A buoy to mark the city's nautical ties. A "Frankenstein assemblage" of bicycle frames, welded together in a geometric pattern. An enormous fork trailing a single metal strand of "fettuccine" behind it down the sidewalk.
All three will soon be public art dotting downtown. They also will be something more practical - bike racks.
The Downtown Norfolk Council on Wednesday unveiled the designs of five public art bike racks commissioned to promote a "bike friendly" city center.
It's something cyclists say is long overdue. Residents who bike downtown often run across the problem of where to leave their two-wheeled transportation, said Wes Cheney, of the advocacy group Bike Norfolk.
Over the years, Cheney and his wife have ferreted out safe bike rack locations tucked away in parking garages. But for the uninitiated, he said, it can be a confusing and discouraging process.
"People won't go where they don't know there's parking," he said, adding that what's true for drivers is the same for cyclists.
Cheney, whose "U Lock" design of metal loops will be installed near MacArthur Center, said he got involved in the public art project because bike racks need to be more prominent and more plentiful downtown, where bike use has gone largely ignored.
Although planners drew up a citywide bicycle plan in 1981, the city's general plan a decade later stated cycling was "not a major component of Norfolk's transportation system," planning director Frank Duke said.
Now, he said, Norfolk is working to tie in older suggestions with existing amenities such as the Elizabeth River Trail. Other work includes zoning and long-term plans to improve routes through the city and encouraging bike riding as a transportation choice.
"We really need to start changing our attitudes about bicycles and start seeing them as a solution," Cheney said. "It can be part of the answer for Norfolk."
The Downtown Norfolk Council has been working on the project for a year and a half, having secured its board's approval to fund the project and pay the artists chosen through a design competition.
For Thom White, the architect who designed the "Flat Iron Fork," a towering utensil dragging behind it an unruly metal "noodle" that will accommodate at least six bikes, the bike rack challenge presented an opportunity to not only provide function but also fun.
His installation will go into Flatiron Park, a triangle of what is currently an empty lot facing Baxter's on Granby Street.
"I love downtown," he said. "I want to see it be a place that's more engaging to pedestrians and residents. A place where people stop and hang out. The art aspect gives some more identity."
Downtown Norfolk Council President and CEO Cathy Coleman said the organization hopes to have all the bike racks installed by spring.
Meghan Hoyer, (757) 446-2293, email@example.com