By 7:15 yesterday evening, the normally empty parking lot at the corner of Olive and 5th Streets had started buzzing. A small group of BMX'ers showed off their tricks to one another while a modest crowd of commuter cyclists chowed down at the Kogi truck in the center of the lot. Two film crews set up cameras next to a DJ who traded off spinning and taking photos with his family, while across the lot an enormous projector was being fired up and tested, splashing color across seven stories of a nearby building.
This hybrid event turns out to be one part community gathering and one part PSA shoot. Following on the heels and ebullience of Sunday's second installment of CicLAvia, which opened 7.5 miles of city streets to bike-only traffic, the Boulder-based cycling advocacy group People for Bikes has teamed with LA-based production collective Black Swan to create and film a temporary installation event focused on the transformative power of the two-wheeled.
“The idea is about lasting change through urban renewal and beautification. I mean, this is a parking lot, it's a pretty boring space,” said Matt Winkel, Black Swan's executive producer. Dusk had slipped into evening, and Winkel watched as the crowd started to turn their heads and handlebars towards the image of a waterfall suddenly tumbling out of an eighth story window.
As the waterfall pooled out into a motion graphic lake, three riders — all local cyclists found by Black Swan for the PSA — rounded the corner bounding the parking lot. Each bike — a BMX, a sturdy commuter and a casual “basket” bike — was mounted with a projector that threw a unique image onto the walls as they passed, literally coloring their corner of the world with their movement. A school of red fish, cast from the front of the basket bike, swam up the building and was submerged in waters of the main tableau.
Joan Harold, the Marketing Manager for People for Bikes, explained the gesture: “The premise is that bikes make life better: for individuals, and for communities. We wanted to illustrate that, to show how urban environments can be changed into a place that's more livable through biking.”
By 8:30, the crowd and the camera crews had gotten used to one another. The cyclists rested on their seats, talking and taking pictures of their temporarily colorful surroundings, while the production teams talked and took pictures of them doing so. “Because of the cause, people have been really generous,” said Winkel, in a nod to the DJs, projection team and volunteer riders who had largely donated their time, knowing the event would become a pro-cycling PSA.
As the group's logo appeared on the building, Harold explained People for Bikes' mission. “Our goal is to get a million people to sign the pledge, which is a statement of support for better cycling in the US. It's modest, but we want to get people comfortable with taking a stance. Advocacy can be a four-letter word, and we're trying to make advocacy accessible. We want anyone, whether they bike once a day or once a year, to be comfortable saying, 'I ride my bike.'”
By 9:15, the Kogi truck had pulled down its windows and driven away. By 9:30, some of the cyclists were heading home, red taillights blinking. By 10, Black Swan and their teams were packing up for their next location, headed off to bring color to some other part of Los Angeles.