Break a Heel? Grab a Bike! Designers Prototype Bike Share for NY's Fashion Week

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Fashion Week, New York City: One week, dozens of designers, scores of events -- and now, for the first time, 30 designer bicycles.

And -- unlike the clothing on the runways -- the bicycles are free to borrow as part of a week-long fashion-inspired bike share program. (More info on how to borrow the bikes is at the end of this story; more pictures can be found here.)

Elie Tahari's snakeskin-wrapped ride (photo by Kate Hinds)

It's part of Tour de Fashion, a Fashion Center Business Improvement District project.  Barbara Randall, the BID's president, said " the idea is that you can get around to all these different venues. A lot of times models are having to get between venues, or you forgot the shoes -- you can hop on a bike, get down there, drop them off, and get back." Plus, she said, the Fashion Center is pro-biking.

Here are a few of your choices, which will no doubt be more whimsical -- and probably not as functional -- as New York City's planned bike share program.

Fashion designer (and Project Runway winner) Gretchen Jones said she was eager to design a bike -- especially one that could accommodate her penchant for heels.

The (high) heel-friendly pedals of Gretchen Jones' bike (photo by Kate Hinds)

Jones lives in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, and bikes to work over the Manhattan Bridge. She said her design, which has wood-paneled wheels and a laser-etched wood basket, was inspired by the old woodie cars. "The more wood the better," she said.

Jones, with her bespoke bike (photo by Kate Hinds)

The basket is made out of arrows, because "arrows are a distinct part of my aesthetic in textile design, so I wanted to bring a little bit of my clothing design elements into the bike."

Gretchen Jones' arrow bike basket (photo by Kate Hinds)

All of the bikes were made by New York City's Bowery Lane Bicycles. "I'm trying to make sure the bikes are secure enough to be ridden," fretted Bowery Lane's Patrick Benard, "and some of them are on the borderline."

Benard's favorite bike: the leather-clad model by menswear designer Thom Browne. "It's beautifully done and it's functional, which is not true of all of these bikes. It can be ridden for years, and that's one of the things that I like about it."

Thom Browne's bicycle (photo by Kate Hinds)

Jewelry designer Amrita Singh made a bike that's "fit for a maharajah or a maharani, so it has a royal theme."

Amrita Singh's bejeweled bicycle (photo by Kate Hinds)

Singh said her bubblegum pink bike was inspired by the colors of Rajasthan, India. She was surprised by how difficult her bike was to make. "I didn't realize how much work it is," she laughed.  "Just the painting process is insane -- coat after coat. You think jewelry is hard? Bikes are harder."

Public School's Dao-Yi Chow also had painting challenges. He put the finishing touches on his bike the morning of the Tour de Fashion event -- and he's got the paint-stained hands to prove it.

Public School's Dao-Yi Chow's paint-stained hands (photo by Kate Hinds)

Public School's bike was, according to their blog, inspired by "the countless times we couldn’t catch a cab during the hectic 10 days that is NYC Fashion Week."  Plus, Chow says, the checkerboard design is an iconic New York City symbol.

Public School's Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne, with their taxi-inspired bike (photo by Kate Hinds)

Designer Yeohlee Teng's bike is covered with ants, "because cutter ants were the inspiration for my spring '11 collection, and I love the shape of the leaves that they cut, but I also like the fact that they are so industrious. Listen, we should take a lesson from the ants. You know what works for them? Cooperation."

Yeohlee Teng's ant-inspired bicycle (photo by Kate Hinds)

The bicycles will be on display -- and available for borrowing -- from Thursday, September 8 through September 15, from 10am to 6pm (weekdays; weekends 11am to 6pm). "If they're not here," said Barbara Randall, "it's because someone's riding them." There's no fee, but riders must present a valid credit card.  There are two docking stations, one at the pedestrian plaza on Broadway between 39th and 40th Streets, and one at the pedestrian plaza on Ninth Avenue and 14th Street.

At the end of the week, the bicycles will be auctioned off. The proceeds will go to the Council of Fashion Designers of America's Fashion Incubator, which supports up-and-coming designers through mentoring, low-rent studio space, networking, and education.