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Town and Gown (and Bicycle Art) Converge on 3rd St.

By Dateline Staff on May 28, 2019 in University

Chancellor Gary S. May will join city officials and business owners this weekend to celebrate the “fantastic” new gateway between town and gown.

It’s part of the city’s Third Street Improvement Project, between A and B streets. The campus continued the new look, including decorative pavers, on its side of the intersection of Third and A, near the Social Sciences and Humanities Building.

May and others will participate in a ribbon-cutting at 11:15 a.m. Saturday (June 1) at “The Davis Needle,” a 25-foot-tall obelisk made from used bicycle parts, at the intersection of Third Street and University Avenue, midway between A and B streets. The project also includes an electronic sign that counts how many cycles pass by each day (and compares the number to the previous day).

City Manager Mike Webb said the project is a physical reminder of the relationship between the city and university. “I think this project is a fantastic gateway to more formally connect UC Davis and downtown,” Webb said May 7 when he stopped by to see the obelisk’s installation.

The “new” Third Street gives bicyclists and pedestrians more room, by narrowing the traffic lanes. The project also features new lighting, bike racks, benches and information kiosks. In addition, crews moved power lines underground and upgraded the stormwater drainage system.

‘The Davis Needle’

People walk past the Davis Needle.
“The Davis Needle” is made from salvaged bicycle parts. (Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

Artists Mark Grieve and Ilana Spector of Petaluma designed and built the sculpture, and Mike Hollibaugh of Holly Solar, also of Petaluma, devised and installed a system of LED lights inside the art — to flash in programmed sequences at night, for one minute at the top of each hour (inspired by the Eiffel Tower’s hourly light display).

Grieve and Spector used about 100 children’s bicycle frames to make the obelisk. “They are so cute and colorful,” Spector said, pointing out pink Barbie and powder-blue bikes contained within the structure. The exterior of the sculpture features sprockets and other bike parts collected in Davis in the last two years.

Kathleen Holder, who works in the Social Sciences and Humanities Building, said she walks and bikes daily on Third Street. “The whole improvement project is lovely,” she said while watching the obelisk’s installation. “It makes a wonderful connection between town and gown. Now it feels like the gateway to the campus.

“I think this may be one of my new favorite artworks in Davis. It’s really cool.”  

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About the author(s)

Dateline Staff Dave Jones, editor, can be reached at 530-752-6556 or Cody Kitaura, news and media relations specialist, can be reached at 530-752-1932 or