Taking Back the Streets: The Urban Repair Squad Builds A Bike Lane Where Cyclist Was Killed

Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

There is so much that is broken in our city, which the Mayor claims we are too broke to fix. Enter the Urban Repair Squad, with their motto: "They say city is broke. We fix. No charge." And they do, sneaking in under cover of darkness or at dawn to " actively construct a positive future of what urban transportation could be by installing it NOW." I got a cryptic email from them earlier this week, inviting me to attend one of their interventions:

No press release is being issued for this intervention and only a very small group of friendly local media is being invited to attend. We respectfully ask you to keep this invitation as confidential as possible.

Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

Their planned intervention was to install bicycle lanes at the Toronto intersection where Jenna Morrison was crushed under the rear wheels of a truck, the driver of which claims he couldn't didn't see her, even though she was towing a trailer. It is an unusual intersection in Toronto, in that it is a T, and has a large throat; there is lots of room for bike lanes in both directions. It is also right at the end of a major bike path, a logical place to find bikes turning. But they don't do bike lanes in Toronto anymore. So first some local people stencilled in sharrows as a warning to share, then David Meslin and James Schwartz demonstrated how a line might work with their garbage bike lane, and now the Urban Repair Squad has swooped in.

Lloyd Alter: Police in Sunlight/CC BY 2.0

They painted bike lanes in both directions and moved the center line to fit between the two lanes, filling the lanes with teal paint, because "that was Jenna's favourite colour." It was cold this morning (-6 C, 21 F) so it was hard work. But they got it done and managed to get out of there in a hurry (abandoning a few bikes and their paints) before the police arrived, in significant numbers. I asked one policeman why there were so many of them and he answered "I have no idea, I don't want to be here!"

Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

In the end, it won't last a whole lot longer than Dave and James's garbage lane; they used water base paints that will wash away. But it was a demonstration of one of the goals of the Urban Repair Squad: "To encourage citizens to reclaim ownership and stewardship of their urban space."

Lloyd Alter/CC BY 2.0

Because the city belongs to all of us, including the roads. These bike lanes worked; there is clearly enough room to share. It is time we took back the streets for the rest of us.

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Tags: Activism | Bike-Friendly World | Bikes | Biking | Toronto

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