By Mykle Hansen
Downtown Portland, Oregon has a new landmark: a tiny golden bicycle rising over the corner of 13th and West Burnside like a flower on a long steel stem. An elegant plinth at its base is the monumental new home of the Zoobomb Pyle – the chaotic, colorful jumble of children’s bicycles that brave and foolhardy Portlanders race downhill every Sunday in the weekly tradition known as Zoobombing.
In the last seven years this shifting heap of minibikes has become one of Portland’s most-photographed works of public art. And in that time the Pyle, aka the Portland Bicycle Library, has moved repeatedly due to theft, vandalism and neighbourhood complaints. But now it has a permanent, prominent home, thanks to three years of planning and a generous grant administered by the Regional Arts and Culture Council.
“I don’t think I could have smiled any bigger,” said multi-disciplinary artist Vanessa Renwick, who collaborated with co-artist Brian Borello, RACC, and a committee of Zoobombers to realize this joyous monument to bike fun. “At the beginning we asked: ‘What’s wrong with the pyle as it is?’ But if it had to change, I think we made it better. It accentuates the shape of the bikes and celebrates the absurdity of monuments. Still, I was blown away that the City of Portland would do this.”
There’s been some controversy over the decision by Mayor Sam Adams to fund minibike-parking-art, but none of the naysayers attended the dedication ceremony on May 30th. A raucous crowd of bicyclists in animal costumes led a parade from the pyle’s old location, then heard speeches from Kirsten Calhoun of RACC, Zoobomb bike librarian “Handsome” Dave Terry, and Mayor Adams himself. The mayor spoke eloquently on the importance of functional public art, bike culture, and keeping Portland weird. Then the ribbon was cut, the bikes were piled on, and dancing filled the streets.