Using art to encourage bike commuting

In true Hollywood fashion, Los Angeles is developing a project to encourage bike commuting through collaborative art. 

The Civic Bicycle Commuting, or CiBiC, project is led by UCLA's Fabian Wagmister, would use a smartphone app to gather the shared experiences of riders—in the form of text, photos, videos and other creative submissions—and feed directly to digital murals throughout the city. 

The murals would be located in community spaces and transportation hubs around the city, distilling bike riding to a "collective creative experience". 

“We envision the cooperative bike flows as a type of performative media artwork that is shared live with all of Los Angeles in public spaces and on the internet,” said Fabian Wagmister, the project’s principal investigator and the founding director of the UCLA Center for Research in Engineering, Media and Performance, known as UCLA REMAP.

“By inviting communities to think about bicycle riding as a way to express themselves in the urban landscape, we can strengthen commuters’ ownership of the system and offer a deeper level of engagement in the future of the city.”

Another of the project’s more tangible goals is to create groups, or flows, of bike riders that would be organized by the application. The app would encourage reluctant or inexperienced riders to participate by pointing them toward those flows and suggest routes that are optimized for enjoyability and safety over efficiency or speed.

The project has already gained some traction, receiving $50,000 in funding from the Civic Innovation Challenge in February, and currently competing for an additional grant of $1m USD.

To ensure the project incorporates the diverse experiences and needs of Los Angeles commuters, the researchers are soliciting input from Los Angeles neighborhood groups, especially from low-income residents of Chinatown, Solano Canyon, Dogtown and Lincoln Heights.

“We want to hear from community groups and residents and understand how we can create something that is tailored to their needs,” said co-leader of the project Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, a distinguished professor of urban planning at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs.

The researchers also are collaborating with the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, who said the project could demonstrate how transformative bicycle culture could be in Los Angeles if bike riders could help create infrastructure that reflected their needs.

“Instead of allowing the built environment to dictate the culture of bicycling in Los Angeles, we need to uplift the culture of bicycling to make sure the built environment is defined by the social infrastructure and the people who use it,” he said.

This article was made possible by the support of Bicycle Network's members who enable us to make bike riding better in Australia.