Cyclists protested the impending removal of the Jarvis Street bike lanes with a special zombified edition of the monthly Critical Mass bike ride.
Friday night, a terrifying thing happened in the name of complete-streets activism: zombies on bikes.
Technically, the event was October’s edition of the monthly Critical Mass group bike ride. But it had taken on some additional meaning, thanks to city council’s recent decision to reject a last-minute bid to prevent the Jarvis Street bike lanes from being removed. In protest, some of Friday’s riders put on zombie makeup.
City council’s vote to push ahead with the Jarvis removal came earlier this month. It was a decision made despite a concerted campaign by Cycle Toronto to point out that the number of cyclists using the street has tripled since the lanes were installed, that collisions between pedestrians and cars have been down by 89 per cent, and that the street has been working well for all users, with a less-than-two-minute additional drive time for motorists. The decision was also made without any community consultation, and over the objections of the ward’s representative, Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam (Ward 27, Toronto Centre-Rosedale).
“We’re here today with the message that the Jarvis lanes will remain undead,” said Lynda Young, a representative of the Save Jarvis campaign. She and other members of the campaign were circulating among the zombified participants before the ride began. Their aim was to make it clear that Jarvis will remain an active route for cyclists—whether there’s a dedicated lane or not. “We want to also remind people to continue to support the work that Cycle Toronto is doing, advocating for safer streets in Toronto,” Young added.
Despite grey skies and a persistent drizzle, the crowd numbered between 125 and 150 participants by the 6:30 p.m. departure time, with perhaps a quarter noticeably “undead.” As the procession moved along Bloor Street to Jarvis, participants called out “Happy Zombie Friday!” to curious pedestrians, in a variation on Critical Mass’ usual greeting. And instead of “Braaains,” these zombies moaned “Laaanes” as they rode slowly by.
More than an hour after the ride had commenced, as the rain increased and cyclists began to peel off from the main pack to head their separate ways, Councillor Wong-Tam joined the rear of the pack as the procession moved up Jarvis Street on its third and final pass. She made small talk with her neighbours as the now-smaller mass moved back to Bloor Street, and she rode off with a small group when the mass dispersed in different directions at Bay and Bloor streets. But her tweet later that evening spoke volumes:
I rode Critical Mass on Jarvis with a heavy heart knowing bike lanes are being removed & cyclists will be unsafe. #stupidcouncildecisions
— Kristyn Wong-Tam (@kristynwongtam) October 26, 2012
Photos by Martin Reis.