When it comes to cyclist safety, physical barriers like parked cars or plastic bollards are a clear step up from painted white lines. Vigilante urbanists have taken this to heart in the past, erecting makeshift barriers from potted plants or traffic cones. Recently, a mysterious Wichita do-gooder took a similar approach — this time, with toilet plungers.
Last weekend, local cyclist Todd Ramsey was riding downtown when he noticed what he believed to be white posts sticking out of the ground between the bike lane and the rest of the street, KSN.com reports. The “posts” had reflective tape on them, but as Ramsey approached them he realized they were actually plungers stuck to the ground.
“I was riding my bike downtown on Saturday morning. I pull up to this intersection and I see these white posts sticking out of the ground and they look like traffic barriers. They have reflective tape on them and so I’m thinking, wow, the city did something to kind of make this intersection safer,” said Todd Ramsey.
“As I get closer, I realize these aren’t barriers, these are plungers that have been stuck to the ground,” Ramsey said.
Ramsey then snapped a few pictures of the plungers and posted them to social media. He said that’s when the conversation about bike safety, specifically bike-lane safety in downtown Wichita, took off.
“I don’t think the people know the rules about whether they are dedicated turn lanes or not,” Ramsey said.“It’s not very fun. You have to be on your guard at all times because you never know if a car is going to turn into you. I don’t think it’s just a cyclist safety issue. It’s a public safety issue and we can do better.”
Ramsey said he believes the plungers are a sign from someone or some group that Wichita can do better in protecting its cyclists.
“I thought this is somebody who knows about bike safety and is trying to make a point or is actually trying to solve a problem that no one else is trying to solve,” he said. “I think it’s a great awareness point to just let people know they need to stay out of the bike lanes regardless of whether there are cyclists in there or not.”
A spokesperson for the city said the plungers were not placed by the city and police said the person responsible could be cited for littering. The city is aware of the intersection and that is has long-term plans to make improvements.