At the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, visitors are immediately confronted by a stationary bike. It’s an old steel-frame cruiser with rust-colored fenders and a wire basket full of flowers. You’re invited to get in the saddle and put on headphones. A mantra plays as you pedal: “We are strong. We are invincible. We are bicycle riders.”
It’s part of a project by Salt Lake artist Megan Hallett called The League Of Reluctant Bicyclists. As Hallett sees it, there are plenty of reasons to be hesitant about riding a bike around town.
“Fear of doing something different, outside the expected ways of getting places," Hallett said. "Fear of something happening to you. You feel vulnerable. You have to inconvenience yourself to do it.”
But Hallett also sees cycling as an important way to benefit her community: it’s better for air quality, for public health, for traffic.
“I started to think about ways that certain approaches to art could be blended with these issues and it could be a public art project," she said. "You can actually use art to advocate for your point of view. It is certainly a form of advocacy.”
Hallett recruited a few dozen riders - and non-riders - and asked them to spend two months documenting their rides with written accounts, photos, and videos. After that participatory period, she put their content together into a visual art installation.
For all the reluctance, Hallett still says cycling is the best way to get around.
“It’s an adventure," she said. "It’s just different. You’re not isolated. You see things you’d never see in your car. I like the feeling that I’ve pushed myself to do something that’s harder.
"Roads were always meant for multiple modes of transportation," she continued. "There’s a dominant narrative that they’re only for cars – that’s actually false. They’re intended for people walking, people using wheelchairs, people biking.”
The League of Reluctant Bicyclists will be at the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art in downtown Salt Lake City from now until November 2nd.