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Buy a sterling silver "sheeple" pin

More bike parking in the Heights: Arts organizer Mitch Cohen makes racks a top priority

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Mitch Cohen, the founder and manager of the First Saturday Arts Market, showing off his "sheeple" pin.  Courtesy of Mitch Cohen
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Artists are selling these sterling silver pieces as a fundraiser for bike racks in the Heights.  Courtesy of Mitch Cohen
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Cohen (whose bike is pictured here) sees a dire need for a greater network of bike racks near area businesses.  Courtesy of Mitch Cohen
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Mitch Cohen_sheeple_bike racks_Houston Heights_First Saturday Arts Market
Mitch Cohen_sheeple_bike racks_Houston Heights_First Saturday Arts Market

After an unflattering post-White Linen Night exposé in the Houston Press, it didn't look like we'd be seeing much of Mitch Cohen, the co-founder and organizer of the annual event and the founder and manager of the First Saturday Arts Market.

But that negative press had a silver lining: Commenters on the controversial story gave Cohen's followers and supporters the nickname "sheeple," a term that artists Kristen Kramlich and Valerie Gudell brought to life with tongue-in-cheek sterling silver pins that they're selling at the monthly market to raise money to install more bicycle racks in the Heights.

"Half of the people knew what they were and bought them because they're funny. The other half just thought it was great that we're using the funds to buy bike racks," said Cohen, who told CultureMap that the two artists overheard his bike rack expansion idea during the planning stages of White Linen Night last summer.

Cohen wants input from the cycling community and with area businesses to target locations and determine high-need areas.  

That's when Cohen first noticed the lack of secure bike parking options along White Oak, 11th Street and 19th Street — unusual for the area, given its proximity to the oft-traveled White Oak Bayou Trail and the relative prevalence of dedicated bike lanes. 

Cohen plans to collaborate with Houston Heights Association and Fred Zapalac of Blue Line Bike Lab on the project, utilizing the heft of the former and taking advantage of the wholesale pricing offered by the latter. That's helpful, as the wave-shaped bicycle racks run in the $200 to $300 range at a retailer's cost.

He wants input from the cycling community and with area businesses to target locations and determine high-need centers, and will seek help in maneuvering City of Houston departmental hurdles for installation approval. 

For now, though, Cohen's undertaking is still in the fundraising stages. Kramlich and Gudell will continue to sell their "sheeple" pins at the First Saturday Arts Market on Dec. 1 and 8, in hopes of accruing enough cash to install the first racks in January 2013. 

Contact Cohen by email for more information about the initiative. 

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