Like most college towns and urban areas filled with high pedestrian traffic, bicycle lanes and parking structures encourage the inhabitants of an area to bypass automobiles. As a result, the bike has become a pivotal tool used by the residents of Ann Arbor. Like any well-used tool, a relationship comes to form between the user and the object. Not like some Golem-esque petty obsession where the owner screeches ‘my precious’ upon interacting with an object, but a meaningful mutual relationship. By providing the object with respect and TLC, the object can provide proper working condition to its user.
If only this was the case for these poor specimens of abuse…
The following images are graphic and may be disturbing to some viewers...
When we become drones of day-to-day living, ants marching about our mundane existence, we tend to overlook the violent disregard of our environment. We are desensitized to the mangled machines and twisted tools we have so carelessly disregarded and left to waste. What were once stallions to carry us through our daily routines, we let our bicycles take a downward spiral and succumb to rust and decay until they are no longer usable, like great horses put out to pasture in a desert.
As I walked outside Mason Hall yesterday afternoon, I could not help but notice the rusted bicycle chained to a pole beside one of the common walking paths. Ever since my first day at the University of Michigan, over a year ago, this bicycle had been tethered here. The tires were deflated to noting. The rims were speckled in blobs of orange rust. The chain had deteriorated off the bent gears. Forlorn, the bike remained bonded to its pole beside the cement path. Hundreds of students passed by it every day, but none held the key to its lock. Nobody cut it free. Just like nobody had come to grease its chain or fill its tire. It filled me with sadness.
I wanted to tear it free from the pole, give it a new chain and scrub the rust from its rims. I would slip on a new tire and polish up its finish. I could install a new seat or replace the handlebars. Refurbish this decaying beast and transform it into my noble steed of steel (if that’s what bikes are made of). Cruising beneath the late-afternoon sun, I would go about my life and draw attention to my stallion. My journeys to class or work would become a daily display of art. It would instill a sense of pride in my life, in something as simple as a bicycle.
As it turned out, I would not be the first to perform this rejuvenating act. As I continued on my walk, my feelings heightened with this fantasy of restoration. I became even more inspired by the wonderfully original bicycles in motion. Many of these were minimalistic in design; single speed, thin tires, no brakes, no stickers on the frame or unnecessary accessories. Standard hipster bikes. Some adopted more vintage features, with unique paint-jobs and varying seat styles. Some had baskets or uniquely-shaped handlebars. They were each beautiful in their own way. Each a piece of art. While they are simply tools, vehicles to aide in the day-to-day transport of our lives, these bicycles embody something more. They are a part of us. Let us treat them appropriately. And make them into something beautiful. Something we can call art.