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Building a Bike Gateway, Part 2

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.  Part 1 is here.

Tylur French and Naomi Van Tol
Tylur French and OPC’s Director of Operations & Capital Projects, Naomi Van Tol, at Tylur’s studio

When we last checked in with Tylur French, he was collecting bikes for the sculpture that will soon greet visitors to the East Parkway entrance of Overton Park.  We visited his studio this week as he was beginning to assemble the bikes into their arched formation and narrow down how to present the piece as a unified work of art.

Tylur’s first concern is getting the composition of the sculpture right.  “It needs to read as cohesive piece, not as a junk pile,” he says.  Unifying the many different colors and shapes of the bikes is a challenge he’s looking forward to tackling creatively.  He’s considering different color palettes to paint the bikes, as well as additional elements like spinning medallions fitted to the wheels.  He has an end goal in mind and is looking forward to the twists and turns that will get him there.  “I like the idea of having these bikes sort of explode out of the arch formation,” Tylur says.  “I want the bikes to look like they’re airborne.”

The next challenge is making it last.  Right now, Tylur and his crew are stripping loose elements from the bikes like vinyl seats and stickers that would be susceptible to decay.  They’ll spray-foam the tires to keep them attached to the rims, and they’re sandblasting rusty or burnt bikes to give them a smooth foundation.  Next week, they’ll work with Hardwick Company in Birmingham to shape several tons of steel into a support structure for the 5,000-pound bike arch.  The final arch will be about 24 feet tall, with a 24-foot open space for cyclists and pedestrians to pass through.

Bikes in Tylur's studioWorking on the project has been special for Tylur, particularly because several of the bikes came to the sculpture along with the stories of their owners.  One man currently in his 50s brought Tylur the tricycle he rode when he was two years old–along with a photo to prove it.  Two others, somewhat melted, were from a house that burned down whose owners wanted to see a piece of their place live on.  Another came from a woman who built the bike as a bonding exercise with her son.

Over the next month or so, we’ll continue to document the progress of the sculpture and share with you.  If you have any questions about the project or anything you’d like to ask Tylur for a future blog post, let us know!

Jump to Part 3 of this series.