- Bicycle Culture by Design: Copenhagenize's Top Five Bicycle Monuments

When we at Copenhagenize were discussing the title of the photo exhibition Monumental Motion we got onto the subject of actual bicycle monuments or sculptures. Permanent artistic works celebrating the bicycle and/or Citizen Cyclists. At many festivals - Burning Man comes to mind - temporary bicycle-related sculptures are constructed. Then there are monuments, large and small, dedicated to cyclesport racers. That’s all well and good and brilliant, but we were thinking about permanent works - monuments, if you like - that were commissioned and paid for and that serve as a permanent symbol and celebration of the bicycle.

We figured we dish up our Top Five Bicycle Monuments. Let us know yours. Add a comment or use the Twitter hashtag #bikemonument.

#1 - Aseaströmmen

Location: Stora Torget (Main Square) in Västerås, Sweden. Artist: Bengt-Göran Broström (1947-2004) Date: 1989 Aseaströmmen has long been a favourite of ours. It commemorates the thousands of cycling workers who went to and from work at the city’s large factory - ASEA. The company, ASEA (General Swedish Electrical Company) was the main employer in the city for more than a century. The name of the statue combines the name of the company with the word ‘strömmen’ - translated as ’the current’ or ‘flow’. This current filled the streets of the city each time the shifts changed at the factory. Even today, Västerås still has a modal share of around 30%.

We love the bold, brash size of the piece, the combination of modern lines (on the bicycles) and traditional figures (the cyclists), the positioning on Västerås’ main square and the celebration - not of the massive corporation that defined the place - but rather the working classes who worked there for generations and who cycled rain or shine, snow or sleet.

#2 Fountain ’t Zand

Location: ’t Zand Square, Bruges, Belgium. Artists: Stefaan Depuydt and Livia Canestraro (couple) Date: 1985-86 Art is always a question of taste, but we love the style of this statue - okay, fountain - with it’s rough but rounded forms. Again, the bicycles are reduced to simple forms, like in Aseaströmmen, but that’s probably because the bicycle is so damn tricky to sculpt/draw. Although the four cyclists (plus kid in the basket, at left) form one side of a larger sculpture, dedicating one fourth of the piece to the bicycle and the people who use it slides this work into second place.

Interesting, whilst googling for more images and info, it seems that most tourists take photos of the cyclists, as opposed to the other three sides.

#3 Vejrpigerne / The Weather Girl(s)

Location: Richshuset, corner of Vesterbrogade & Hans Christian Andersen’s Boulevard, Copenhagen, Denmark. Artist: Einar Utzon-Frank (1888-1955) Date: 1936 High above Copenhagen’s City Hall Square - and its busiest thoroughfare - is a golden cycling girl. She is one of two gold-plated statues who acted as a weather vane from 1936 to 1995. If the weather forecast was for rain, the woman with the umbrella and dog would rotate out onto the corner of the tower. If the cycling girl rotated out into the position on the corner, all the passersby on foot, bicycle or vehicles at the city’s busiest intersection could see that fair weather was forecast. The sculpture and rotating construction weighs more than a tonne and it broke in 1996. The cost for repairing it is high so for now both weather girls look out over the city.

We love the choice of the cultural icon that is the Cycling Girl for the fairweather barometer. It’s not surprising given the fact that Denmark has more songs, poems and literary works dedicated to the bicycle than any other nation and the 1920’s and 1930’s were two epic artistic decades regarding the bicycle. It is more than appropriate that a golden cycling girl stands proud above Copenhagen’s main square. I was up there next to her a couple of years back and she is huge. Easily 3.5 metres tall. But I was still moved by her beauty, form and graceful posture.

#4 The Girl on a Bicycle

Botanical Gardens in Singapore. The joy of cycling.
Location: Singapore Botanical Gardens Artist: Sydney Harpley (1927-1992) Date: 1987

One of three bronzes that were a gift to the Botanical Gardens in Singapore by Singapore’s former Ambassador to France, Spain and Portugal, Mr David Marshall. Marshall commissioned the British artist Sydney Harpley to create the bronzes that symbolise youth and joie de vivre. They are are dedicated to the children of Singapore. The others are Girl on a Hammock and Girl on a Swing.

The simple, carefree form of the girl on her bicycle riding down a spiral hedge appeals to us. This is what the bicycle is all about.

#5 ‘Cyclisk’ Bike Obelisk

Location: South A Street at Santa Rosa Avenue in Santa Rosa, California, USA.
Artists: Ilana Spector and Mark Grieve Date: 2010

The ‘Cyclisk’ Bike Obelisk in Santa Rosa is primarily billed as a monument to recycling, community spirit (the bicycles and parts came from citizens and bike co-ops) and protecting the environment. Although looking at the google map link it would seem the obelisk is surrounded by car dealerships.

Even more ironically, car maker Nissan  co-funded the Cyclisk, together with the city of Santa Rosa. Our readers are familiar with our Car Industry Strikes Back series but we’re going to leave that one alone. One can’t help imagine, however, that some viewers of this impressive obelisk are convinced that that is where bicycles belong.

Nevertheless, this modern work from 2010 is impressive. It weighs around 4500 kg, stands over 19 metres tall and is constructed using 340 bicycle frames.

In their proposal the artists wrote: “Made of recycled bicycle gears, rims, frames and hoops, [Cyclisk] will be a series of intersecting rhythms – a visual metaphor for the human experience – technology and the humanities – history and the future – individual and collective. Evoking a ‘world of possibilities,’ it will be a work communicating to all walks of life – all ages, relevant for years to come….” Beautifully said.

Interestingly, but perhaps not surprisingly, the artists also construct the Bike Arch at the Burning Man festival in the Black Rock Desert. Here is more info from Santa Rosa city’s website

That completes Copenhagenize’s Top Five Bicycle Monuments. Let us know what you think in the comments. We had knowledge beforehand of four of the monuments - Girl on a Bicycle was the exception - so let us know if you know of any others that we may be interested in hearing about.

Add a comment or use the Twitter hashtag #bikemonument.

There were some that we looked at and so here come some honourable mentions:

Honourable Mentions

Bicycle and umbrella in Den Haag, Netherlands.

Statue of Bernhardt Jensen, former mayor of Denmark’s second-largest city, Aarhus. Artist: Jan Balling and the title is ”Time, The City and The Man”. The mayor loved his bicycle and when he came into office in 1958 he did away with the official mayoral car.

Celebrating that rite of passage - learning to ride a bicycle. (With an helmet that is completely the wrong size and hardly respresentative of 125 years of the bicycle, but hey, we’ll let that slide). In Traverse City, Michigan, USA. Details unknown.

A small statue outside a restaurant in Copenhagen. Artist unknown.

Jemma Pearson’s statue of Sir Edward Elgar from 2005 in Hereford, UK.

Athens, Greece. Kind of a bicycle, I suppose. Details unknown.

At left: Bike-a-saurus Rex in Lincoln, Nebraska. One of many bicycle artworks one summer in the city, now removed, but faithfully recorded on this website.
At right: Statue of Swedish writer Vilhelm Moberg in Chisago City, Minnesota, USA.

At left: Sparta, Wisconsin, USA welcomes you.
At right: A boy, a bike and his dog. Location unknown.

Read More