David Byrne’s Artsy Bike Racks Are Great Until You Need To Lock Your Bike

Musician and artist David Byrne has long been interested in bicycle rack art. His latest rack, called “Bold winK,” was just unveiled in Brooklyn. But as his work reveals, maybe bike racks aren’t a great place for artistic expression.

Bicycle rack art makes a certain amount of sense. As long as we’re designing hunks of metal for public space, why not make them beautiful?


The latest champion of this idea is David Byrne, the musician/artist/bicycle-philosopher best known as the voice of the Talking Heads. His latest rack, just unveiled in Brooklyn, is called “Bold winK.” (Or at least it spells the phrase in yellow metal letters.)

Byrne wasn’t present for the unveiling. (He is in Europe on tour with St. Vincent.) But he has been creating these racks for years. In the past, he has designed a guitar-rack, a dog-rack, a dollar-sign-rack and several others. On the “Bold winK” block, he has two other word-racks (currently spelling “wRY RomP” and “mo vinyl”), all of which were “written” in a crowdsourced, democratic process from the somewhat limited alphabet Byrne created.

“It is fair to say this is now the coolest place to park your bike in New York City,” said Brooklyn Academy of Music President Karen Brooks Hopkins at a small press conference, before half-scooting, half-peddling a loaner bike across the street to lean against the “winK.”

It is a cool looking place (thanks also to the mural behind it, by Brooklyn artist KAWS, who recently designed a “Moonman” for the MTV Video Music Awards). But, having spent an awkward minute wedging my own bike into the “w” of “wRY” I might choose a different adjective. Byrne’s pieces aren’t built to maximize vehicles-per-square-foot or ease-of-use, and it shows. As art, they disappear when they’re covered with bikes.

If the bike rack/art compromise has a defense, it’s that it is a compromise: not the best artwork or the best bike rack in the world, but something that serves both uses well enough to get the space and funding that neither could secure on its own.

Brooks said she believed the “Bold winK” rack could secure up to 20 bikes. That’s fewer than a conventional approach to the same space, but significantly more than the empty lot that was there before.

About the author

Stan Alcorn is a print, radio and video journalist, regularly reporting for WNYC and NPR. He grew up in New Mexico.