Photo by Martin Reis. More are in his Guaranteed Bike Lane set.
Sometimes the Internet isn’t enough to protect Toronto’s bike lanes from the drivers that treat the space between the thick white line and the curb as their territory.
Last Thursday, members of Advocacy for Respect for Cyclists (ARC)—Rick Conroy (pictured at left; coordinator of the Toronto Cyclists Union), Derek Chadbourne (at right; owner of the Bike Joint, whose birthday the Gardiner ride happened on), Martin Reis, and Stephen Targett—spent the morning hunting College Street for vehicles blocking the bike lane, re-routing cyclist and car traffic with pylons and a makeshift sign when they found offenders.
In an e-mail to all ARC members this morning (the entirety of which, as written, follows after the fold), Chadbourne details how he arrived at 8:15 a.m. at College and Spadina to see Reis, Conroy, and Targett surprised and disappointed—not a single car had stopped in the bike lane. (“We were sharing a collective dream in which cars no longer stopped in the bike lane,” Chadbourne writes.) Just before 9 a.m., their Utopianism stopped when a cab did, pulling into the lane. The men quickly set the cones up, and the cab quickly left. Initially considering Bay and Gerrard as their next stop—it was “filled with drivers flaunting the law,” another ARC member told them—the pack instead decided to migrate east on College, where they quickly and rather gleefully found a Canada Post truck pulled up half onto the sidewalk (pictured above; license plate 877 8MD, truck number 3380944). Hurriedly setting up shop again, with “religious zeal,” they “marveled at the power of the pylon and how it averted traffic around [the cyclists]. Even a giant dump truck frantically changed lanes as to not feel the wrath of our little cones.”
When the Canada Post worker returned to his car, Chadbourne says, the driver asked the men: “where the hell do you want me to park?” Chadbourne’s e-mail offers a response: “Not in the bike lane, my friend, not in the bike lane.”
Guaranteed Bike Lane, Or how I tried to save cyclists and learned to love
illegally parked cars
the plan was simple, a little bit of fun for bike month, yes that thing is still going on and to make sure that cyclists get to work safely. The idea was to meet at the corner of Spadina and College and deploy parking cones around any motorist foolhardy enough to park in a bike lane. The cones would act as a buffer for cyclists and move traffic over as far as the parked car dictated. We were going to meet at the afore mentioned spot at 8am sharp. I was late.
When i arrived I saw a bright neon sign proclaiming “Guaranteed Bike Lane!” and three sad looking ARC members. Martin Reis, Rick “birthday boy” Conroy and Stephen Targett. “Why so glum chums?” I asked. It was already 8:15 and not one car had stopped in the bike lane.
I was shocked, not one car. But this was College and Spadina, this was one of the worst stretches of the city for cars parking in the bike lane and not one had stopped? Had I accidently woken in another city, perhaps Copenhagen or Cornwall? No, there was a Tim Horton’s across the street and every once in awhile a TTC street car would trundle by, so this was definitely Toronto.
We waited hopefully for a car to stop we discussed what the possibilities could be. The first one was the most obvious. We were sharing a collective dream in which cars no longer stopped in the bike lane. But if this was a dream would we not have all dreamt that cars did not exist? So there had to be a CAA mole inside ARC, a mole that had warned all car drivers of our blitz.
As we discussed these permutations happy cyclists streamed by in ever increasing numbers, most smiling and waving. I am sure that most of them thought it was us that had saved them from the dangers of cars pared in the bike lane, but we could not take credit. Curse you CAA mole, I will find out who you are for destroying our direct action.
Then the miraculous happened. A cab stopped in the bike lane. We stared at it dumbfounded. What were we doing again. Oh yes, right, deploy the cones, deploy the cones, oh happy day! The cab drove off.
At 9am, Anne an ARC member rolled up and asked how things were progressing. We told her of our depressing action so far. She told us to go to Gerrard and Bay where the bike lane there was filled with drivers flaunting the law.
Hmmm…..Gerrard and Bay, that seemed like a long way to go on the chance that there might be cars parked in the bike lane. It was getting late and we had things to do and I was actually pretty hungry from all the inactivity that we had been doing all morning.
But we relented because we felt bad for Martin because of the pounding that Germany was going to get from Portugal in the Euro cup. So off we went down College street scanning the bike lanes for prey and it wasn’t long before we found it.
Perched half way on the sidewalk was a Canada Post truck. This one’s for you Darren, we cried out and descended on the vehicle with an almost religious zeal. We deployed our cones and waited happily on the sidewalk for the first cyclist to ride safely by.
It wasn’t long for a cyclist to ride by and it wasn’t long after that that we realized that we had to put our sign up to tell cyclists why we were there. Cyclist after cyclist rode by and smiled, some waved as they felt the safety of the situation. How ritcheous we felt because we could finally stand proud with our pylons and know that at least for a few minutes we had made the city safe for cyclists.
We marveled at the power of the pylon and how it averted traffic around them. Even a giant dump truck frantically changed lanes as to not feel the wrath of our little cones. We waited for the driver of the postal truck to come out, bikes rode by us on the sidewalk. This action prompted some of us to comment that perhaps next time we should do a guaranteed sidewalk.
The Postal worker came out and looked at his truck surrounded by safety cones. “Where the hell do you want me to park!”
Not in the bike lane, my friend, not in the bike lane.
With our work now done and our tummies growling in displeasure, we rode off west, knowing that we, for at least a small moment in time had made the bike lanes safe for cyclists.