You’ve likely seen them, even if you haven’t noticed them: a skinny navy-blue line cutting through Trinity Bellwoods Park; white and baby-blue trails ambling side by side up Roncesvalles Avenue; a pink line skittering down McCaul Street. They travel kilometres at a time, through side streets and on and off sidewalks, in no particular direction, before halting altogether or fading out with as little ceremony as they started.
It should come as no surprise, then, that everyone who has spotted them has their own theories for what they’re doing there in the first place. In mid-May, local members of social-news site Reddit guessed at the reasons for one mysterious blue trail: Was it Leafs fans celebrating their recent playoff win? A path for joggers training for a 10k run? Someone one-upping MOMO, the artist who tagged his name across the width of Manhattan in 2006? A surveyor marking a gas line below? A bunch of drunken frat boys tracing their route home? Not quite.
On a weekday night earlier this month, in a parking lot near Bloor and Lansdowne, a young-looking guy with a bandana tied around his neck hunched over a small bike trailer, filling three plastic containers with purple, teal, and orange house paint, taping them in place overtop of three dime-sized holes punched out of the trailer’s bottom. “I totally got the idea from paint trucks that had a leaky paint can,” he admitted. (The 24-year-old OCADU grad doesn’t want his real name used, but he goes by “Bobby Q.”) When he twisted on the containers’ taps, three thin streams of colour poured out, chasing after him as he pedaled away.
He started doing what he calls “paint trails” with his “painting bike” back in 2010, tracing loop after loop on the road outside his midtown high-rise apartment. Soon, he was learning to make smiley faces and write slogans like “be happy” in cursive, but before long, he took to simply marking his path—the route from his place to the grocery store or his studio, or, one summer, the way from the Ward’s Island ferry docks to a hard-to-find spot where he’d meet friends on the other side of the islands. “Sometimes I just go out for the sake of going out,” he said, “and that’s when it really gets meander-y.”
If anyone noticed him painting this night, they didn’t say anything. “I don’t think people think it’s an intentional thing,” he said. Drivers have honked at him, only to gesture anxiously at his trailer as they pass. Another time, he said, “A guy in a wheelchair was like, ‘Buddy, your trailer is leaking!’ I just turned around and said, ‘Thanks for letting me know!’ and kept biking.”
HIT THESE TRAILS
Here are a few of the 15 or so paint trails he’s done,
and roughly which neighbourhoods they pass through:
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