Busycle PAI 2005
POSTED: JULY 16, 2005
July 15th, Matthew Mazzotta - Settling into this long houred schedule has been overwhelming. I think I am getting the hang of it now. This week I have not gotten back from doing something “busycle related” before 11pm.
On Wednesday, Dave, Ann, Jeff, Matthew, and Vicky met up at Ron’s house to get an early start at the junkyard, only to realize that there was a little leak in the diesel truck we were borrowing. As any good member of the Busycle team, this little leak couldn’t go unchecked. So up came the hood, and Ron climbed in with his freshly shorn “mullet” he had won on a bet.
Within 25 minutes, it was decided that the truck could not be fixed at Ron’s place. So we loaded up and packed in and started our trip. In two seconds we realized that there was now diesel gas “flowing” out of the bottom of the truck. From that moment on, all six of us, accompanied by two to Ron’s roommates, spent the rest of the day at Ron’s fixing the truck, playing with a green rubber kickball, drinking beer, talking, looking at old bikes, and leading missions to truck repair shops for parts.
At the end of the day, when the truck was fixed, and we were looking at each other for what to do next since the junkyard had closed an hour earlier, someone asked “Should we meet up here tomorrow same time?” There was a pause, and just like we kids with not a care in the world, or even the inkling that there is such a thing as 9-5 or a real job, we all said “Sure.”
July 10. Big, big week. We completely dismantled a 1989 Dodge Van with the help of Vicky, Tommy, Dave, Jeff, Tim, Ann, Ron, Heather and Matthew. Now we’re ready to start building the Busycle. We also scored large amounts of metal at the Harvard recycling yard, including 11 bed frames and loads of exercise equipment, which we will cut up and use for welding the Busycle frame. The City of Boston invited us to talk about how they can support the project. They will be helping as advertise and will provide space. We also had a design meeting that was held at Sparqs. And to top that The Boston Phoenix wrote a little thing about us with a photo. That is all the good stuff. On the flip side, Heather and Matthew have reached the unexplored edges of their minds through pinnacles of stress. Learning to stay positive has been quite the challenge on certain days this week.
POSTED: JULY 8, 2005
Major goodness has come out of all the Busycle efforts this last week. We were donated our choice of three different vehicles from Charles River Movers in Belmont www.charlesrivermovers.com. We chose a 1989 Dodge Van with the help of Jeff DelPapa (http://www.the-nerds.org), a crazy junk-warring, bike building, all around knowledgeable bearded guy. We’ll be taking the motor out of the van and giving it new life as the busycle.
We put an old license plate on the van and drove it over to Sparqs in Woburn, the Mecca of welding and woodworking. Tim Panagos runs Sparqs, (www.sparqs.com) an Industrial Arts Club that has anything and everything we could ever want to make cool projects. Tim donated the space to us and is interested in helping us work on the project with some of his crew.
The whipped cream on top of that double scooper is that we received an email from the City of Boston telling us that they are interested in working with us and potentially donating space to finish our project. The little cherry sitting on top of this baby is that we have two women – Ann Adelsberger and Hannah Verlin - who have been rolling videotape to hopefully make a documentary of this whole thing.
For more information on what the Busycle is up to in real time, visit www.busycle.com.
Busycle Final Report: When we first began our residency at the Berwick Institute in June of 2005, our mission was to invent, construct, and run a fully functional 15 person 100% passenger pedaled “busycle”. The goal was to create a vehicle that runs solely on the energy of its passengers. Although driven by a busycle driver, all passengers would be required to pull their weight and pedal in their seats. The pedal power would then move the busycle from destination to destination.
Over the course of the residency, this goal remained true and was achieved to a degree – we built a fully functional “naked” busycle that even had a very successful public maiden voyage. Today the “naked” busycle is a running machine with no public interface, such as an exterior shell or features that make it easy for the general public to ride. Yet, it is a vehicle that creates an immense amount of joy and excitement when pedalled.
As the busycle was being built during the summer of 2005, so grew the concept and the community that the busycle created. The following describes the concept for the busycle that has developed to date, how we got to where we are today, and where we hope the busycle will take us.
The concept of the busycle responds to the role that transportation and top down approaches to decision making play in defining where and how we live locally, as well as how we interact globally. Transportation can be an indicator as to how much power people have within their own lives, as well as in politics and policy. Transportation can serve as a litmus test for issues ranging from environmental racism to global politics.
The busycle does not attempt to be the answer to major ecological or socioeconomic questions, nor does it attempt to even be a practical technology. Yet what it does do is serve as the antithesis to top down approaches to decision making that tend to leave many in the margins. It is everything that top down is not.
The busycle has created spontaneous community. It has grown from the ideas and sweat of over 50 volunteers, with interest from over 2,000. It has been built from the waste products of our society, with the majority of the vehicle made of re-used materials. The busycle will be pedaled by anyone who is willing.
The busycle requires individuals to use their own will and physical strength to come together as a group to go from point A to B. Starting and ending points are ones that they control. By bringing the intersection of art, technology, and activism to the street, the Busycle asks the public to literally participate in a small “movement,” and have a heck of a good time in the process.
As a Participatory Performance Piece
Once complete, the busycle will enter its public life in a series of experimental public rides, during which we will invite the public to pedal. For example, the busycle may create a two week long event, during which it will be driven in the Boston metropolitan area following a community determined route and schedule. This route will cross neighborhood and city lines. The route and schedule will be posted on www.busycle.com, and signs and schedules will be posted along the street. Riders can be picked up and can get off the busycle at any stop along its route. Ridership will be offered at no fare to any person willing to pedal.
As we learned during test rides, the busycle creates an excited shared commotion among riders and those passing by. People on sidewalks stop, stare, smile, point, and call to friends. Others spontaneously grab cell phones, cameras, and video cameras. And still others swarm the seats and want to ride. With a top speed of only 10 miles per hour, the busycle is not intended to be a replacement for cars or mass transit. Its purpose is to stir the imagination. Future performances will grow from what we learn during experimental rides and from the unique dialogue that occurs between strangers as they busycle.
From Naked Busycle to Traveling Art - The Next Steps
To complete the project, we are working on three main components, which will improve the existing mechanics and create a public interface. 1) Improving the mechanics - Based on our test runs, we would like to make some improvements to the mechanics of the vehicle so that it can run virtually maintenance free at public events. 2) Making the busycle user friendly - As discussed, the central artistic element of this piece involves the spectacle and dialogue that will come from people riding. To complete the project we would like to make the vehicle easier for the average rider to participate. This will involve improvements such as putting clear safety guards on the vehicle’s mechanical system, so people are kept at bay, yet can still see the inner workings of the vehicle. Other such improvements will involve making the vehicle easier for people with diverse body types and various skill levels to ride with ease. 3) Completing an exterior shell - The final step involves building a semi-transparent cocoon-like shell that adapts to the weather and the mood of passengers. The exterior shell is intended to emphasize the vehicle’s unusual engine – people. This organic shell will complete the piece so that the busycle clearly and beautifully tells a cohesive story. As such, we hope to move the busycle from solely an engineering project into the realm of art, the context from which it initially was conceived.
It is our goal that by bringing art and technology clearly into the public realm and as near to the community as possible (what could be closer than riding an art project down the streets where people live and inviting them onto the art?) we will begin to stir a dialogue about the current and universal issues from which the busycle has grown, while creating a forum for people to pause and enjoy.