Just this week we wrote about a lovely Toronto initiative: the Good Bike Project. An artist started a mass movement to paint and spruce up old bicycles and park them around town.
However, vandalism and graffiti have taken their course already. The spray-painted, neon bikes which were meant to be spontaneous street art have been bashed in, taken apart and stolen. The original orange bike that started the project is now missing its seat and the flowers that were once planted in its basket.
"It's strange to think people have so much rage towards bicycles or the project," said the artist who developed the project. She rightly found the vandalized bicycles to be disturbing: "I don't appreciate it when they're kicked in or physically mangled -- I even find it upsetting when they're lying on the ground and no one has thought to prop it back up."
Photo: the good bike project
Others have been covered with graffiti. One outside the art school has been turned into a memorial for Jack Layton, the recently deceased leader of the Opposition political party. Another has been covered with excerpts from his letter to Canadians taped to its handlebars and wheels.
Another has comic strip pictures stuck onto it, "Free art" was scrawled on one and another has been covered in a graffiti artist's tags. These the artist called "pretty cool." One has a poem scrawled next to it. The artist likes that one: "Those are nice interventions. We like that kind of conversation with other artists in the city."
It comes back to the debate about when is graffiti art and when is it vandalism. Some would make a distinction between defacing and bashing in a bicycle and the more creative art of painting abandoned bicycles in neon colours.
The artist is philosophical: "When you're doing a project like this, (graffiti) sort of comes with the territory... It's an interesting debate whether that's vandalism or whether that's just a continuation of an intervention."
"The bike project is as much about the biking community as it is about art and graffiti, and the whole matrix of having a conversation in the public realm. It's unfortunate when they get hard-core beat up."
However for many it is a disappointment in the behaviour of a civil society. As one blogger said: "The Good Bike Project rejects indifference to the reality of things. It isa call to stay connected to the world, to engage, rather than destroy."
More on Bicycles and Graffiti
Neon Bicycles Pop Up in Toronto and Defy the Mayor
When is Graffiti Art and When is it Vandalism?
This Graffiti Is Now Art