February - March 2017
We did it.
On the morning of Saturday, February 18, 2017, members of the Yellowbrick Street Team set out to draw attention to the poorly-designed intersection of 1st & Washington – notorious in the local cycling community for cars improperly using the bike lane as a right turn lane, endangering and discomforting both cyclists and car drivers. We took a dozen toilet plungers wrapped with reflective tape and secured them to each side of the bike lane with masonry adhesive.
We knew they would not last. By the following Monday, they had each been knocked down or removed. The intervention went viral on social media, though, and was picked up later in the week by local NBC affiliate KSN TV. Then it blew up – national media such as Next City and CityLab ran stories, and the story was shared by countless individuals and organizations worldwide, among them: Tactical Urbanism; PeopleForBikes.org; Planetizen; Streetsblog; the OU Institute for Quality Communities; Cycling Today; road.cc; Bike Walk Wichita; Coasters Bicycle Club; and others. Then it broke out of the urbanism world and into the wider public, featured on social media by mental_floss and UberFacts.
The original KSN story was shared over 3,000 times on Facebook. Our best estimate at the total potential reach of the story: over 25 million.
While the story was being shared from Ireland to Auckland, Yellowbrick was lobbying behind the scenes for the city to place permanent delineator posts at the intersection. In less than three weeks, the city officially sanctioned our tactical urbanism by placing vertical delineators along the 1st Street bike lane approaching Washington – the first protected on-street lane in Wichita.
The project was successful in spurring permanent, positive change in Wichita... but it didn't stop there.
The plunger-protected bike lane is now a common form of bicycling advocacy. A wave of plunger-protected bike lanes have since sprung up in dozens of cities across the country, including: Nashville, Rochester, Providence, Omaha, and Philadelphia.
1st Street & Washington bike lane
Wichita, KS 67202
12 Toilet Plungers
3.6 feet of reflective tape
1 tube of masonry glue
$50 total cost
25 million+ global reach
"AN IDEA THAT STICKS: ANOTHER PLUNGER-PROTECTED LANE GOES PERMANENT" -- People for Bikes
"Toilet plunger incident sparks debate: When to work outside the system?" -- The Journal, Kansas Leadership Center