THE BUSYCLE PROJECT
by Heather Clark and Matthew Mazzotta
busycle.com - for full history and concept
The Busycle is a 15-person pedal-powered bus that travels in neighborhoods throughout the United States. The Busycle runs solely on the energy of its passengers. Anyone willing to pull their weight and pedal can be a Busycle passenger. The Busycle requires individuals to use their own will and physical strength to come together as a group to go from point A to point B.
The Busycle's public life involves experimental public rides that travel down city streets, where story telling is of the essence. At the end of some Busycle routes, story collection spaces have been constructed throughout the country, where participants have the opportunity to tell a story about their lives and experiences. Storytelling is an extension of the unique dialogue that occurs between strangers as they pedal. As such, the Busycle and the interactions it facilitates become an urban play on the traditional campfire as a space for gathering and telling stories.
The Busycle is a response to the role that conventional approaches to transportation and top-down planning play in communities. Historically, these approaches have informed physical as well as social conditions in neighborhoods. Transportation issues can serve as litmus tests for community issues ranging from environmental racism to poor housing, and can be indicators of how much influence residents have on city and global policies and politics. On another level, the Busycle responds to the perilous relationship our lifestyles have with climate change and world politics.
The Busycle was conceived in the Roxbury neighborhood in Boston, the home of the Berwick Institute. In Roxbury, these issues were first documented in the 1950s, when plans for the construction of a major highway bisected the neighborhood. The highway's planned construction resulted in the razing of thousands of homes, which in conjunction with other attempts at urban renewal, tore the community's urban fabric apart. More recently, the dismantling of an elevated train and its replacement with a bus service, as well as examples of environmental racism, continue the story.
The Busycle does not presume to be an answer to major ecological or socioeconomic questions, nor does it attempt to be a practical technology. What it does do is serve as the antithesis to the destructive precedents of the past and present. It is everything that top down is not. The Busycle is individuals using their own will and physical strength to come together as a group and go from point A to point B. Starting and ending points are ones they control.
How It Happened?
The Busycle was constructed in Boston in the summer of 2005 when Boston-based artists, Heather Clark and Matthew Mazzotta, were awarded a residency through the Berwick Research Institute's Public Art Incubator Program. From there, a spontaneous community of over 60 volunteers built the Busycle. Over a four month period, to help design the project, we formed a small online research community made of experts from the U.S., as well as the Netherlands and Australia. We also elicited research support and construction volunteers from almost 60 Boston-based participants. The 100% volunteer crew/design team who are the heart of this project was an eccentric mix of individuals including a former software engineer and MIT alum who left his desk job to pursue his dream of opening an industrial arts club (Sparqs, where we built the Busycle), a professional French horn player with a passion for bio-diesel, a pedicab mechanic/local renowned junkyard dog, the founder of the first American team of the television show Junkyard Wars, MIT professors, staff, and alumni, a pastry chef, a midwife, a machinist, a teenage robot enthusiast, and teachers. We also received donations from groups ranging from Boston bicycle shops to junkyards.
The Busycle rides and maintenance continue as a result of volunteers throughout the U.S.
What Is It Made Of?
The Busycle is made of almost 100% recycled materials. It has been built from the waste products of our society, with the majority of the vehicle made of re-used materials. Working together and using almost all found materials (office chairs, steel bed frames, plexi glass from a hockey arena, used bike parts, weight room equipment, kitchen table, Mac steering wheel, 1989 Dodge Van, etc.) we created what we call the Busycle. This vehicle began as a 15-passenger van stripped down to its chassis. Its engine was replaced by 14 customized recumbent bicycles, one driver's seat and an elegant gearing system. The Busycle is pedaled by anyone who is willing.