First there were houseplants in Boston. Then there were bollards in Seattle, human barriers in San Francisco, and traffic cones in countless cities. Now, in the ongoing quest to persuade city officials to roll out more robust bike infrastructure, it seems there are toilet plungers.
Bike activists in Omaha, Nebraska, have taken a page from Wichita, Kansas, and Providence, Rhode Island, by installing toilet plungers along an unprotected bike lane to send city leaders a message about the need for a permanent fix, Omaha World-Herald reports.
The plungers made their appearance in the Aksarben neighborhood Monday morning (followed swiftly by the expected jokes).
The 120 reflective tape-wrapped plungers were glued along 63rd Street north of Shirley Street. The intersection of Shirley and 63rd Streets is a frequent site for crashes, including a fatal collision in 2015.
A sign at the site labeled the installation as “Plungers for a Safer Aksarben.” While activists originally planned to remove the plungers themselves after about 36 hours, the plungers were removed by the City Public Works Department only four hours into their service.
Omaha does not yet have any protected bike lanes. One of the eight guerilla bike lane installers told the World-Herald that they hoped the instillation would show residents and the city that protected bike lanes would slow traffic and make the street safer for everyone.
City officials have been meeting with neighborhood residents about the intersection and the high rate of serious collision that occur there, and the city plans to install a roundabout this year with a raised center to slow traffic. According to Todd Pfitzer, assistant Omaha Public Works director, protected bike lanes are not in the city’s plans or budget.
Kelsey E. Thomas is a writer and editor based in the most upper-left corner of the country. She writes about urban policy, equitable development and the outdoors (but also about nearly everything else) with a focus on solutions-oriented journalism. She is a former associate editor and current contributing editor at Next City.