In an earlier guest blog, Bradley L. Garrett revealed his excitement upon discovering a pavement penis. Well, there’s a lot of them about. These examples are in the inner Sydney suburb of Redfern, where encroaching trendiness has turned a closed-off street beside the railway line into an official bicycle route and a parking lot for cultural-industry workers and the newer type of resident.
Older established residents and their offspring may well feel resentful. I choose to believe that these alterations of official traffic signs express a local belief that the car parkers and cyclists are wankers.
Street haunting in winter, writes Virginia Woolf, is the greatest of adventures. In the early evening she rambles, her eyes “gliding smoothly on the surface” of things and noticing, for example, that “here under the lamps are floating islands of pale light”.*
One of the loveliest qualities of the pavement is the way it reflects the glow from lights in the street at gloomy times of the day, especially when it is wet. Clarice Beckett captures these reflections in her subtle paintings of Melbourne scenes, like Wet evening c.1927 and Taxi rank c.1931.
A single tail light or traffic light can form a wavering pillar submerged in the depths beneath the surface of the street.
Rainy morning, West Pender Street, Vancouver, November 2009
*Street haunting: a London adventure, first published in 1942 and reproduced in The art of the personal essay, Anchor Books, 1995.
There is an ongoing battle between cyclists and just about everyone else – motorists don’t want them on the roads, pedestrians (like me) don’t want them on the footpaths. The issue is a perennial filler for Sydney newspapers and has flared again this week in news stories, opinion pieces and letters to the editor.
In Australia, those who argue on the cyclists’ side point to the way in which cities in other developed countries have embraced the bicycle – but it’s not necessarily all plain cycling overseas. Apparently one of the great battlefields in the war between bicyclists, pedestrians and motorists is the Brooklyn Bridge in New York. Robert Sullivan, calling for an armistice, writes in the New York Times: “The stripe painted down the center of the elevated Brooklyn Bridge walkway, to separate bicyclists from pedestrians, has become a line in the sand. We need to erase that line once and for all.” Here is an example where the record of a territorial struggle has been written on the pavement itself.
Almost every sign, symbol, graphic and graffiti marked on the roads and sidewalks is a claim for territory. The two examples photographed for today’s blog record instances where pedestrians have had a victory over cyclists, officially at least, and probably only temporarily. The ineptly obliterated bicycle symbol overpainted with a ‘Pedestrian traffic only’ stencil was on the bridge at the corner of St Kilda Road and Flinders Street in Melbourne in 2005. The ‘Give way’ stencils appeared in parks in the City of Sydney towards the end of 2008 after many complaints from pedestrian park-users.
I love the pitted texture of this old bicycle symbol. It’s on a shared footpath (footpath?) near Erskineville Station. In the foreground of the wider shot there is a tag – or maybe it’s just a spill.
An account of the battle between cyclists, pedestrians and motorists is written on the pavement in pictograms. I will be having more to say about this in future blogs.