Ron Rothberg has a soft spot for Jacksonville’s public art installations.
He has a wall painted on the wooden fence outside his home at Park Street and Talbot Avenue, and he runs a business that runs tours of the murals and statues of Riverside, Avondale and downtown. People who participate in the self-guided tours ride electric bikes that themselves ride works of art, each decorated by a local artist.
It has a fleet of a dozen head-turning touring bikes, scalloped with noses and wings and flowers and images of Jacksonville bridges. The bikes are electric, so riders can pedal if they choose or use one of five “power assist” levels that push the bikes forward up to 20mph.
The bikes are all ‘steppers’ – what used to be called a girls’ bike, without a center crossbar – which makes them easy to get on and off. A thumb-activated throttle activates electric assist, or the bikes can be set to provide an extra boost every time they pedal.
Rothberg said that if you can ride a bicycle, you can ride an electric bicycle. Riders must be at least 18 years old and pass a quick security check before being released. Helmets are provided and the bikes have Kevlar lace-up tires to make them durable.
Cyclists can book a bike for a 90-minute picnic, self-guided tour, or Saturday excursion to Arts market by the river. Rothberg said he hopes to start tours for newcomers to Jacksonville soon and is working on plans for a tour of historic churches and food tours that will move from restaurant to restaurant. It also provides guided tours on Sundays led by artists, photographers and storytellers.
Rothberg said he started the business to show people the public art and architecture around them. One of Art Bike Jax’s most popular tours is a self-guided trip that takes cyclists along the St. Johns River and into downtown, past murals painted on downtown buildings. and the mosaics outside the Jessie Ball Center DuPont.
“The artistic community in this city is so amazing,” said Rothberg. “I think more people who live here in Jacksonville should know that this is a significant collection of international art.”
Cyclists download an app to any smartphone and simply follow the map for a three-hour tour. Each bike has a mount on its handlebars to allow easy viewing of the map and the route at the same time. Tours stick to quiet residential roads, designated bike paths, and the Riverwalk when possible, but cyclists must deal with traffic at certain points along their route.
He said he saw a mix of locals and visitors making the tours. Some are interested in art, others are just looking for a pleasant stroll along the river to watch the dolphins play. “Some people want to know more about architecture or history,” he said. “Others want to learn on their own. ”
The e-Dart electric bikes cost around $ 1,300 each. Rothberg worked with local artists to give each one a unique touch. Next year, when the bikes start showing wear and tear, he plans to auction them off, with the proceeds going to artists and an undecided arts group.
“Then we’re going to start all over again,” Rothberg said.
Rothberg is a native Floridian, born in Miami and raised in Orlando. He moved to the Jacksonville area in 2004 and to Avondale in 2014.
The inspiration for the Art Bikes project came from a wooden fence outside his house, along Talbot Avenue. At the start of the pandemic, a neighbor offered to paint a peacock on one end of the fence. He blossomed from there, with his kids and their friends adding to it until he ran the entire length.
“This is how it all started,” he said.
The three-hour self-guided tours cost $ 50. Saturday RAM trips are $ 40 and 90-minute lunch rentals are $ 25. Tours can be booked through artbikesjax.com.