Day 26: The best thing about bikes is their people

Rose Nolen names her bicycles. She held a funeral for one. Now she’s staging a resurrection.

I met Rose yesterday. We were volunteer bike valets at the BikeHouston “bike corral” next to the Super Bowl LIVE event in downtown Houston. If you’re thinking about going to the events this week, a bike is a great way to get there. The BikeHouston folks will watch it for free. You’ll find them at Caroline and Polk.

The saga of Abby Grace

Rose rode Abby Grace in the 2016 Houston Art Car Parade.

Last year, Rose had a bicycle stolen from the bike rack in front of her workplace. Not just any bicycle, though. It was Abby Grace. Ridden mostly to special events and the Ride of Silence, Abby Grace was an homage to people who have died while riding bikes. Rose rode Abby Grace in the 2016 Houston Art Car Parade.

When Rose learned there was a seven-minute surveillance video of the bike thief using a power saw to cut the chain on her bike and several others, she wanted to see it. When the building owner refused, she wrote the state Attorney General. She was denied a second time.

The Black Swan will emerge

Then, a miracle. A few months later, a friend found Abby Grace in another part of town. Rose’s bike was filthy, beaten up and abused. To Rose, Abby Grace was dead. She lit candles and held a memorial service. She didn’t bury the bike, though. She stored it in her bedroom.

The transformation of Abby Grace into the Black Swan is under way.

A chance meeting in November with an art psychologist at the Houston Arts Alliance reinforced an idea Rose had been considering—a Phoenix project for Abby Grace. Not just a cleanup and a rebuild but a new life and a new identity: the Black Swan. Rose has even toyed with the idea of starting a bike art museum, inspired by The Graffiti and Street Art Museum of Texas, created by street artist Gonzo247.

For now, though, Rose is busy breathing life into her own project. The Black Swan’s debut will be at the Houston Art Car Parade in April. I can’t wait to see it.


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