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A Bike Lane for Jenna Morrison

More than a month after an accident there killed a local woman, cycling activists discreetly reallocate space for the vehicles that use Sterling Road.

At 10:30 a.m., the intersection of Dundas Street and Sterling Road was a busy one.

Eight men and women, wrapped tightly in winter clothes, rushed around in the bright sunshine, wielding paint rollers and cardboard stencils. Half an hour later, three police cruisers idled on Sterling, and the unorthodox road crew was nowhere to be seen. But a few bicycles, abandoned on a roadside lawn in what had to be a hasty dispersal, were not the only evidence of the painters having been there this morning. They also left behind two new bike lanes—one northbound and one southbound—on Sterling Road, where cyclist Jenna Morrison was struck and killed by a truck in early November.

These bike lanes are more colourful than most.

“We were putting in some paint in between the lanes. It’s teal, which was Jenna Morrison’s favourite colour,” said Derek, one of the participants. (Derek, like the rest of those involved, declined to give his full name.)

The new lanes are the joint work of a group of community members, cycling activists, and the Urban Repair Squad, which has a long history of similarly surreptitious paint jobs.

“All of our modifications are still within city guidelines,” said Rosie, another of the participants. “This is kind of our proposal for what we think the intersection could, or should, look like,” she said.

Questions about the safety of the intersection do seem to have become a concern of city council in the weeks since Morrison’s death. Ana Bailão’s recommendation to review the incident in order to improve cyclist safety there was adopted early last week.

But for Rosie and Derek, a broader philosophical change is needed at City Hall.

“It’s a question of priorities,” Rosie said.

“The City now is not focused on pedestrian and cycling infrastructure,” Derek added. “They’re just apparently trying to get as many cars on the road and downtown as possible, and I think they’re doing an outstanding job (of that).”

Ordinarily, the Urban Repair Squad paints at night, but this project got underway at 9:00 a.m., in order to accommodate community members interested in participating. Derek, for one, was not overly concerned about operating in broad daylight.

“I really think that [Morrison’s death] is really resonating with a lot of people and I think that a lot of people would actually support what we’re doing,” he said.

But apparently, not everyone was supportive. Police arrived after a complaint was filed to 311.

By noon, the abandoned bicycles had been loaded into the trunk of a police car and hauled away. A City worker and a police officer strolled, pointing, up and down the lanes, apparently making plans for their removal.

“This isn’t that hard,” Derek said of creating bike lanes. He stood a few safe blocks away from his handiwork, a spot of teal paint—which is water-based gouache—dotting the tip of his nose. “If eight people can come out and do it in an hour and a half, then I think the City, with all of their equipment, can probably come out and do it in less time.”

Photos by Martin Reis.


  • ife


    losing faith in t.o.

    • Anonymous

      Really eh, how low does someone have to be to complain about something like this especially at that location of all places?

    • capolicy

      Give me a break. it’s incredibly stupid to put markings on a road where none are planned…they’ve likely made it more confusing and less safe. If I had seen it, I would have let the City know and would hope anyone else would do the same.

      • ife

        sorry i didnt realize bike lanes make the road more dangerous..

        • Capolicy

          You’re intentionally missing the point so it’s probably not worth responding. Unplanned, unsanctioned road markings confuse everyone using the road which I assume can only result in a more dangerous environment.

          Leave road markings to the people whose job that is. Even if you want more bike lanes, don’t take it upon yourself to just paint them on. The bike lobby in this city is becoming more annoying by the day. Give your head a shake.

          • Anonymous

            Your argument doesn’t make the least bit of sense. Your assertion that “Unplanned, unsanctioned road markings confuse everyone using the road which I assume can only result in a more dangerous environment” seems to be based on the idea that people might become confused because there weren’t bike lanes there previously.

            So how do you figure people cope with new bike lanes created by the city? Would that not also cause confusion for people who didn’t see them previously?

            What about driving around a part of town you’ve never been in before or in a strange city. Are people confused dangerous drivers if they aren’t already familiar with the road markings in an area and have to rely upon actually seeing them when they drive down that road for the very first time? I don’t think so.

            These bike lanes are very clear and unambiguously bike lanes. People seeing them for the very first time will have no trouble recognizing that they’re in fact bike lanes, even if there are some very slight differences between them and other bike lanes.

            There’s clearly plenty of space for bike lanes at this location, if the truck in the photo above can handle driving through that intersection with bike lanes added I cannot imagine how anyone else would have any difficulty doing so either, there is more than enough room for everyone.

          • Anonymous

            So what’s preventing drivers from painting over bike lanes in areas that they don’t want them?

          • Anonymous
          • snortypickles

            I got paint in my garage! Who’s in!

          • Anonymous

            So how do you figure people cope with new bike lanes created by the city? Would that not also cause confusion for people who didn’t see them previously?

            Good point. Perhaps the URS should have faked one of those sunburst NEW signs that call drivers’ attention to altered situations.

  • W. K. Lis

    Wrong shade of blue or colour-blind? Expected green, not blue?

  • Rs Kahn

    like so many other problems we face as a society, in Toronto and globally, it’s neither the lack nor impossibility of the solutions, it’s the absence of will to exercise them.

  • BoGoWo

    as usual fine work, well done; wish i could say that of the City!

  • Jym Dyer

    • Really nice work! #BikeTO

  • Lprinn

    This is a great idea!
    There is obviously room for a bike lane, so why make it official Toronto City council?

    • Anonymous

      I believe that’s Denzil’s remit. Denzil, how’s that coming?

  • Anonymous

    It’s always a brilliant idea to, just because you feel like it and without any knowledge of road construction, to create fake bike lanes in the wrong colours that create an unsafe intersection, undermine cyclist activism and cost us all money to clean it up. Bravo, super geniuses.

    • Anonymous

      Um… the intersection is all ready unsafe, apparently.

    • Symingtonplus

      FACT: the bike lanes they painted link to existing ones on Dundas, and are painted white. The large swatches of Blue that’s been painted inside the bike lanes is to make it much more clear that there is a bike lane there.

  • Roy Murray

    The intersection has already demonstrated its dangers
    The trucking industry won’t adopt safety guards (even though they will save money through better fuel efficiency).
    I thought citizen safety was important in Toronto.
    City Council takes forever to do anything, so what’s a community to do?
    Sometimes guerrilla action is required when the bureaucratic process takes forever.

    • Marc

      Yes. Until some activist does something somewhere that truly does create a hazard and someone else gets injured or killed, all in the the name of doing what’s right (I’m all for that) by doing what’s maybe not so right (not so much for that).

  • Anonymous

    When our representatives fail to do what is right, we have an obligation to do it ourselves.

  • Marc

    Actually, “when our representatives fail to do what is right, we have an obligation to” either bring social and political pressure to bear on the current administration through legal channels and means, and/or to elect representatives who are more responsive and responsible. That’s not only our obligation, it’s our right. Let’s not forget, this is a democracy, even with the current mayor in office.

    Please understand, I am a cyclist living in downtown Toronto. I know Jenna’s husband and have worked on television commercials with him numerous times. This terrible misfortune happened literally around the corner from my home in Roncesvalles Village. I am deeply saddened and upset by this tragedy. I want bike lanes on Sterling Ave., and I want the truck guards made mandatory and for them to be called “Jenna’s” in her honour.

    However, I do not sanction taking to the streets to conduct renegade and rogue actions that are not legally sanctioned, especially in potentially dangerous situations like out on busy city streets. And I consider myself somewhat of a social activist too.

    But what would happen if (hopefully not when) one of the Urban Repair Squad activists were to get hit by a car some dark night when out painting in a rogue bike lane? So much for creating a safer city through activism.

    These actions simply go to further pit factions against each other and to deepen the chasm that already exists between cyclists and motorists. Perhaps you are getting the attention of the public and the municipal government, but I doubt you are increasing your support, which, in the end, is what you really want, isn’t it?

    • Anonymous

      Playing by the rules isn’t always the right thing to do. By all accounts this is a location known to be dangerous for cyclists, but nothing has been done about it over the years. Faced with inaction and unsuccessful bids to change things, and a problem that won’t wait until the next election cycle, I feel this is entirely justifiable.

      I am not a cyclist or a motorist, for the record.

      • Marc

        Fair enough tr, fair enough. I think civil disobedience most certainly has it’s place. Plan a rally, occupy the foyer and the square at City Hall, plan a sit in at the intersection in question, organize a massive bike protest with thousands of cyclists holding up traffic. However, physically changing the design of the road, either at this intersection (done during daylight hours) or elsewhere (done in the dark of night) just isn’t safe, regardless of how apparently safe it seems. It’s a road where vehicles large and small, bicycles and pedestrians all need to be on the same page at the same time. These kinds of clandestine alterations are just not the way to go about it in my opinion. What if they were to start altering street signs or affecting traffic signals? There are other, safer and at least equally more effective methods.

        That said, I understand the desire to act when apparently, no other action is being taken.

        • DRYDRY

          Who’s responsible if someone gets killed as a result of the guerilla street markings? The people who put the markings there? Or the city?

          • Anonymous

            If nobody’s responsible when a motorist kills a cyclist there sans markings, why would rogue stencils change anything?

          • DRYDRY

            In Morrison’s case, the investigation concluded nobody was at fault.

            If there’s an accident because of the fake bike lanes, then obviously whoever made those fake bike lanes is partly responsible for the harm and/or death his stupid actions caused.

            The bigger issue in this situation is side barriers on trucks. All the shrieking cyclists have their eyes on the wrong ball.

          • Anonymous

            I would like to hear an everyday scenario in which an accident is caused by these lane markings, one which could not occur if the marks were not there.

      • snortypickles

        For all of you cyclists complaining that it’s dangerous, how about just planning another route?
        That’s like me complaining that the 401 is a parking lot, and still taking it every day.

        • Anonymous

          “For all of you cyclists”

          Which part of “I’m not a cyclist” – it’s there in the post you’re replying to – confused you?


    So what’s preventing drivers from painting over bike lanes in areas that they don’t want them?

    Wait wait wait evil drivers you can’t change the roads! You can’t! It will makes things more dangerous for the people who use them! They’re designed the way they are for a reason! If you want bike lanes removed you need to do it properly and have experts remove them! How dare you go around messing with the roads!

    • Anonymous

      um actually, you just have to vote for Robbie, and he’ll figure out a way to get rid of them. No need for experts.

  • Ticatpal

    Simple terrorism and anarchy.

    • Anonymous

      That’s sarcasm, right?

  • Gayle MacDougall-Bercarich

    Until car drivers realize they do not own the roads, but must SHARE, these tragedies must be recorded in TORONTO’S ‘BOOK OF THE DEAD’.
    I am grateful to the commited who hold our city’s conscience.