All the route’s a stage; we’re just riding through it

12 04 2016

Cycling is full of surprises.

Sometimes they’re dangerous, like the pedestrian who decides just because they’ve pressed the Walk button, they’re cleared to cross the intersection even if it is against the light.

Sometimes they’re awkward, like the driver who insists on yielding the right of way even though you’ll happily wait your proper turn.

A cycling surprise can make your day. It can also end it in a hurry if it involves a mechanical breakdown, or worse.

I’ve ridden portions of the Ridgeway/Midtown cycling route that bisects Vancouver from east to west a half-dozen times. Usually my head is down, or I’m engrossed in conversation with one of my colleagues from the Unemployed Journalists and Booze Merchants Cycling Union. So I hadn’t noticed the collection of whimsical, delightful and even thought-provoking public art pieces, some of it cycling-related.

Some of the pieces are artistic expressions of urban furniture, like the baseball backstop that has been cleverly reimagined as a theatre curtain.

"Backstop: A stage for Wordsworth" in Cartier Park is a poetic setting for pick-up baseball.

“Backstop: A stage for Wordsworth” in Cartier Park is a poetic setting for pick-up baseball.

Some are tacked up high, atop signposts or light standards. Some are disguised as gardens. One, at the corner of Ontario and 37th, looks like a small seating area at the edge of Queen Elizabeth Park; but it’s not until you admire it from a distance that the form of bike seats and tires are realized. The bench is a rear rack.

At the junction of the Midtown/Ridgeway and Ontario bike routes, "Bicycle Intersection" is a themed rest stop.

At the junction of the Midtown/Ridgeway and Ontario bike routes, “Bicycle Intersection” is a themed rest stop.

Rolling along the 14km route is like riding through a linear gallery. A sign along the way indicates nine pieces of public art between Knight and Granville streets. Although I think a few unofficial works have been added.

If you’re not expecting the show, the art will surprise you, maybe even slow you down as you realize what is happening and begin to anticipate the next one. If you know what’s coming, you may pause to ponder their context, what they say about the urban experience.

And on a grey, cool day in early Spring, they’re sure to bring you a smile.

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