Earlier this year, a protected bike lane popped up in Wichita, Kansas, that really pushed the boundaries of bike infrastructure—and plumbing supplies. A rogue group of bike advocates decorated a painted bike lane with a series of toilet plungers to create a guerrilla protected lane, as protected bike lanes have better track records of keeping cyclists safe. Instead of simply taking down the plungers, the city responded to widespread support by springing for actual flexible posts to replace the plumbing hardware.
And it seems bike advocates everywhere, eyeing their bathrooms, took note: Plunger bike lanes are spreading.
This simple way to ‘unclog bike lanes’ has most recently taken root in Providence, Rhode Island. Last week, Jeffrey Leary—part of an advocacy group called Reasonable RI—created a protected lane on Fountain Street with 72 Dollar Store toilet plungers wrapped in reflective tape for visibility. What’s more, the mayor is totally on board with the creative solution to a dangerous problem.
“The City won’t remove them unless they impede traffic on the street,” Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza’s spokesperson Emily Crowell told Streetsblog. “This summer the City is looking into ways to better delineate the lanes such as painting, flower beds, and flexible posts.”
Leary told various news sources that his rationale for adding the plungers to the side of the bike lane was to keep his nine-year-old daughter safer while she pedals.
“I certainly would never allow her to ride in the streets in Providence,” Leary told the Providence Journal. “That would scare me to death.”
Leary says the bike lanes in Providence, while delineated by painted lines, are often just places where drivers wait or double-park—so for a cyclist, it’s hard to ever feel truly safe.