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Bike Lanes Become Runways for Fashion Week Designer Bicycles

By Jill Colvin | August 19, 2011 7:31am | Updated on August 19, 2011 8:52am
An illustration of a bike by designer Jessica Hosoi for
An illustration of a bike by designer Jessica Hosoi for "Tour de Fashion."
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Illustration by designer Jessica Hosoi

MIDTOWN — The Fashion Center is looking to turn the city’s bike lanes into runways this Fashion Week with a new bike sharing program featuring wheels outfitted by some of the city’s top designers.

The Garment Center-based Business Improvement District will be lending 30 bicycles purchased from Bowery Lane Bicycles on the Lower East Side and hand-embellished by some of the biggest names in fashion, including Diane von Furstenberg, Betsey Johnson, Isaac Mizrahi, Juicy Couture, Nicole Miller and Nanette Lepore.

The “Tour de Fashion” bikes will be available to borrow free of charge beginning Thursday, Sept. 8., but renters will be forced to leave their credit card numbers for security and will be charged a yet-to-be determined amount if they decide to make off with the sure-to-be coveted designer wheels.

An illustration by designer Emily Saunders, who also participated in the Sidewalk Catwalk project.
An illustration by designer Emily Saunders, who also participated in the Sidewalk Catwalk project.
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Illustration by designer Emily Saunders

“We’ve been talking a lot about bikes in the Fashion District,” said Fashion Center BID President Barbara Randall. “It’s a hot topic right now.”

She said the idea is part of a larger effort to use Broadway's pedestrian plazas as an art space — this time stressing the importance of using alternative forms of transportation to alleviate congestion.

“We are trying to view the Broadway boulevard plazas as canvases for installations and events,” Randall said. “I view this as much as an art exhibit as utilitarian."

The bikes will be auctioned off at the end of the week to support the Garment District's incubator space.

But while the BID wants riders to show off the designer wheels and promote biking in the city, they're already encouraging riders not to park the bikes for fear of their being stolen.

While helmets will be provided, locks will not, to discourage people from leaving the bikes unattended, even while locked.

"The purpose really isn’t to lock it and leave it. We’re really nervous about this," Randall said. “We’re really urging people to mostly use it as an outing or a ride in New York.”

While the BID is still determining exactly how much to charge riders who fail to return the bikes, Mike Salvatore, the CEO and founder of Bowery Lane Bicycles boutique bike store on the Lower East Side, which hand-made the frames before they were handed to the designers, said that the un-embellished bikes normally sell for $695.

“I would consider it a piece of art,” said Salvatore, 30, whose team of welders assembled the bikes nearby in Queens.

Despite the risk, Randall said she’s hopeful that New Yorkers will respect the bikes, just as they did a series of designer-dressed mannequins that were installed along the same plazas without incident last year.

“We were so worried about vandalism. But we had no problems. None. It’s astonishing,” she said. “If you do a fun, cool project, they love it, they embrace it…  People want cool stuff to work.”

Not every project, however, has the same luck.

In March, a woman was arrested for attacking a sheep sculpture that had been erected in Times Square. She later appeared to boast about the crime on her Facebook page with the post "HIDE YO SHEEP HIDE YO LAMB."

The BID had previously petitioned the DOT to reconfigure the plazas between 37th and 39st streets, moving the bike lanes to the opposite side of the plazas so that pedestrians would no longer have to cross them — a recipe for disaster, Randall had warned.

The bikes will go on display on Sept. 7 on the Broadway plazas between 39th and 40th Street and will be available to rent from tents from Sept. 8 through Sept. 15 weekdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and weekdays from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Serena Solomon contributed reporting.