The Launch of Enviro Bike (2020)
Enviro Bike live sonifying air pollution through central Lisbon, Lisboa Soa 2020. A moment
Enviro Bike is a sonic bike that makes sound and music through live sonification of the passing air pollution as you cycle. Made in our Berlin studio it was launched at Lisboa Soa Sound Art festival 2020 through an interactive and Open Research Lab we ran with the public to test the bike and develop the system. Running from the Campo Mártires da Pátria park in central Lisbon, the Lab was run daily by bicrophonic artists Lisa Hall, Kaffe Matthews and Federico Visi, with hardware by Sukandar Kartadinata and consultation with FoAM-Kernow, from 22 – 27.09.20.
With four Enviro Bikes ready to go, passers by were invited to ride one locally, then bring it back to us to download and visualise the air particulate data the system had gathered, including their journey’s GPS trace. Over the week this meant that, with the riders input, we could gradually accumulate all the rides data, so beginning to move towards a new understanding of the spread and variety of air quality in central Lisbon. This video shows a couple of riders assessing with us what happened on their ride.
EnviroBike carries an air pollution sensor on its handlebars within a small box with nostrils that enables its fan to ‘breathe’ the passing air in and out. Using a laser the sensor can then measure the amount and size of particulate matter (PM) found in the air including PM2.5 and below in nine different data streams. This data is also fed into sound synthesis modules (made in Pure Data – PD) housed in a Raspberry Pi computer on the back of the bike which trigger or process stored sounds depending on data levels received and how the PD patch is designed. The basic PD system used is MoSoLab, built by Federico Visi for the sonification project with sonic kayaks June 2020, and then developed with the making of the prototype EnviroBike in Berlin.
In addition Enviro Bike carried a gas sensor in Lisbon, each bike measuring a different gas ; carbon monoxide, methane, hydrogen or alcohol. A bulk of the Lab’s work then was to develop the response of these sound processing patches, to give not only a rewarding audio experience to the rider but some understanding of the air quality as they rode. With the four EnviroBikes present, different sonic characters were gradually built into each one, terrifying or relaxing or thrilling riders with thunderous rackets of parping fog horns or panting gasping bike or cyber woman calmly presenting the effects of invisible molecules on the human animal or dying granulated organ in dense traffic and oft outside that particular hotel (?) half way up the Avenue Almirante Reis, inbeteen the many calm moments of clean fresh air of course.
Overall, EnviroBike riding is a more interactive and investigatory experience for the rider now cycling through a city, able to hear as well as be inspired to think about the air space they were riding through. No longer required to follow a certain path as with the regular sonic bike, riders also wanted to explore their local neighbourhood and discover how polluted or not their local streets were, and where and when do the peaks arise.
Often outcomes were of surprise as the air was not necessarily polluted behind a car, but maybe more past a small restaurant cooking in the evening, or on the corner of a park where there were many pollinating trees and buses. Temperature, humidity, time of day, height above sea level, wind and the movement of air as well as architectural space, traffic type and density all fed into these results, inspiring much discussion into what are our local airspaces made of.
Enviro Bike was launched at the Goethe-Institute, opening Lisboa Soa 2020 21.09.20, Green Capital for Europe 2020. It was so well received by audience and environmental scientists alike, loally and internationally that we are devloping it in or Berlin studio for new projects in 2021 and beyond.
Many thanks to all at Lisboa Soa, the Göethe Institute , the riders, the volunteers and the environmental scientists who came and encouraged us. Also to Vera Marmelo for these wonderful images.