The Legend of the Metrocard Bike

When I saw it today at 59th and 8th, I didn’t realize I had come across a legend.

At the time, it seemed like a clever novelty: a bike completely decked out in Metrocards (for non-New Yorkers, a Metrocard is a NYC subway pass).

bike01

Great job, right? I like the basket work…

bike02

I also dig the front wheel, which features rare green Metrocards…

bike03

…and even a neat little jagged star on the hub.

bike04

All in all, very cool. I was about to publish the post this when I did a quick search to see if anyone else had ever noticed it.

pics

Could this be the most photographed bike in New York City? On Flickr alone, there are over 100 pictures, all taken by random strangers at different locations throughout the city beginning in 2006 – that’s over 3 years of documentation!! The bike also shows up on numerous websites and blogs.

It is incredible to me that all these chance encounters have inadvertently formed a complete photographic history of a freakin’ bike. The earliest picture I could find was taken on July 13, 2006. According to the photographer: “I actually shot this somewhere in the 30s, I think just West of Park. I was on my way to Jim Hanley’s Universe for the first time.” The bike appears to be in its early stages of design – note that the helmet is the same.

Metrocard bike

We catch up with the bike on September 20, 2006, with major changes to the front handlebars. It also appears the owner has figured out a way to cover up the front fender, and added cards to the wheel.

Metrocard Bike

Over a year later (December 15, 2007) and the owner has given the basket a snazzy redesign.

New use for metrocards

However, by May 28, 2008, the basket has returned to its original look. Meanwhile, there are more Metrocards than ever.

IMG_2447

Incredibly, later that year on September 17, 2008, a rare picture of the bike is taken with the owner riding it -  BUT NO HEAD!!  (high marks to anyone who can identify this location from the clues in the picture).

Metrocard Bike

Another picture shows up with a similar phenomenon, though the comments identify the man as NOT being the owner of the bike. What gives??

metrocard bike

In reality, the identity of the bike’s owner isn’t a mystery – his name is Andy Padre, and he was profiled in 2008 for his Metrocard art obsessions in the New York Times (thanks for the note, Justin).

metroBike_manhattan_01

It’s pretty great to think that a single bike has been documented for more than three years on the streets of New York by total strangers charmed by its originality. Keep an eye out for it – I’m now realizing my encounter may have been a rare occurrence. Perhaps coming across the bike brings good luck for the finder?

-SCOUT

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15 comments

  1. I came across it for the first time in the exact same spot on Monday. It’s a piece of novelty New York.

  2. hmm, some of the bikes seem a little different. Are we sure there isn’t more than one? Maybe some imposter metrobikes?

  3. is that Central Park West by Strawberry Fields, leading to the John Lennon memorial?

  4. West side, downtown bike path along the river, “Hudson River Greenway”

  5. West Side Highway bike path is the photograph. I wonder if the owner works down by the World Financial Center because it’s always parked down there. I’ve seen him riding it a few times over the summer. Definitely a NYC legend.

  6. The artist was written up in the NYT back in 2008.
    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/13/nyregion/13bigcity.html

  7. i think the real story is a bike that’s been on the streets of NYC since 2006 and hasn’t been stolen!

  8. I love it! Thank you, as always, for doing such detailed research into your subjects. I really hope I see the bike someday.

  9. I agree with some of the aboves, west side highway/Hudson greenway, probably at Christopher

  10. Hi, I really enjoyed reading your post. I found your site from Google. Will bookmark to return later. Thanks!

  11. Looks like Central Park at the crossing from the reservoir to ~E. 90th. When I lived in the city I used to bike the circuit of the park a lot, and that just SEEMS familiar.

  12. There’s nothing like good reading material on a rainy day. That’s really the only reason I was online and happened upon your article. I agree with you on many levels.

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