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Building a Bike Gateway, Part 1

Follow along as Overton Park Conservancy and our community partners work to build a bicycle-pedestrian connection at the Sam Cooper/East Parkway entrance to the park.

Bikes on Tylur's trailer
A trailer full of bikes that will be transformed into a sculpture at the new Overton Park bicycle plaza.

When people drive down Sam Cooper Blvd. and turn onto East Parkway, they know they’ve found Overton Park–there’s a large sign at the end of the street that tells them as much.  But as an entrance to the natural and cultural beauty of Overton Park, something crucial is missing: a safe and accessible entrance for bicycles and pedestrians.

That will change later this year, thanks to the First Tennessee Foundation, when a new entry plaza and sculpture will create an exciting visual experience that welcomes cyclists and pedestrians into the park.

The concept?  A gateway arch made of bikes!  Over the next few months, we’re going to follow artist Tylur French as he makes this vision a reality.  He’s been busy collecting scrap bikes and other wheeled objects, looking out particularly for those with unusual shapes.

“I’m interested in anything that will create depth,” he says.  “The sculpture has to be able to visually hold up against the tree canopy behind it, so it needs to be several layers thick.  If you hold a single bike against the background of the forest canopy, it disappears instantly, so you need to have those layers.”  He’ll build mass through the use of bicycles, tricycles, wheelchairs, and unique shapes like tandem and pennyfarthing bikes.

Tylur French and Kyle Wagenschutz
Tylur French and Kyle Wagenschutz move some bikes from Revolutions into Tylur’s trailer.

Tylur expects that more than 200 bike frames will ultimately become part of the sculpture.  He collected 100 bikes this past weekend at Revolutions Community Bicycle Shop in Cooper-Young, which  repairs and reuses donated bicycles.  Kyle Wagenschutz, City of Memphis Bicycle/Pedestrian Coordinator and a volunteer at Revolutions, says that the shop was overflowing with donated bikes recently, and those that were the least likely candidates for repair will find new life as part of the bicycle sculpture.

In the next few weeks, we’ll visit Tylur’s shop to watch him at work and learn more about his inspiration for this project.  In the meantime, if you have an old bike or three that you’d like to donate for the sculpture, give Tylur a call at 901-291-0772.

Later in 2013, a paved path will connect our new sculpture and plaza to interior park roads via a grant initiated by Livable Memphis and funded by the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation.  And a new bikeway will connect the Shelby Farms Greenline to Overton Park via Tillman and Broad Avenue.  It’s an exciting time to be a cyclist or pedestrian in Memphis!

Jump to Part 2 of this series.

Concept for Bicycle Plaza
Artist rendering of concept for bicycle plaza; illustration by Jeanne Seagle