Activists: Smashed Tomatoes on Denver Bike Lanes Could Be Our Heads

Tactical urbanism: A cyclist and scooter rider ride in the Wynkoop Street bike lane protected by red cups and tomatoes during the #RedCupProject demonstration on April 26.
Tactical urbanism: A cyclist and scooter rider ride in the Wynkoop Street bike lane protected by red cups and tomatoes during the #RedCupProject demonstration on April 26.

Bicycle advocates Jonathan Fertig and Rob Toftness put tomatoes on top of red plastic cups and placed them along the edge of an unprotected bike lane near Union Station this morning, one of several #RedCupProject demonstrations in Denver and in cities around the world.

Fertig used social media to organize the protest after a driver killed bike activist Dave Salovesh last week in an unprotected bike lane in the nation’s capital.

Jonathan Fertig andRob Toftness placed red cups and tomatoes along the bike lane on Wyncoop between 15th and 16th Streets. Photo: Andy Bosselman
Jonathan Fertig and Rob Toftness placed red cups and tomatoes along the bike lane on Wyncoop between 15th and 16th Streets. Photo: Andy Bosselman

“It’s to honor a fallen advocate in D.C.,” said Fertig, who is a well-known bike activist himself.  “As well as call attention, in Denver and cities across the world, the need for cities to be more proactive about making protected infrastructure.”

This installation is at South Monaco and South Magnolia Way near Southmoor Elementary School

As drivers veered over the line demarcating the bike lane on Wynkoop, they smashed cups and tomatoes, leaving blood-colored detritus on the street, which illustrated the dangers cyclists face when riding on unprotected bike infrastructure. The cups also showed that adding physical protection to a bike lane does not have to be difficult or costly.

“It shows how easy it is to put something down to make a protected bike lane,” said Fertig. “But also how fragile the people who occupy these lanes are.”

Fertig wanted to get the attention of mayors, telling StreetsblogUSA, “Our hope is that the #RedCupProject will impress upon Mayor Bowser in D.C., Mayor Hancock in Denver and mayors/city councilors everywhere that there’s no more time to delay rapid deployment of safe cycling infrastructure.”

Activists in New York City also followed along with Fertig’s idea.

“Imagine a transportation planner designing a street where the only thing protecting people on bikes from cars and trucks was a tomato or a paper cup,” cyclist Doug Gordon said. “And yet planners think nothing of ‘protecting’ bike lanes with paint.”

  • TakeFive

    Those red cups are pretty nifty; I like them.

    But as you suggest it’s hard to protect a bike rider against a speeding 25 year old in a stolen Dodge Grand Caravan that runs a red light. It’s also a Big logistics problem to accommodate deliveries in what is a business district. Wish there was an easy fix for meeting everyone’s needs?

    • Camera_Shy

      I agree with you.

      As far as “It’s also a Big logistics problem to accommodate deliveries in what is a business district.”- it’s not the cyclist’s fault that a business district didn’t accommodate deliveries during its development.

      If carving out space for bikes (un-protected space, even) means that delivery trucks only have the option of blocking cars by stopping in the driving lane(s), then so be it. I’ve said before that this is a better situation than forcing cyclists around the stopped truck, and into traffic – sometimes requiring them to move against traffic.

      Drivers will get used to the idea of trucks blocking the driving lanes, and they will change their behavior by staying out of blocks where they see a stopped delivery truck in the lane. /soapbox

  • Frank Krygowski

    “The dangers cyclists face riding on unprotected bike infrastructure”??

    If ordinary streets or ordinary bike lanes are too dangerous to ride, we’ll have to park our bikes forever. There are over four million miles of roadway in the U.S. There are at most a few hundred miles of “protected” bike lanes. That’s one hundredth of one percent. There’s no way we’ll reach even one percent “protection” during our lifetimes. And besides, Streetsblog has started saying “protected” bike lanes are no good unless they also have “protected” intersections.

    Why not just cut to the chase and say “Stop riding bikes”?

    In real life, bicycling is very safe – safer per mile than pedestrian travel (see John Pucher’s work) – and it’s easy to learn to ride safely and comfortably on almost any street. Take a cycling class, like Cycling Savvy. Read a book, like _Cyclecraft_.

    Quit the fear mongering. You’re harming bicycling and bicyclists.

    • Devin Quince

      So my kid, mom, etc. are supposed to get comfortable “carving” their space out with multi-ton machines driven by idiots?

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