The Busycle Maiden Voyage was insane! The City of Boston invited us to two different events, the Hub on Wheels, which is a city wide bicycling ride and event with the Mayor, and then Boston's 375th Anniversary Parade. Both of these events happened to be on September 25th.
That night was the first night we deiced to sleep at Sparqs Industrial Arts Club where we were building the Busycle. Most of us went to bed around 2:00 am, although Jeff Del Papa, Cave Dave, Tim Higgins, and Adam Eig stayed up most of the night and kept working. The next morning was off to a bit of a slow start. We had to get some more salvaged parts from bike shops and started working again. Around 3:00 in the afternoon we had about 12 different people all working on the Busycle to get it ready for the events. We were definitely getting closer to working out the kinks.
By 11:30 that night (the night before our Maiden Voyage!), the energy was fully focused and there was such a sense of community working in that shop. We had finished everything we could and it was now time to take the Busycle out for a test ride. So, in the dark parking lot of Sparqs, we eased it down the ramp and got on. Everyone started pedaling and we rode for about 30 seconds when a few other chains started popping off again. However, we did make it on the Busycle quite a distance.
We decided to have a meeting of the minds right then. The Hub on Wheels event was in about 8 hours and our Busycle was definitely not ready. Looking around the room, there were 15 completely filthy grease covered people all snacking on the leftover pizza and drinks from the last two days. We decided that there was one more chance at solving the problem, and that was to make really crude chain guides for the only place the chain could come off. At around 2:00 in the morning Sparqs was littered with people dosing off and others grinding and welding. Most of the team went to bed on the floor of Sparqs feeling like we did what we could and not quite sure the Busycle would even have a maiden voyage.
When we woke the next morning, there was a very somber feel in the shop. Tim Higgins, Jeff Del Papa, Cave Dave, and Adam Eig had worked all the way through the night and fabricated and installed every chainguide. Just looking at their faces, you could see that they were completely driven to make this thing run.
As the final touches were being fastened down (an hour before the event), we decided that there was no time for a test run, so we just loaded the Busycle onto the trailer and started heading toward Franklin Park, where the Hub on Wheels events was, not knowing if it was going to work. When we arrived, hundreds of people were on bikes and walking around, and the Mayor was preparing to speak. We unloaded our Busycle to a crowd of interested onlookers. We all took a moment to adjust to the change of scenery and then it became obvious... We wanted to "Ride" the Busycle.
Everyone who had helped build the last two days, along with some kids and other bicycle enthusiasts, hoped on and we took our first pedals as the "Busycle". With a sigh of relief... "The Busycle Works!" We rode all over the event and answered questions. There was definitely a charge in the air around all of us who had been working so hard the last two days and were completely sleep deprived. Then the Mayor came over and sat in the driver's seat, and we started pedaling and the Mayor drove us around and everyone took photos.
Now with a total sense of accomplishment, we looked at each other and what had seemed like the impossible now became our mission. We finished at the Hub on Wheels and loaded the Busycle up to drive over to the 375th Anniversary Parade. We arrived a little late, which we knew we would, so we had a letter from the Mayor's office explaining this. After a bit of a hassle, the woman in charge yells "If you are going to be in This Parade you better haul ass up to the spot behind the Boston Baked Beans Float and right in front of the Berklee School of music Float and Marching Band." Well that was all we wanted to hear and the Busycle started trucking up the side of the parade and we found our spot.
The parade lasted about 3 hours, and we have never seen more smiles in a city. Everyone took out there camera phones and cameras and took photos of us. It felt like people were cheering for us for the entire three hours.
At the end of the parade when we were supposed to load the Busycle onto a trailer to put it in storage, we took a pause and just sat there for a minute. Then we decided, instead of bringing the trailer to where we were, we should ride the Busycle through Boston to where the trailer was. So, we rolled out to the first traffic light, and a traffic cop stopped us by putting up his hand, and we felt maybe this was the end of the ride. He then looked around, waved us through, and we were now in the traffic of Boston. What a nice feeling. Cars were rolling down their windows taking photos; the duck tours were honking and waving. We ended up going around Boston Commons and then up Newbury St. The response was so warm from people on the street. That was a perfect ending to the last couple of days. We loaded up the Busycle and the whole group of us went to get pizza and read the article about the Busycle in the Boston Globe that was printed that day. A pretty sweet victory!
The Busycle Seeks Streets and Venues for Cross Country Story Telling Tour
The Busycle is taking its first U.S. Story Telling tour. The Busycle will start in Boston, and, hauled by a bio-diesel vehicle, will end in San Francisco at the City|Space "Get on the Bus" exhibition. Between, the Busycle will visit cities throughout the country and collect the stories of the people who ride it.
In cities across the U.S., the Busycle will travel on a two or three mile route, where anyone willing to pull their weight and pedal can be a Busycle passenger. At the end of the route, a story telling space will be constructed (in places ranging from parks to warehouses to galleries), where everyone has the option of being a participant: just as the Busycle doesn't run without the pedaling, this venue doesn't run without the contribution of a story. It'll be an urban play on the campfire as the traditional space for story telling and stories will be collected on film and shared across the country and on our website.
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. By bringing the intersection of art and activism to the street, the Busycle asks the public to participate in a small "movement," and have a heck of a good time in the process. The storytelling aspect of the event is really an extension of the unique dialogue that occurs between strangers as they pedal.
The Busycle does not presume to be an answer to major ecological or socioeconomic questions, nor does it attempt to be a practical technology (it's slow as molasses). What it does do is serve as the antithesis to the "top down" approach that leaves so many in the margins and, ultimately, has put us in our current predicament. The piece has grown from the ideas and sweat of over 50 volunteers. The majority of the vehicle's construction uses recycled material most of which would have been considered trash by a less astute observer and it's pedaled by anyone who is willing. It is everything that "top down" is not.
Cities we will visit include Boston, Providence, Philadelphia, Cleveland/Detroit/ or Ann Arbor, Chicago, Minneapolis, Omaha. Cheyenne/Boulder/ or Denver, Salt Lake City, Reno, and San Francisco.
Thanks to Martin Krieg, of the National Bicycle Greenway (NBG), the Busycle has been riding in California lately - including the May Fete parade in Palo Alto, Stanford Community Day in Stanford, and the "How Berkeley Can you Be?" parade in Berkeley. Other recent rides include: