Guerilla Urban Repair Squad hits Toronto


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L-R: Urban Repair Squad’s Kensington speed limit sign, Kyle MacLachlan of Twin Peaks watching over the neighbourhood, and an animal rights centric stop

A group of anonymous activists known as the Urban Repair Squad (URS) is using guerrilla-style techniques to reclaim Toronto’s streets for cyclists.

Previous work has included impromptu bike lanes, sharrows and comic book–style pothole markings (“Oof! Thunk!”) across the city.

On Sept. 13, the 40 km/h speed signs in the city’s Kensington Market neighbourhood were replaced with 10 km/h signs to reflect the speed limit that the URS believes should be implemented in the pedestrian-friendly neighbourhood. 

In a tongue-in-cheek press release that the bike activists addressed to “citizens of Toronto suffering PTSD from the war on cars,” they state they had changed the signs to protect “unassuming vehicles” that enter the neighbourhood and “are accosted by droves of rebel jaywalkers, willy nilly delivery trucks and stoned revellers eating multi-culti street food.”

URS is not the first to customize Toronto’s many road signs: residents of Toronto’s west end neighbourhoods have become accustomed to their Neighbourhood Watch signs being punched up with humorous pop culture references. 

On Rideau Avenue at Lansdowne, the Neighbourhood Watch sign’s original prosaic icon has been replaced with Twin Peaks protagonist FBI agent Dale Cooper (played by a baby-faced Kyle MacLachlan), while a Wallace Avenue sign boasts the cast of David Simon’s The Wire. Elsewhere in the city, passersby can rest assured that Spider-Man, Chief Wiggum, the cast of Sailor Moon, the original Batman and Robin, even Serpico are protecting their streets. 

And, with a meta twist, a Carlton Street Neighbourhood Watch sign features The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air favourite Carlton. 

Many of the city’s stop signs have also had a makeover. In Kensington Market, someone has customized the sign at Nassau Street and Augusta Avenue to read: “Stop Rob Ford!” in memory of the infamous late mayor and, in Brockton Triangle, a stop sign bears an equally political message: “Stop Eating Animals.”

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