The covert operatives who painted unofficial bike lanes at the site of Jenna Morrison’s death want to show how easy it is to implement cycling infrastructure.
The intersection where Jenna Morrison was run over and killed by a truck on Nov. 7 got two short bike lanes on Saturday morning—though they were far from official, and far from permanent.
The lanes were the work of the Urban Repair Squad, a loose collective of activists who make it their responsibility to build bits of pedestrian and cycling infrastructure when they think the City of Toronto is moving too slowly. “Slow is a nice word,” one member, Derek, told The Grid at 11 a.m. on Saturday, a few blocks away from his work. “Basically, [this] was to show the City and give them a kick in the ass and go, ‘You know what? Eight people can go out there, we can do it in two hours—you guys could’ve come out and probably did it in half an hour.’”
Some members of the Urban Repair Squad wanted to use permanent paint, but they went with water-based instead. They used teal, because they’d heard it was Morrison’s favourite colour, and started painting at around 9 a.m., a small crew grafting white lines and teal rectangles onto Sterling leading to and from Dundas, stencilling bike symbols where the teal rectangles weren’t. Some rogue road markings showed up at the intersection shortly after Morrison’s death, but the Urban Repair Squad has always insisted it had nothing to do with them, and they painted over them on Saturday.
By the time a half-dozen police cars showed up, the Urban Repair Squad had fled. At the base of a tree, some officers piled up hurriedly left-behind paint cans and a big white bike stencil, while others loaded two left-behind bikes into the trunk of a police squad car. (We identified ourselves as media to the police sergeant on duty, but he wouldn’t answer any questions.) An hour later, another Urban Repaid Squad member, Alvin, sent us a text message: “Paint by numbers bike lane installed…cops arrest two bicycles.”
“This is one of the few times we’ve actually done it in daylight,” Derek said. “We were hoping that people would see it and realize that cities can be designed for pedestrians and cyclists without interrupting the all-important flow of traffic.” That morning, after all but a few police officers had left, car after car pulled up to the stop sign to make a right turn onto Dundas, and more often than not, kept safely out of the bright teal and white lane. It seemed to be working.