How Activists Are Using This Humble Bathroom Staple To Save Cyclists’ Lives

updated Apr 30, 2019
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(Image credit: Hayley Kessner)

In an effort to encourage city officials to prioritize safe cycling conditions, bicycling advocates in Omaha recently took matters into their own hands by installing a DIY bike lane made out of toilet plungers in a local intersection.

A show of both resourcefulness and activism, 120 plungers wrapped in reflective tape were glued onto a street in the city’s Aksarben neighborhood, Curbed reports. A sign near the makeshift bike lane that read “Plungers for a Safer Aksarben” emphasized the cyclists’ intention to show the benefits of having an official protected bike lane, which include slowing traffic and making the street safer for bikers, drivers and pedestrians.

Their plea for protection from potential accidents comes after the intersection at 63rd and Shirley Streets saw multiple vehicular collisions, including a fatal crash that took place in 2015.

In the past few years, we’ve seen an ongoing push for more attention to the safety of cyclists, among them the installation of instant bike lanes made from recycled plastic and more recently, a potentially life-saving initiative that encourages drivers to change the way they open car doors.

Group glues 120 toilet plungers onto Omaha street to show what a protected bike lane could do

— Omaha World-Herald (@OWHnews) May 17, 2017

The use of plungers has only served to fuel the advocacy, as Omaha activist modeled their DIY bike lane after those in Wichita, Kansas and Providence, Rhode Island led to the installation of official bike protected lanes. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case in Omaha.

“The plan was to leave them out for 36 hours so people could see what a protected bike lane could do,” Omaha activist Stuart Nottingham told the Omaha-World Herald. However, the City Public Works Department declared the reflective toilet plungers as road obstructions and removed them only four hours later.

Instead, the city of Omaha plans to resolve the issues by installing a roundabout with an elevated center to slow traffic in the intersection, with construction set to take place later this year.