The Enviro Bike makes sound and music through live sonification of air pollution as you cycle.
Instigated by Matthews after her work with FoAM-Kernow on the Sonic Kayak, 2016-19 we made this first prototype in Berlin during COVID lockdown summer 2020, launched it at Lisboa Soa sound art festival September 2020 and presented the updated Enviro Bike at Middlesbrough’s Sonic Arts Week July 2021. Six Enviro Bikes remain at the Auxiliary Gallery in Middlesbrough permanently – our new UK hub for Enviro Biking.
Enviro Bike is simply a sonic bike that carries an air pollution sensor on its handlebars which reads the amount and size of particulate matter (PM) found in the air, including the ‘dangerous’ PM2.5. This data is sonified as the bike moves meaning that the cyclist can hear the resulting sound and music as they go. We also adapt different sonification patches to create new sound and music responses for each site and it’s air pollution ranges, making unique sound experiences on every ride.
How it works
Hardware and software
Enviro Bike uses a ‘Digital universal particle concentration sensor’ that counts particles of different sizes. It’s housed in a small box with nostrils that enables its fan to ‘breathe’ the passing air in and out. Using a laser the sensor measures the amount and size of particulate matter (PM) found in the air. It collects nine different data streams of particles larger and smaller than certain thresholds, including the harmful PM2.5 and PM10 measures which are monitored by the World Health Organization and identified for reduction. We have included PM reduction targets in our sonifications, to make these audible to riders.
This air quality data is fed into Pure Data (PD) modules on the Raspberry Pi which is carried on the back of the bike, this triggers and processes stored sounds depending on data levels received and how the PD patch is designed. These sonificaiton patches can be made to sound out the data in completely different ways, depending on the sound samples used and the processing techniques and parameters applied. The fundamental PD system used is MoSoLab built by Federico Visi.
The system uses a GPS receiver to track air pollution levels to the rider’s location. This enables us to create mapped visualisations after the ride showing highs and lows in specific locations – a completely different approach to monitoring stations that are averaged and relevant to static locations.
Enviro Bike comes with our most recent design of the speaker bar designed by Nico Jungel of Velogfracht, attaching as standard under the handlebars so that the speakers point to the rider. The kit box and a bass speaker are attached to the bike’s backrack, sending bass frequencies to the saddle. This kit can be attached to new bikes, rather than being supplied with a specific bike, and so it is our most portable Sonic Bike system yet.