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Canadian Urbanism Uncovered

Who was first past the post?

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“It’s like taking the cherry off the sundae,” says architect and designer David Dennis of Jack Layton’s claim that the now federal NDP leader came up with the concept for Toronto’s ubiquitous ring-and-post bike stand. Dennis tells me this as he holds a chunk of the original cherry-wood bike-ring pattern. “All I’m saying,” says Dennis, “is that the concept, the ‘ah-ha moment,’ came over a drawing board rather than a bar table.”

By now, the story of the sketch on a napkin, or the sweaty beer ring and swizzle stick, is the stuff of local urban legend. Regardless of the various incarnations of the tale, Layton says it was definitely that evening in the pub when the simple design was conceived.

“We had a window seat at Foster’s pub, I remember it vividly,” says Layton, who was cycling committee chair at the time. He and other cycling types had been discussing a news item about ticketing cyclists who locked their bikes to parking metres. The problem was that the bikes fell down and got in the way of cars. So, they came up with the idea of putting a ring on the metre post so cyclists could weave their chain locks through safely.

“I will give David Dennis full credit for designing it,” Layton says. But he is steadfast, if magnanimous. “I have no interest in taking credit for it, but I certainly remember the discussion in the bar about ‘how can we make a parking metre into a bike stand’