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Say goodbye to the Good Bike Project

Posted by Derek Flack / October 18, 2011

Good Bike Project TorontoLaunched to much acclaim — and some criticism — four months ago, the Good Bike Project has come to something of a sad end, with many of the bright neon bikes having been vandalized, looted for parts, and left in a general state of disrepair. Always meant to be seasonal in nature, with little support from the City of Toronto, project founders Caroline Macfarlane and Vanessa Nicholas also encountered difficulty retrieving the bikes from the various neighbourhoods in which they were installed. NOW Magazine reports that the once hard to reach Councillor Gary Crawford, who spearheaded the City's endorsement of the Good Bike back in June, finally offered to help collect the bikes last week, but there's still the question of what led to the project's struggles in the first place.

It started rather auspiciously, but in hindsight, it seems inevitable that the bikes were destined to fall into disarray. Part of this has to do with the limited support the artists received, and part of it likely has to do with the nature of the project itself. Although the abandoned bikes that were used for the project came from the City, without any significant funding in place, these spray-painted specimens were never given proper identification on the street. This might have been by design, but months after the first bikes were installed, loads of people still didn't know that they were part of an art project. Many of them just looked, well, abandoned. Colourful, yes — but in the absence of the flower basket of the original version, I suspect that not everyone was convinced that they beautified the streetscape.

Good Bike ProjectVandalism of the bikes came often and early. Not necessarily a bad thing — the project was, after all, a sort of graffiti itself — the artists took the various interventions in stride. But as the summer wore on, a number of the bikes had been stripped of their parts, and looked every bit the eye-sore that Macfarlane and Nicholas had sought to combat in the first place. While there were plenty of bikes that remained in decent shape, there were enough beat-up ones to put a damper on the project as a whole.

Would official labels from the City have helped the Good Bike Project? Maybe. Although an identification system might not have been in the spirit of the original bike, I can't help but think that the installations would have been treated with greater respect had the purpose of the project been made clear to all those passing by. While there were lots of photo ops at city hall when the project was first pitched and approved, one gets the sense that City took the DIY description of the project quite literally, and wasn't particularly interested in keeping the good bikes in good shape.

Photo by Gerry Hawkins and AshtonPal in the blogTO Flickr pool



project 2 / October 18, 2011 at 11:12 am
It would be awesome if these bike guys turned their attention to painting over all the tagging downtown. When they're finished in 2037 they should come back and tell us about it.
project 1 replying to a comment from project 2 / October 18, 2011 at 11:39 am
What are you talking about?
ohgood / October 18, 2011 at 11:42 am
Oh, thank Christ. This kind of art only works as a fleeting, temporary thing. They were cool at first, and quickly became tedious.
I wanted to scream every time I had to walk 2 blocks to park my bike because one, or two, of these fuckers was taking up space.
Whatevs / October 18, 2011 at 11:52 am
Hey ohgood, you should have just locked your bike to the painted 'art' bikes. It's not like their owners were coming back for them.
KB / October 18, 2011 at 12:05 pm
Thank God these are going to be gone soon. Taking up valuable bike infrastructure and parking.
y / October 18, 2011 at 12:14 pm
Bout friggin time.
MC / October 18, 2011 at 12:22 pm
The locks should have been cut and the bikes been given to poor kids instead of being painted over.

cultureshot / October 18, 2011 at 12:24 pm
Artists: "Here's something that looks cool and interesting on our streets."

Toronto: "No thanks. We're drab and we want to stay that way."
saywhat replying to a comment from cultureshot / October 18, 2011 at 12:31 pm
Then clearly Toronto needs better artists, if this is what is now considered art.
Stevie / October 18, 2011 at 12:36 pm
There's one on Ossington and one on Dundas that I see everyday. All thee wheels are missing, gears have been taken from one, the handle bars from the other. The streets would look much cleaner if they were removed.
Toby Buckets / October 18, 2011 at 12:38 pm
My feeling is that they should have narrowed to scale, so that the bikes were concentrated in 1 neighbourhood. Doing so would have made it more obvious it was an installation. Also, the project would have been more successful if other artists in the community were invited to decorate the bike further. Make each one unique by kitting cozies for them or added LEDs ect. Public art should be designed so that it's more successful when the public interacts with it, not less.
Mike replying to a comment from cultureshot / October 18, 2011 at 12:40 pm
Toronto: "Hey Artists, you're not as cool an interesting as you think."
Joe Byer / October 18, 2011 at 12:40 pm
folks, you can lock your bikes TO secured frames of the Good bikes, they aren't going anywhere.

And agreed that there isn't enough bike parking in Toronto period. Write to your councillors and send a message to 311 to ask for the bike posts to be installed where you find them lacking. There's even a form you can get at http://www.toronto.ca/cycling/postandring/index.htm to make an official request.

Rachel / October 18, 2011 at 12:44 pm
I like the project, but I agree, this should be a temporary installment. The splashes of colour are a welcomed addition to the landscape, but hacked up bikes are not. It had a good run, though.
Rick / October 18, 2011 at 01:12 pm
As much as I generally disliked this project to begin with, I have to admit that my days were brightened up a little every time I saw one, which was the point of the whole thing.

But I'm still not sure why they couldn't have given the bikes away to those who needed them instead.
Jacob / October 18, 2011 at 01:53 pm

Not much to mourn here. The original bike that inspired the project was an amazing piece of guerrilla street art. But as part of an official project, the bikes lose most of their meaning, in my opinion. Plus most of them aren't particularly nice looking. Lets find other, more worthy street art projects to support.
Alex replying to a comment from Rachel / October 18, 2011 at 02:10 pm
If I was a depressed artiste I would say how the project became a reflection of the city, where something bright and beautiful is gutted and looted for a few bucks leaving only a shattered husk.

But I'm a positive person so instead I'll just say that this was cool random street art. A splash of neon in the city is fun.
ryth / October 18, 2011 at 03:29 pm
for those of you saying you should lock to the painted bikes, are you kidding? most of them are secured to the posts with 4$ canadian tire locks that could be snipped with a pair of nail clippers.

secondly i'm a pretty active pro-cyclist type (i bike 365) but these things were an eyesore. They were hastily painted, shoddily installed, and took up rare/valuable space for people actually riding their bikes. Really they just looked like junk.
Gravy Train / October 18, 2011 at 03:54 pm
Excellent! We can now replace them with cars!
bryan / October 18, 2011 at 04:04 pm
to Joe Byer: watch out! I heard of people now making their own 'good' bike, locking them up, then waiting for someone who can't find a lock (which is many of us because of these stupid bikes) so they lock it to the impostor 'good' bike, then they remove both bikes. theft scam. watch out.
Jerry / November 1, 2011 at 05:55 pm
I hope now these girls understand why there are channels and procedures to follow when initiating a city wide art project. Rules, laws and regulations, are there for reasons.

Occupying public space is tricky business and I hope these two are humbled by the majority response.
Jesica T. Berdar / October 4, 2014 at 09:55 pm
Thanks for the good writeup. It if truth be told was
a leisure account it. Look complex to far introduced agreeable from you!
However, how could we keep in touch?
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