Monday, January 22, 2007

Bike Rack

The sun had finally shone its face, and Austin was once again bustling, as it would normally be on a fine Sunday afternoon. John Henry Faulk Library -- a quiet place for a quiet purpose. And it was just that, down Guadalupe; quiet. The readers within the library were visible from beyond its doors. Going about their individual business, people could be seen scurrying around whilst cleverly avoiding confrontation and using as minimal words as possible when the situation did arise.

Outside of the library, much of the same took place. People approached the library by bus, by bike, on foot. All had the same purpose, which was to utilize what the library had to offer; its knowledge. Despite the similarity in intent shared by these people, the confrontations which took place in front of the library were uncomfortable ones. People walking by one another either glanced at one another making the least bit of acknowledgement possible, or ignored one another altogether. One unexpected encounter did occurat the library, and its story took place at the bike rack before it.

Being used more infrequently than normal with the cold weather, today the bike rack was filled with bikes of those who were in library, as well as those were down to the street. A man who had likely spent some time in the library exited the library making his way towards this bike rack. At about the same time, another man approached the block heading in the same direction. The second man recognized the other and yelled out. They both acknowledged one another, but continued towards the bike rack before fully meeting. Here, they stood, the first by his respective bike and the other just beyond his. They exchanged the usual greetings exchanged by friends who run into one another unexpectedly, and continued talking. A few minutes passed, during which a third man had approached the bike rack. Being polite, he stood somewhat back from the other two, waiting patiently to get to his bike. The two, realizing what the the third man was waiting for, moved out of the way and ended their own encounter. Two of the men exited in one direction, and the third in the opposite.

It was after this encounter that the bike rack arose as a hub for social interaction on this quiet street, with this quiet location. A group of three students rode up together shortly after the three men left and spent what seemed too long, attaching their bikes to the rack before proceeding into the library. It was because of the inherent time lapse between parking a bike and heading inside that they had a moment to talk about their day and selves before entering into the library for their real purpose – to study.

Shortly thereafter, another encounter took place. This time, a woman wearing headphones and carrying books left the library and was taking her bike off the rack. In the mean time, a pedestrian was walking behind her passing her. Because of the proximity of space, they exchanged hellos and a few words before the pedestrian continued his walk, and the woman, too, took off.

Comparing the three scenarios, it became evident that this bike rack invoked interaction, desired or undesired, all day. Within a short period of time, an unexpected encounter between old friends had found its way there, people in acquaintance with one another arrived there together, and an exchange between two strangers was made.


kwilliams said...

I really like how the element of the bike rack became the connecting factor between the people in surrounding areas. It serves as a "common means" for people, whether familar with each other or not, and opens up an opportunity to socialization.

natalia said...

i also observed the bike rack for awhile. my favorite part was a homeless man who sat on the planter closest to the bike rack. he would sit there and talk to everyone that parked their bike there. he asked me if my bike seat had come with the bike or if i had bought it seperately. i'm not sure if he had a bike, but found it interesting how he used the people who used the bike rack to enrich his own life through conversation.

cmk488 said...

I wonder if there are certain bike racks that are more active than others? I often see bike racks that have nothing on them? Does this have to do with location or the destination at which the rack is at? It would be an interesting test.

JayeetaG said...

I like the idea of the bike rack becoming a tool to congregate people. Maybe it would be interesting to see if the intervention in the next project could further facilitate social interaction or change this urban element into more of an obvious hub.