bike racks sprang up in front of Café Olé at Cooper and Young recently.

And artist Yvonne Bobo recently finished installing a green rack in a gingko-leaf motif in front of Burke's Books at the same intersection.

Eventually, there are to be a dozen of the fine-art bike racks around the neighborhood, symbols of a community that's both arty and urban, according to Cooper-Young Community Association president Debbie Sowell.

The bike racks are a way to promote cycling and support local artists, she said.

The racks are provided to businesses without cost, with funding from Revolutions Community Bicycle Shop and the UrbanArt Commission.

The Cooper Young organization also will oversee the repainting and refurbishing of the hallmark train-trestle art over Cooper at York this summer, Sowell said.

"We're known as an artsy neighborhood," Sowell explained. "We want people who come here to know they are in Cooper-Young."

Typical bike racks -- the ones with a row of metal slots -- secure only the front tire, making it fairly easy for thieves to remove the tire and walk away with the frame.

And, they're not much to look at.

"Most bike racks are not only ugly, they're dysfunctional," said Bobo, who has a studio in Cooper-Young. "We wanted something functional and artistic," she said.

Cooper street is lined with gingko trees, so planners decided to use the fan-shaped leaf pattern.

Other bike racks planned will use different motifs.

Bobo said she designed her bike racks through the fall, and began cutting the pattern and welding the stems in January.

The installation of bike racks is part of a broader campaign to further bicycling in Memphis, for aesthetic, health and environmental reasons.

Enthusiasts are pushing the concept of bike lanes, which have been a success in other cities.

"People see installing bike lanes as being like parting the ocean," said Anthony Siracusa, executive director of Revolutions Community Bicycle Shop in Cooper-Young. "But it's not only possible, it's inexpensive," he said.

"There's no way the bike is going to stay on the back burner in Memphis," he said. "The stars are aligned."

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