This is a picture of me, lounging on the sod of the newest park in town. It says, â€œStreets are for Peopleâ€ just above the windshield.
This “Community Vehicular Reclamation Project” is not only public art, but it is also a super smart way of reclaiming public space…one parking spot at a time.
The car is filled to the brim with dirt. Herbs and vegetables grow in the trunk, on the roof and just below the windshield, behind the sod. There is even a wee tree on top.
It is the brainchild of Shamez, a cycling advocate and recent City Idol candidate, and his friends with Streets are for People! He runs the restaurant this little beauty sits out front of in Kensington Market. It is the first car he has ever owned.
â€œI hate cars so this was a really fun way to trash one.â€ He says he doesn’t think anything like it exists. I said there is an art car index online that has a garden car, but he quickly points out that people actually drive those cars. This car is dead. And, it deliciously eats up a parking spot.
On the back, just below the lushest patch of herbs, a sign reads, “More Parks, Less Parking”.
(An important message any time and any place, but it is especially important right now to anyone in this city that has enjoyed strolling along the waterfront at Sunnyside beach, where there are plans to turn parkland near the newly renovated Palais Royale into parking. There is a previous Spacing post about this here.)
Shamez’s restaurant has been awarded the City’s Bicycle Friendly Business Award, a few times, in large part due to the fact that they do all deliveries and pick ups via rickshaw. But check this (from the Take the Tooker website) out:
When Shamez accepted the award he thanked the city for the recognition and told the crowd that he was receiving this award for bike friendly activities such as: using a rickshaw to deliver product to his restaurant; organizing the PS Kensington pedestrian zones in the market this summer and; organizing the car-free day parade on Queen Street.
But he then went on to say that the City appears to be a two-faced in giving him this award because: Council made it illegal for him to drive his rickshaw in Toronto; Council refused to fund PS Kensington and are doing little to advance the creation of viable permanent pedestrian zones in the city and; Council gave no funding for car-free day this year.
He balks at the idea of leadership in pedestrian and cycling initiatives at City Hall. â€œIf you want a bike lane, paint it yourself!â€
Then he shows me this magazine out of Prague called Carbusters where Take the Tooker is mentioned under “Action Reportsâ€ in the current issue.
There’s a drawing of a car with a tree growing right up through it’s middle on the inside cover. So, back to the real thing…
Two artists – Jody and “the-artist-yet-to-be-named” (let’s call him John) – paint mischievous but friendly-looking raccoons, lazing cats and smiling sunflowers on the car to the delight of passers-by.
The community response has been overwhelmingly positive. Most expressed genuine encouragement and support.
One elderly man in a mini-van sporting three World Cup-inspired flags stopped to look. It took a couple of seconds for the scene to register, then he smiled and made the okay symbol with his fingers. He drove slowly away, still smiling, as skateboarders waited for the road to clear again.
Photos by Sami Siva