Neon bike attracts admirers, bylaw officers

An abandoned bike turned art installation is drawing the attention of art-watchers around the world and the notice of Toronto's bylaw officers.
The bike was painted a bright orange to brighten up an otherwise drab section of Dundas Street West. (Submitted by Caroline Macfarlane)

An abandoned bike turned art installation is drawing the attention of art-watchers around the world and the notice of Toronto's bylaw officers.

It all began when Caroline Macfarlane noticed a rusty bike locked to one of the city's downtown bike stands. For six months, Macfarlane watched the bike gather rust as no owner showed up to retrieve it.

Macfarlane, who works at the student gallery of the Ontario College of Art and Design (OCAD), saw the bike near campus on Dundas Street West. Working with fellow artist Vanessa Nicholas, Macfarlane decided to transform the bike from eyesore to eye-catching.

"It occurred to me that the Raleigh had never been moved from that spot for as long as I could remember," Macfarlane wrote on her blog. "It was a permanent fixture on the street, a gorgeous skeleton of an antique bicycle long forgotten."

"I decided it would be really nice to plant some plants in its basket," she told CBC News on Thursday. Macfarlane and Nicholas also painted the bike a bright neon orange. Ever since, passersby have been stopping to take a look and snap pictures of it.

The Neon Bike Project, as it's now known, has been mentioned on blogs and triggered a slew of supportive emails from as far away as Belgium and Serbia.

"It started generating a lot of positive feedback," said Macfarlane. "People were talking about it, taking photos of it and coming into the gallery to ask questions."  

The bike, rust-covered and abandoned, sat this way for months on a section of Dundas Street West. ((Submitted by Caroline Macfarlane))

City workers have threatened removal

City Hall has also taken notice. On Monday, city workers placed a note on the bike, instructing its owner to remove it within seven days or else city workers would step in and remove it themselves.

Toronto bylaws make it illegal to use the city's bike racks for long-term parking.

Angie Antoniou from the city's Transportation Services department said the city only acts when it receives a complaint.

"Those racks are for use by the general public, the cyclists," she told CBC News. "There is a huge demand for them."

Macfarlane hopes the bike's popularity will encourage city workers to leave it in place for people to enjoy, and perhaps entice more customers to visit the gallery.

Another option is to move the bike to other locations to make it part of a city-wide art installation that promotes art and cycling.

Macfarlane said she finds it interesting the bike only drew the attention of city workers after it was painted orange.

"The only negative feedback I've had about the bike has been from the city," she said.

On her blog  Macfarlane asks her readers to show their support for the brightly coloured bike.

"Please help me by emailing with your reason(s) why the neon bike is A GOOD THING, and why it should remain!"

With files from Redmond Shannon