Environmental Bike, pollution sound


A Sonic Bike is a bike that plays sounds following the cyclist’s movements and speed, thanks to two speakers positioned on the front under the handlebar and a geo-referenced audio tracking system via GPS. The generated sounds are mapped to the surrounding environment and in continuous dialogue with the cyclist’s path: his journey becomes a real score. The first Sonic Bike is an open research project and was created by Kaffe Matthews in 2008. Over time, lots of variations of these special bikes have been generated, in different territories and contexts, such as “The Marja trio”, which explores the soundscape of the port of the island of Hailuoto in Finland. The project has been developed over time so much so that it evolved to become the Bicrophonic Research Institute (BRI). Environmental Bike is one of the latest evolutions of this research: it is a Sonic Bike that creates music by sonifying (and collecting in real time) data on the polluting particles detected in the areas crossed by the bike. The process was pioneered in Lisbon through a performance led by sound artists Lisa Hall, Kaffe Matthews and Federico Visi, with hardware designed by Sukandar Kartadinata. Local cyclists used the Envibikes while wandering around a part of central Lisbon. Each bike returned sounds (and analysis) of different gases: pressing breathing patterns of hyperventilating cyclists, alarming choruses of fog horns were the sentinel sounds of banks of polluting particles crossed by cyclists, to name a few. Even in the crevices of clean air, a calm female voice has not abandoned the riders, illustrating in great detail the damage of pollution on human health. At the same time, the collected data were stored and visualized to map the most polluted points of the city. An Envibike is a number of things therefore: a sustainable means of transport in its traditional form; an aesthetic representation tool, which plays the score of the surrounding environment; and a sensor that is useful to the community, collecting data that otherwise would not be available. And this vision could perhaps expand into other dimensions: could collective bicycle performances be organized in dialogue between polluted and non-polluted places? And furthermore, why not use the collected data as an open, public and shared resource for future urban planning? Chiara Ciociola


Environmental Bike live sonifying air pollution as you ride.