“Bike Arch” by Mark Grieve and Ilana Spector: © Mark Grieve and Ilana Spector, Photograph © Steph Goralnick

Riding a bicycle is already regarded as a green mode of transport — not to mention a fun and practical way to get fit. Sadly, however, while many owners cherish their bikes, several millions of them still end up on the scrap heap each year. Impounded by police, stolen, lost or otherwise unwanted cycles end their lives gently rusting in some quiet corner or compacted into cubes with the rest of society’s rubbish. While some are rescued from such anonymous deaths and recycled or reused, a rare and fortunate few become part of unique sculptures, products and installations created by people with vision not only for aesthetics and design, but also for sustainability and recycling.

7. Arc de Vélo

Photograph: © West 8 Urban Design & Landscape Architecture

Toronto spent CAN$900,000 turning parts of the city’s extensive waterfront into a geranium-lined bike route for 2005’s bike week. The route along Queen’s Quay Boulevard was highlighted with a considerable four-story-high square archway made from 600 stolen bikes taken from the police department’s storage garage. The bikes were hung from the scaffolding by their handlebars and secured to the structure with zip ties. No welding meant that they were reusable when the archway was taken down. Designers West 8 describe the arch as “temporary landscape intervention” and “a prelude to the first-phase implementation of the master plan to follow” in what Waterfront Toronto calls “the largest urban revitalization project in North America.”

6. Bermondsey Bike Tree

Photograph: © Mark Hadden Photography

Designed by Sarah Wigglesworth Architects, this alternative Christmas tree is (in several ways) the physical embodiment of an important message about sustainability and repurposing. Harnessing sunlight with reflectors and using wind to turn the wheels, the sculpture consumes no energy. Not only that, the 35 wheels that constitute the installation have been borrowed from the U.K. charity Re~Cycle, an organization that collects secondhand bicycles and parts, and ships them to African countries where they are used as simple but vital transportation. Environmentally friendly, creative and with a good cause behind it, the Bermondsey Bike Tree will hopefully encourage Londoners to use bikes more often, or donate unwanted or broken machines to charity.

5. New World

Photograph: © Gil Burstein

Made from more than 200 discarded and rusting bicycle frames, Gil Burstein’s New World sculpture graces the entrance to Kibbutz Nirim in southwestern Israel. The people of the kibbutz produce organically grown peanuts, sweet potatoes, turnips and carrots and export them to Europe. It is a small, hardworking community that used bikes as their main form of transport, but in the early 2000s, the mechanic who maintained the bikes passed away and soon an assortment of unrepairable, unwanted cycles began to accumulate. Artist and designer Gil Burstein saw an opportunity for creation. He says: “As I saw the big pile of old bicycle frames I decided that it is a great building material for a new sculpture to commemorate the old kibbutz way of life and I made this large sphere.” The result is a striking example of resourceful recycling.

4. Five Easy Pieces

Photograph: © Donald Lipski

This 2003 sculpture by Donald Lipski is actually made up from five separate pieces, each focusing on a different object. Guitars, tennis rackets, kayaks, bicycles and bar stools have all been skilfully manipulated into geometric shapes and hang suspended in a 100-foot-high atrium of The Washington, DC, Convention Center. The choice of objects is an affectionate nod to the world-renowned sculptor’s childhood memories. The largest sculpture is a substantial 16 feet in diameter.

3. Cyclisk

“Cyclisk:” © Mark Grieve and Ilana Spector, Photograph © Mike Chavez

Located in Santa Rosa, CA, on a road lined with car dealerships, Mark Grieve and Ilana Spector’s imposing “Cyclisk” is “quite a comment on modes of transportation.” Standing a lofty 65 feet high and weighing 10,000 pounds, the obelisk was funded by the City of Santa Rosa’s Art in Public Places Program helped by donations from the car manufacturer Nissan. Some 340 bicycles and one tricycle make up an amazing construction that stands tall as an illustration of what can be achieved by inspired individuals. The bicycle parts were mainly donated by bike co-ops (Trips for Kids/Re-Cyclery in San Rafael, CA, Community Bikes in Santa Rosa, CA and Bici Centro in Santa Barbara, CA). Says Spector: “Collecting unusable parts from the debris piles of nonprofit community bike projects has proven to be a win-win; community bike DIY places are thrilled unusable parts are not becoming land fill and the city is psyched the sculpture will solidify Santa Rosa as bike friendly.”

2. Bike Shop

Photograph: © Christine Lepisto

Peter Horstmann’s bicycle shop eschews the traditional shop sign in favor of a more conspicuous statement. Some 120 traded-in bikes of all shapes and sizes (the oldest bike to grace the shop’s front dates from 1933) decorate Horstmann’s façade in Altlandsberg, Germany, and have earned the business much interest from online newspapers and blogs. The unusual advertising strategy certainly seems to have worked: Horstmann told Treehugger.com’s Michael Graham Richard that his shop’s business was “up about 40% this year while in general German bicycle retail is down 22%.”

1. Bike Arch

“Bike Arch:” © Mark Grieve and Ilana Spector, Photograph © Steph Goralnick

The organizers of the Burning Man annual art event and temporary community, in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, describe it as being based on “radical self-expression and self-reliance.” As part of the green theme of 2007’s event, Mark Grieve and Ilana Spector created another major installation. As with their work on Cyclisk above, Bike Arch was constructed entirely from reused bicycle components that came from scrap heaps and community DIY bike co-ops that rebuild bikes and teach people how to fix them. The incredible archway stands 30 feet tall and 50 feet wide and doubles (fittingly) as a bike rack. Grieve says: “There is a joy that occurs when everything lines up just right. When all the factors come together and you can look at your creative efforts and truthfully say to yourself, ‘I did that right,’ — whatever it is — a painting, a sculpture, a poem, a dance — that is what gives me purpose and assurance that I am contributing.”