A Bike Lane for Jenna Morrison
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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.