Tuesday, August 30, 2005


The WE Riders (West-East Oakland Riders) ecotourism exploration initiated their research project to culturally and geographically locate West and East Oakland with their tandem bicycle during the 2005 Bayennale. The marksearch team (Sue Mark & Bruce Douglas) used their tandem bike to draw west-east lines showing the longitude in Downtown Oakland.

The 2005 Bayennale took place in over 20 venues throughout the Bay Area July 22 - August 7, 2005. For more information, please visit the official Bayennale website.

All of the images for the Pilot Ride were taken by photographer Pamela Palma, who followed us on her bike.
Why a tandem bike?
Bruce gave Sue the tandem as a wedding present 6 months before their wedding. The bike has become a symbol of their relationship: successful riding is based on good communication, trust, and kinesthetic collaboration.
Storefront Installation
The marksearch team demonstrated the WE Riders project with a full-scale model of the tandem bike and travelling kiosk at 65 Washington Street in Jack London Square. The kiosk will display information, stories, and images collected during the WE Riders project, Spring 2006.
Region Covered:
marksearch rode throughout the Jack London Square area, delineating the longitude line (west-east) and marking points along the way. Initially, Mark thought that they would cover most of downtown Oakland, while Douglas projected that they would work through one or two blocks. Over the 7 hours of their ride, they marked seven points. A regional map was included as part of the WE Riders insallation.

Filling the Chalk-Dispenser Resevior:
Douglas developed a special dispenser attached to the rear wheel of the tandem. This wooden dispenser could hold several pounds of chalk-line powder. We chose orange so that our ephemeral trail would be highly visible.
Testing Chalk-Dispenser:
The pilot ride was our first opportunity to see how the dispenser would work. The plan: the entire unit was attached to the tandem's rear wheel. The wheel's rotation would cause a small 'hammer' to agitate the dispenser. The bottom of the dispenser was fitted with a perferated metal lining. The agitation would force the chalk to fall out onto the rear wheel's tread. As the wheel made contact with the pavement, the chalk would be compressed onto the pavement. The result: an orange line to mark the longitude.

Before taking to the streets, we tested the unit's functionality inside of the storefront. Small poofs of orange dust billowed out from the rear of the bike. The system did not work as well as we had hoped. The chalk hopper box required more agitation than we had originally predicted. Chalk was released, but in random clouds that covered the tandem's rear wheel. (Check out flicker to see the 'orangification' of Mark's legs.)

Site # 1: -122 Degrees, 16 Minutes, 41 Seconds
Stenciling first longitude point in front of storefront installation, near Embarcadero & Broadway.

Site #2, -122 Degrees, 17 Minutes, 0 Seconds
We rode to a far westernly point in the Jack London area, in an attempt to draw a long line close to the water. Our marked point was somewhat random (and nostalgic), at the corner of Bush & 3rd Street near the defunct Porchlight Bar.

Site #3: -122 Degrees, 16 Minutes, 46 Degrees
We headed east towards the Oakland Ferry Terminal at Water Street. We met an interesting fellow rider as we were finishing our stenciling of the site. He admited our bike and told us that Lance Armstrong has covered his bike with symbols to bring him continued health and luck.

Site #4: -122 Degrees, 16 Minutes, 41 Seconds
We thought it would make sense to mark the enormous compass rose that lies in the heart of the Jack London Square Plaza.

Returning to the Base
After a few hours of riding, we returned to our storefront base to update our route information on the large map. We spoke with some passers-by about the project. Everyone had a story to share about where they thought East or West Oakland might be.

Site #5: -122 Degrees, 16 Minutes, 29 Seconds
After riding parallel to the water's edge, we decided to stencil a longitude mark in front of Jack London's cabin. This sod roofed structure (replica ?) was orginally built in early 20th century in Alaska and relocated to Jack London Square in the 1970s. A short distance from the cabin is Heinhold's First and Last Chance Bar. This historic icon, built from the remnants of an old whaling ship, has been in continuous operation since June 1883. It was one of London's favorite spots.
Site #6: -122 Degrees, 16 Minutes, 27 Seconds
We stopped at one of the main installation areas for the Bayennale: The event had taken over a Jack London Square parking lot and the Port of Oakland filled the lot with shipping containers. Artists from all over the world, including Oakland, Finland, England, Germany and Australia exhibited a wide range of projects. One group created a massive pinhole camera out of the container, while another had converted the space into an enormous waterbed. The most popular installation was created by the Finns: a propane-heated sauna, complete with a cold dunk in a water-filled oil drum.

On to the Final Site:
For our final marked point, we decided we would visit a major point of entry and exit to Oakland: the Amtrack Train station. Though it was late in the day, our chalk dispensing system was finally cooperating with us. If you look very closely at the above image, you can see the glimmer of an orange trail flowing from our rear tire. We are determined to perfect this feature of our research process for a future project.

Site #7: -122 Degrees, 16 Minutes, 17 Seconds
Our arrival at the Amtrack platform on tandem bike attracted a lot of attention. There was a small group of kids waiting for the next train. As soon as we took out our stenciling materials and prepared to mark the longitude, every one of those kids clustered around us. Of course they all wanted to know "What are you doing?" Once we explained the purpose of our work, they wanted to know, "But why?" We are sure that this will be a common question as we continue our research. We want to pursue this project because it is easy to operate out of habit and assumptions. We want to give the people who live in Oakland the chance to give their own descriptions of West and East Oakland. And we want to make sure that their voices are heard.

After the kids had boarded the train, an Amtrack employee approached. We were certain that he would reprimand us for defacing private property. Instead, he was curious and interested in our project. And he had a lot of questions about the tandem. The bike is definitely a conversation starter and an excellent metaphor for our work: steady collaboration.