The Good Bike Project zine
by Heather Reid
Images courtesy of the artists
Anyone around downtown Toronto last summer would have been hard-pressed to miss the steadily growing Good Bike project.
The public art project that organically grew out of one lonely, abandoned bike painted neon orange outside the OCAD Student Gallery by two artists working inside.
Caroline MacFarlane and Vanessa Nicholas developed their project from this first bike, to the many orange, magenta, rose, yellow, green, blue, and aqua bikes that helped to add colour to our city streets.
Now, they've published The Good Bike zine, to create a lasting expression of their artistic exploration of bike culture in Toronto. It is available at the OCAD Student Gallery and Art Metropole for $20 and was designed by Andy Callahan. The 'zine is a chance for the artists to contribute their own voice to the media frenzy that erupted, particularly out of Rob Ford’s use of the project for publicity, and it includes lots of vibrant images of the bikes with descriptions of site locations. As you read through their description of each location and why it was important to place a bike there, you may find it hits a note of resonance between community and creativity and conjures up feelings of what it's like to bike down a particular street in Toronto.
Caroline and Vanessa at City Hall with a "Good Bike".
Dandyhorse: Why did you choose to commemorate the project with a zine?
Good Bike: The publication was the final step in completing the project. Our project existed largely in the media and we wanted our own reference point. Often our conceptual intent was overlooked by reporters, so the publication strengthens the message of community we were hoping to send. We wanted a way to preserve the project once the bikes were off the streets.
DH: How do you feel the public reception of The Good Bike contrasted with your initial expectations?
GB: We didn’t really have any expectations, as the project began with simple idea and one abandoned bike. We just wanted to add a little colour to our street. It became much bigger than that once the media and the City got involved.
DH: What did you think about the copycat bikes?
GB: We were delighted to discover so-called “copycat” bikes throughout the city. Our favourite was a teeny tricycle that was painted neon orange in Grange Park. It was there all summer long.
DH:How does the project comment on high art vs. community art?
GB: Why do they have to be separate or opposed? This distinction is meaningless and has been for a long time. The boundaries between art for a gallery and art for the street were blurred long ago. Think happenings and graffiti in 70’s New York.
DH: Do you feel that The Good Bike has made any lasting changes in Toronto?
GB: We got Rob Ford on a bike, didn’t we? We also got lots of people talking about cycling and art in Toronto. Hopefully this is just the beginning!
DH: How did Rob Ford's interaction with The Good Bike affect the project and do you have any regrets?
GB: People need to know that Rob Ford really had nothing to do with our project: we received no funding or support from his office. We were initially quite upset about the photo that was taken of the Mayor on our bike. We’d expressly asked him to stay away from it because we were weary of looking like a band aid for his anti-bike and anti-art politics. He never spoke to us about the project, and he had no involvement in the project beyond his office trying to hijack our facebook and twitter accounts. We did write him a letter. We never received a response from him.
DH: Did all the locations used listed in the zine have personal significance to you two, or how did you decide on the locations you used?
GB: Some were personal to us, and some were suggested by friends and strangers. It really was a community effort.
DH: How do bicycles affect the culture of our city?
GB: Bikes make any city cleaner, more social, less aggressive, healthier and happier. Bikes make for an all around better place to live.