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Blogathon 2009 – Burrard Street Bridge Public Space Art Intervention

On the morning of Monday, July 13th, commuters in Vancouver using the Burrard Bridge woke up to a very different sight than one they might have been accustomed to: it was the first official launching day for the City of Vancouver’s Burrard Street Bridge bike lane trial. Over the weekend, city crew had put up signage and erected a concrete barrier on one of the lanes on the bridge that had previously been used by cars, and allocated it to cylists travelling in the southbound direction. It would have been pretty hard for people to not have known about it – it was a hot topic for the newspapers and media, the subject of much hand-wringing and anxiety about smashing gridlock.

The decision was full of controversy. Emotions raged on both sides, and I’ve had the fortune to see it up close and personal from one particular vantage point: from my Tweetdeck, where I’ve been monitoring conversation on the Burrard Bridge trial, and re-tweeting comments from all sides of the spectrum through the burrardtrial account. (This is not to be confused with the BurrardBridge account, which is being used officially by the City of Vancouver as part of their online outreach for the trial; the Burrard_Bridge account, which is supportive of the trial; or the account Burrard, which appears to be entirely unconnected to the trial). The goal of the account is to promote dialogue, hence my re-tweeting both positive and negative comments, as well as more general commentary and observations, and I’ve been using the #burrardtrial hashtag to allow people to follow along and contribute as they see fit.

On Wednesday night, me and a number of other Vancouver Public Space Network volunteers put into action the feeling we wanted to nurture: support for the city’s graciousness in making this trial a success, and to bolster positivity around creating a better travelling environment for both cyclists and pedestrians. And we did it … with fingerpainting. (Our actions were not without some controversy of its own.) Well, some of us used heart sponges, but the result was all the same: gorgeous paintings and supportive messages all along the concrete barrier on the bike lane, designed to support the cyclists in their decision to choose a more sustainable form of transport, but also to try to encourage drivers to see the view from the other side a bit, as well.

Check out this video from Bobbie, or Dustin’s photoset on Flickr, of the lovely drawings that resulted. There was also some coverage of the art action in the local paper Vancouver Sun, featuring quotes from VPSN’s very own transportation coordinator, Karen Parusel.

Love. Generosity. Spirit. These are the things I want a city to permit, magnify, draw attention to.

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