HARBORD AND LIPPINCOTT STREET ——- Many cities have memory objects to proudly display their history. This bike is dedicated to a “Cat Lady” named Lena. When she passed away the cats disappeared. The house has been sold. The garage no longer has cat doors. There is no trace left of her goodness save this bike. ——- Written by Bonnie Whitehall
This past week, two articles were published, one by NOW and one by The Star, that sensationalized our response to the so-called vandalism being borne by our good bikes. As these articles outlined, a number of the bikes that we’ve placed in the public realm have been kicked, broken and defaced; however, what’s not said is that in many cases our bikes are not victims but canvases.
We’ve been clear from the offset that this project is as much about advocating for graffiti and street art culture as it is about advocating for the cycling community, and we couldn’t be happier about some of the positive interventions being made on our good bikes. Pictured in The Star article, for example, is a pink bike on Robert Street at College that has been tag-bombed by Poser. The implicating association between the image and the text suggests that we’re insensitive to the conversational traditions of graffiti culture. In truth, we love the all-over graphic aesthetic and are particularly pleased with the sentiment scrawled on its seat: “Pretty in Pink”. I mean, what’s more to love?
We’re not naïve and we never expected our bikes to remain untouched, nor are we ignorant to the fact that the original good bike began as a spontaneous urban intervention. When we find a sad, mangled good bike in the street, it’s obviously disheartening; but it’s not discouraging because we can see the bigger picture. We believe in this project and what it says about out city, and if anything we think it’s an encouraging sign that people are not indifferent to the good bikes.
As we all know, the news media clings to negativity, and so it goes without saying that few reporters have felt compelled to cover the countless acts of community, kindness and thanks that this project has generated —— Murray Whyte being the notable exception. From our perspective, focusing on the negative rather than on the positive seems like a lost opportunity, and we wonder what other civil camaraderies are being overlooked. If we took the time to celebrate each other and look for the good in our city, maybe we’d all feel more connected to where we live.
Oh, also ——- for the record, we are OCAD U staff members (not students), and Caroline’s last name is Macfarlane (not Mcfarland).
A number of weeks ago, we had finished planting our yellow good bike at Trinity Bellwoods Park and were walking along Queen Street West when we spotted these magical, mini planters on the tops of a series bicycling rings. Obviously, we were stoked to see this like-minded intervention happening in parallel to ours, and we knew that we needed to reached out to our re-cycling comrades immediately. Hayley Imerman and Angel Chen are the two ladies behind this project, called My Street Has No Trees, which started when the duo saw potential in that useless, weird extension that sticks up beyond the bicycle ring. The planters are made from empty Gatorade and Vitamin Water bottles, which snap perfectly into place. Each planter is marked with a laminated tag annotated with the plant’s type and a personal message from the planter themselves. The sprouting flowers toppers are particularly powerful when one considers that bicycle rings are decapitated parking meters. They’re also potent political statements as more and more City tree planters are left in states of disrepair or entirely empty. Along Dundas Street West, the newly constructed sidewalks are dotted with gaping holes filled with garbage where trees are meant to be. We’ll be partnering with My Street Has No Trees at next week’s OCAD U Student Union Orientation Fair, so stop by if you can and help us spread the love.
221 BROADVIEW AVENUE ——- On Tuesday we loaded one of our last memory bikes into a taxi and drove to Broadview Avenue to place it in front of Jack Layton’s office. Saddened by the news of his passing, we wanted to acknowledge the inspiring politician in our bike project. When we arrived at the small, non-descript building, we found children leaving notes in chalk on the sidewalk; tv crews filming the overwhelming amount of flowers; rainbow flags and orange crush bottles pouring onto the sidewalk and people pulling up in cars and bikes to pay their respect. Layton’s colleagues thanked us for the bike with tears in their eyes and smiles on their faces. It felt as if they were taking a que from Jack by smiling and remaining positive and brave in the face of despair. Jack Layton will be greatly missed by people of all ages and all walks of life.
On Monday, we arrived for work at the OCAD U Student Gallery to find two simple paper signs reading “RIP JACK” pinned carefully to the spokes of our neon orange good bike. This DIY memorial for Jack Layton has grown in the last two days as flowers and more signs have been added to the site. In these days, the colour orange has become a particularly strong symbol of the liberal, inclusive politics that the NDP leader championed throughout his career. He was an avid cyclist, environmentalist and social activist whose vision seems more precious than ever as we watch conservative storm clouds gather here and abroad. On the concrete surfaces surrounding City Hall, mourners have written messages of love, hope, sadness and support to one another including the following: “Let’s live by Jack’s example. Don’t agonize. Organize.” Between our project, the Our Street Has No Trees initiative, Whippersnapper’s recent Trash Art Festival and Sean Martindale’s public interventions, it seems that Toronto’s youth are taking those words to heart. Let’s continue to fight for what we believe in and look out for each other, just as Jack inspired us to do.
We’ve come to affectionately call the process of placing bikes at their chosen sites bike planting. It’s unclear where or how the term came to us, but we suspect that it has something to do with the laborious nature of the task, which involves several steps. Before leaving the Student Gallery, we pick our two or three different types of locks to ensure that we’re not stranded with the wrong type of lock on location. Then we pick out the appropriately coloured bike and make sure that our bags are packed with cameras, business cards, totes, scissors, spray paint, lacquer and vinyl lettering. After wheeling, dragging or driving the chosen bike to its destination, we seek out a parking spot that is neither a bike ring nor a tree and lock ‘er up. After a quick make-over, the bicycle’s key is marked and an extra is given to a neighbour. This gesture ensures that there is a communal ownership of the bikes and gives us the comfort of knowing that there are others out there keeping an eye on our two wheelers. It’s strange leaving the bikes behind in the street as it feels rather like you’re abandoning a friend. We wish that we could care for and monitor them all diligently; but the best we can do at this point is say, “good luck little bike”.
208 QUEENS QUAY W ——- Jane Jacobs wouldn’t approve of the soulless, cold condominium cradle that has developed between Front Street and Queens Quay. It’s a cultural wasteland where Starbucks and Pizza Pizza rule, and traditional ideas about neighbourhood seem distant at best. There are great spots on the waterfront, and it’s a shame to see such a severe separation between the city’s buzzing downtown core, condo-island’s yuppie high-rise residents and the bustling lakefront boardwalks.
DAVID CROMBIE PARK ——- This green bike celebrates the successful redevelopment of the St. Lawrence neighbourhood, spearheaded by Mayor David Crombie in the 1970s. The community plan took cues from Jane Jacobs’ theories on city planning. The mix of commercial and residential spaces, subsidized and market housing schemes, low-rise buildings, parks and community centres has made the neighbourhood an enduring model for city planners.
1986 BLOOR ST W ——- This hot spot bike is working double duty as it’s meant to mark High Park, our cities biggest green space, as well as Cafe Novo! This corner coffee stop only opened it’s doors a year ago, and it’s already a landmark in our minds. Scrabble boards, live music and spoken word events, homemade vegan and gluten free goodies, a meeting table and a dog friendly patio all make this place a happening hub. Oh, and did we mention that the coffee rocks?
Greetings from halfway across the world! Just wanted to drop you a line to tell you that there are people in Poland who actually care about your bike. Ridiculous bureaucracy aside, art should always be preserved. And most of all, anything that’s harmless and brings smiles to people’s faces should be preserved. The world is a harsh place. Let’s make it neon pink one abandoned bike at a time. Good luck!
1601 LAKESHORE BLVD W ——- This memory bike is my Grandpa Bill’s. When asked about his fondest Toronto memories, he quickly begins talking about summer nights spent dancing by the lake at the Palais Royal in the 1930s. He and my Grandma were high school sweethearts who’d head to the historic venue every weekend, often after football games at Parkdale Collegiate. Dance tickets were 50 cents and everyone drank cold cokes on the dance floor.
Thanks to the publicity surrounding the neon bike, 285 Dundas St. West is now an international tourist destination that I wish to visit someday. The City of Toronto should leave the bike be, otherwise I may take my tourist dollars to some other neighborhood with some other found art sculpture.
30 BRIDGMAN AVENUE ————— The Tarragon Theatre is passionate about the creation of Canadian stories, and bringing those stories to local audience. An impressive list of established and up-and-coming Canadian playwrights have had their work premiered at this theatre. Tarragon’s Artistic Director, Richard Rose, is known to hop on his bicycle and peddle the streets to the theatre for rehearsals.
I just want to say I love this project you are both involved in. I work and go to school downtown Toronto for some years and it’s so great to see some colourful street art. It really puts a smile on my face. Here are some photos of spottings of the Good Bike that I shot myself, thought you might like to see them. Keep on painting bikes!
1149 DUNDAS ST W ——- The Communist’s Daughter is undoubtedly Toronto’s favourite hole in the wall. Even without a sign, the bar’s eight tables fill up quickly each night. On Saturday afternoons, patrons pour in to hear the bartender croon with live accompaniment; and it’s not unusual to be seated behind the bar on these days.
COLLEGE AND ROBERT ST ALLEY ——- Toronto is a city full of hidden treasures, and most would agree that it takes time and exploration to find the true pulse of this city. This yellow bike marks a site where the city skyline meets a painted text mural that reads, “THIS IS WHERE IT’S AT”. The bike is meant to serve as a reminder that some of the greatest hot-spots this city are often found in tucked away places.
YORKVILLE ——- The Isaacs Gallery, which opened in 1964, exemplified the buoyant spirit of our young city coming into its own. Owner Av Isaacs’ exceptional, eclectic group of artists included Michael Snow, Joyce Wieland, William Kurelek, Jack Chambers and GregCurnoe, who did for bicycles what Warhol did for soup cans. The Gallery’s energy was fed by the surrounding Yorkville area, which was a hippie hub at the time; this good bike thus also marks the neighbourhood’s now invisible bohemian history. ——- Written by Gillian Graham
1900 DAVENPORT RD ——- The Davenport Perth Neighbourhood and Community Centre lives in constant fear of funding cuts; and so it should be know that the services provided here are indispensable to the local residents and particularly to the recent immigrants, mothers and seniors in the area. In addition to housing and counselling services, the DPNC provides support for those living with mental health and addictions. Toronto needs the DPNC, and we’re proud to recognize the hard work of its team with our good bike.
854 BLOOR ST ——- The Christie- Ossington Neighbourhood Centre provides community based programs for children, youth and adults including a drop-in centre, a hostels, and a number of street outreach initiatives. The Nook, which is located in the same building, offers free, social justice focused programs for children from low income families. The Nook aims to nurture creativity and tolerance through their after school programs and summer day camp.
WARD’S ISLAND ——- Two of the most artistic and talented people I know, Brian Soloman and Ted Witzel, are going to be wed in one week! Last Thursday, my friend Chloë and I planted their good bike on the path to Hanlan’s point, near the spot where the couple was going to be hosting their “stag-squared” party. For the party, Brian and Ted collected an impressive amount of wood and crafted a great camp fire. We all sat under the stars, among the singing crickets, feeling far from the city, eating delicious, juicy peaches and homemade cake. At one point, a friend looked across the sparks of fire at the happy couple and said, ”I love their love.” Congratulations to Brian and Teddy! Love, Caroline.
AUGUSTA AVE AND GRANGE AVE ————— Alexandra Park is one of Toronto’s oldest public housing communities. Although surrounded by some of this city’s busiest arteries, the community remains unnoticed by many due to the maze of paved paths that cut it off from central streets. This diverse neighborhood is at the beginning of a fifteen-year revitalization project that has already sought to involve residents in decision making processes.
417 GERRARD ST W ——- Our partners at Regent Park chose to recognize their local Learning Centre as a community builder with their blue good bike. The Centre provides facilities and classes to children and adults alike, and their strong sense of community is evident in the care they’ve put into looking after their bicycle basket garden.
JARVIS AND GERRARD ST E ——- No more than a year after the Jarvis Street bike lane was installed, the city is paying a high price to have it removed ($200,000 to be exact). The bike lane is used by many cyclists every day and studies have shown that it does not slow down road traffic. Despite the many citizens who fought to keep the bike lane where it is, the Mayor has decided to get rid of it. His reasons for doing so are unclear at best. We planted the Jarvis good bike yesterday. A number of cyclists rang their bells in support of the bike as they whizzed by.
HURON ST AND COLLEGE ST ——- The Huron Street Garden has been around for twelve years. Though owned by the City, the eighteen plot garden is run entirely by volunteers from the neighborhood. The diversity of community is reflected in the diverse crowd of people tending to the grounds on a regular basis. Vegetables and flowers grow in abundance and the gate is often left ajar to encourage passersby to stop and smell the roses
594B DUNDAS ST W ——- Whippersnapper Gallery focuses on emerging trends and young artists. Their new space is located between Chinatown and Kensington Market, two of Toronto’s most culturally dynamic neighbourhoods. Operating as a window space, passerby can enjoy Whippersnapper exhibitions 24 hours a day. The gallery is also actively involved in numerous off-site art projects and installations within the community.
The Guardian recently featured The Good Bike Project in an article about the politics of cycling in Toronto. While we were, of course, beyond thrilled to have made the news in England, there are a few misconceptions perpetuated in the write up that we’d like to correct…
In the midst of a summer that has been dominated by tensions between Toronto’s liberal and conservative voices, two local artists inadvertently found themselves in the midst of the debate. Caroline Macfarlane and Vanessa Nicholas, who both work at OCAD University’s student gallery, found themselves in the headlines when they gave a face-lift to an abandoned Raleigh locked outside the gallery. They turned the rusted bicycle into a striking display by spray-painting it neon orange. The bike, still locked to its post, was inevitably ticketed by the city’s Transportation Services department. It would be removed at the artists’ expense, in violation of rules regarding bicycle storage on city property. In response, Macfarlane and Nicholas mounted a campaign to save the bike. Within days, the ward’s councillor stepped in and the bicycle was spared.
Mayor Rob Ford, in savvy recognition of an opportunity to curry favour with cyclists and artists promptly commissioned The Good Bike Project, which will reclaim abandoned bicycles, paint them bright colours and lock them in various public places around the city. The mayor even straddled the orange bicycle for a photo-op in council chambers, which was probably his closest encounter with a bicycle in some time.
As we’ve tried to make clear again and again, Mayor Rob Ford did NOT comission our project. City Councillor Gary Crawford encouraged us to take our painted bike project to new heights, and hooked us up with a mountain of trash-bikes; however, the City has lent little logistical support and no financial support to The Good Bike Project. We’d also like to say again that the confusing photo of Mayor Ford on our bicycle was one that we specifically requested to avoid during our visit to City Hall earlier this summer.
YORKDALE SUBWAY STATION ——- This bike marks a mural organized by Art Starts, a charitable, not-for profit organization committed to arts-based community development in the city. Their mandate is to realize art initiatives that build healthier communities. They work on projects that engage residents, develop a shared sense of identity, address local challenges, and providing problem solving tools.
581 BLOOR ST W ——- Honest Ed’s has been a hot spot since its opening in 1948. The store’s uber-kitch exterior is literally a beacon on the cityscape, using tens of thousands of lightbulbs. Punny signs and super cheap prices keep customers coming back; and founder Ed Mirvish is a local legend for his generous spirit and particular support for the local art scene.
14 KENSINGTON AVE ——- In a city known for it’s plethora of vintage clothing stores, Courage My Love reins as our oldest, finest and most beloved. The “Courage” experience has remained the same through out its thirty years in business. The tunes are amazing, the clothes are diverse, the variety of beads, buttons and jewelry from around the world is overwhelming, and the smell of incense is strong.
COLLEGE ST AND ROBERT ST ——- Julia has been my friend for as long as I can remember. We grew up on the same street and have remained “besties” since then. Julia moves to England this month; so when I spotted this abandoned bike in our neighborhood, I decided to paint it in homage to our twenty-five years of friendship. I will miss you so much. Love always, Caroline.
750B QUEEN ST E ——- The Avro is Riverside’s friendly neighborhood bar. The owners and customers collaborate on community projects including cycling events, public space improvement, charity work and arts promotion. Noted for its ‘mobile garden’ tricycle, The Avro aims to make a difference in Toronto’s East End.
1279 QUEEN ST W ——- Parkdale’sWrongbar is easy to miss. At least it was, until a neon yellow bike appeared in front it! By day it’s a non-descript black building, and by night it is a concert venue for upcoming bands and white-hot djs. The vibe is funky, the sound is good and the shows that come through hardly ever disappoint.
166A SPADINA AVE ——- For anyone who writes on the walls of this city, The Bomb Shelter is of prime importance. The small shop carries the covetable Montana Colours spray-paint brand, and is stacked from floor to ceiling with every shade imaginable. The philosophy behind the store is simple: by housing the products of street culture, the purveyors at the Bomb Shelter can act as ambassadors, helping to protect and define the city’s street art scene.
One of the project’s biggest supporters has undoubtedly been Rust-Oleum, the generous brand that has given us box upon box of spray primer, paint and lacquer without asking for anything in return. The brand has made this project possible as without their vibrant colours our bikes would never have seen their second life. Reading the recent Art in the Streets catalog, published in conjunction with the major street art exhibition at MOCA in Los Angeles, we were bowled over to recognize this painted Rust-Oleum can in a mural in NYC by LAC c. 1981. We feel honored to be connected to a history of graffiti artists who have long used Rusto to beautify their cityscapes. Thank you to Lindsay Macgregor and everyone at Cundari Group Limited for connecting us with Rust-Oleum, and to Lawrence and the rest of the Rust-Oluem team for their support.
6 NOBLE ST ——- The staff and instructors at the Pia Bouman School work tirelessly and on a tight budget to make dance an accessible art form to all. The school pivots around the belief that dance and creativity can make the world a better place by fostering sensitivity and social awareness. This community hub is a special place for many people.
1086 ½ QUEEN ST W ——- Erin Stump Projects is a brand new addition to the city’s gaggle of galleries, and it’s setting itself apart by focusing on emerging artists. Many on Stump’s roster have only barely completed their BFA degrees, including Winnie Truong and Vanessa Maltese who both graduated from OCAD University last summer. Can’t wait to see what happens here!
Early this morning, I was out on my bicycle and came across the Jane Jacobs bike on Albany Avenue. I want to thank you for the smile, and for reminding me of the good things: of Jane and seeing her in her poncho; and of that little corner park. Jane’s spirit is there, and the bike is great. Thank you.
680 QUEEN ST W ——- Magic Pony is one of the most exciting spots in the city because it seeks to provide energetic, young artists with the combination gallery/retail space that is so crucial to emerging art practices. More than ever, artists are doubling as business savvy artisans, selling artist books, zines, posters, pins, ceramics and the like. The exhibtions and product at Magic Pony paints a vivid picture of the up-and-coming art scene, which is combining whimsy, craft, text and rebellion.
DUFFERIN GROVE PARK ——- This park provides way more than valuable green space; it’s a community centre where neighbours meet for Friday Night Suppers, shop for vegetables at the weekly Farmer’s Market, and learn how to build campfires. Unsurprisingly, the park’s stellar, community building programs are on the City’s chopping block. For the record, we’d like to see Dufferin Grove become the model for parks throughout Toronto.
I just wanted to say thank you for this project. As a proud Torontonian its been quite fun to come across your installations as I go about my day. Yesterday afternoon, I was walking by the original good bike on Dundas. As I was taking this photo, an older woman and a young boy of about six or seven years came up to me on the sidewalk. They began to tell me about the project and the woman quizzed her grandson on each of the colours and their meaning, which he knew by heart. During the the pleasant exchange, he expressed that the project was ‘really fun’. They then headed off to the AGO for drawing class. And so, you’re project seems to be working. Not just for thirty-somethings like me but for all generations. Have a great afternoon,
408 QUEEN ST W ——- In 1981, three friends purchased the Cameron Public House—one of the city’s oldest and most disreputable bars—and converted the space into Toronto’s most important cultural incubator of the eighties. The bar became the centre of the city’s thriving Queen Street West art scene and its artists’ playground, sometimes-home, laboratory, stage, and gallery.
YONGE ST AND ERSKINE AVE——- This bike marks the site where a lovely couple sat when they decided to get married in 1979. Mr. said recently that he’s “even more in love with [Mrs.] now than he was on that day”. Love conquers all.
There is now a running joke that THE GOOD BIKE PROJECT should be renamed THE GOOD FRIEND PROJECT as we’ve relied so much on the creativity, energy and pure genius of our friends and community members. On Tuesday, the wonderful and talented Vincent Monastero took time away from his wood-shop to drive us around town behind a moving truck full of bikes; and the brilliant Andy Callahan tagged along to take pictures for the wicked-cool publication he’s designing for the project. Locks, juice boxes, ginger cookies and keys were everywhere. Thank you to both of you for taking the day to help us out.
TRINITY BELLWOODS PARK ——- This park is undoubtedly a Toronto hot-spot, especially in the summer months when it’s full of people having picnics, playing baseball games, throwing frisbees, cycling and suntanning. Grab a Greg’s Ice Cream at White Squirrel and enjoy the sunshine!
215 SPADINA AVE —— This bike, which was sponsored by 8-80 Cities, recognizes Jane Jacobs’ notable opposition to the Spadina Expressway. Approved by the Metro Council in 1961, the north-south freeway would have been constructed had it not been for the loud, energetic protest from Toronto residents who care about neighbourhood and community.