Wichita plunger mystery solved

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – The mystery of who installed plunger-like barriers along a Wichita bike lane has been solved.

On Tuesday, The Yellowbrick Street Team, a local tactical urbanism collective, took responsibility for the innovative posts.

“It added some extra mystery and it kind of showed that we did it on behalf of other people,” said Yellowbrick Street Team member Alex Pemberton. “This is something that has been a big issue in the cycling community and people living downtown. They have all wanted to see this change, so we did it on behalf of them and we didn’t really feel like at the outset that we should claim it as our own.”

Pemberton said the team put a dozen plungers along the bike lane on First Street and Washington in late February to draw attention to what they believe is a poorly designed intersection, notorious in the cycling community for cars improperly using the bike lane.

“It is very uncomfortable. I’m a frequent bike commuter. I tend to avoid First Street because I never know if a car is going to come up behind me,” Pemberton said.

The plungers were wrapped in reflective tape and secured on each side of the bike lane with masonry adhesive.

“We stayed around and observed it and immediately people were using the proper lane to turn. We had cyclists come up and they actually said this is great,” Pemberton said.

The City of Wichita also took notice of the team’s work.

“Wichita residents are some of the most inventive and proactive people in the world, as shown by the attention received recently for the use of the plungers. The installation of the plungers also shows that Wichita residents care very much about providing safe and comfortable streets for all users especially at intersections,” said Scott Wadle with the City of Wichita.

On Tuesday, city crews installed posts along the bike lane to help emphasize that drivers should not transition motor vehicles across the solid white stripe and not cross into the bike lane to make a right turn.

Wadle said while he does not encourage people to make changes to a city street on their own, he said he was pleased the Yellowbrick Street Team initiated the conversation.

“The City encourages anyone with suggestions for improvements to share them with the Wichita Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Board and staff, so that they can be addressed through the public process and the physical changes can be reviewed to comply with applicable regulations,” Wadle said.

Pemberton said he was impressed with the city’s fast response to his team’s rogue idea.

“The city was very responsive. You know we lobbied with them. They listened to us,” Pemberton said. “Knowing that we live in a city that is so progressive and so responsive to the needs of its citizens is really reaffirming.”

The City does have a project underway to make changes to First and Second Street. The City has installed the posts as an interim solution prior to the street improvements.