The Banshee of the Bike Lane heralds the death of cyclists senselessly killed by motor vehicles. Her wails echo through the city streets as she mourns those who have fallen. She is dressed all in black, her garb a mourning gown made from recycled bicycle inner tubes, chains, and cogs; the cycling materials embracing her and honoring those whom she mourns. Her long black shroud, supported by the half-halo of an old bicycle wheel, floats silently behind her as she shrieks into the night. She wanders the bike lanes alone, honoring and keening for those lost to the roads.
Every year in the United States there are 800 cyclist fatalities. The Banshee of the Bike Lane stands as a wailing monument to these unnecessary and preventable deaths.
This piece takes inspiration from the banshees of Irish mythology, wailing female spirits who heralded the death of loved ones through their keens and shrieks--screams so piercing they can shatter glass. The banshee is usually described as unusually tall and shrouded by a veil. Inspired by these stories, The Banshee of the Bike Lane is clothed in mourning attire honoring fallen cyclists. Her dress is made entirely from recycled bicycle inner tubes and embellished with bicycle chain links and beadwork. Her headpiece is made from the remnants of a bicycle wheel, while a long black veil floats behind her. All of these recycled materials were sourced from the trash bins of local bicycle shops in Chicago.
The dress is made entirely on an industrial sewing machine. The foundation of the skirt is made from a strong sports mesh, and individually hand-cut bike tube scales are sewn one-by-one onto the assembled skirt foundation. The peplum is made from a foundation of canvas and is covered in tubes, with piping lines made from channels of parachute cord underneath. The top of the dress has a foundation of black canvas with strips of tubes sewn onto it in a pattern. The bell sleeves with their long tendrils are leftover extra components from my 2017 piece “Refuse Refuge”, made from a horsehair and canvas foundation and covered with a top layer of tube strips. The mound details around the neck are from bike valve foundations. The collar of the dress and the headpiece are embellished with hand-sewn beadwork and bicycle chain link details, and long hand-linked chainmaille strands made from bike chains hang off of the shoulder. The headpiece also features a hand-linked beadwork mesh mask and a bike wheel halo with a tire as a finishing detail on top.
Having had my own close-call experiences as a cyclist in the city, and after watching my friends mourn the loss of a fellow cyclist who was killed by a double-decker bus, I wanted to create a figure who stood in honor of those who have fallen. The Banshee of the Bike Lane is here to remind everyone of those we have lost, and to beg for safer and more eco-friendly means of transportation in a world that is being swallowed whole by pollution and waste.
This outfit was the winner of the Mythology Section Award and at World of WearableArt in Wellington, NZ in 2019.
Materials: bicycle tubes, spokes, bicycle wheel
Modeled by Lucky Stiff