City/Culture: Bicyclists’ Bold S.O.S.

A rare interview with the Department of D.I.Y., “a group of anonymous renegade do gooders.”

A activist group creates signs to call attention to what it perceives as the city’s poor attitude toward bikers. Jeremy Rosenberg

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Lately in Los Angeles, wheat-pasted posters have popped up like wildflowers after a wet winter.

The posters – white backgrounds with smart black graphics and san-sarif text – depict a bicycle under a stacked pair of chevrons. (View this great video.)

This bike-plus-arrows image is the icon for a “sharrow” – street symbols for shared bike-car lanes. The words that accompany the images on the L.A. posters read: “Caution! Please Pass with Care.” Spanish-language versions read, “Precaucion! Por Favor Pase Con Cuidado.” The posters, widely distributed, are not the work of local government.

That’s in keeping with a strong L.A. tradition of area folks filling in where they perceive public sector signage needs. City / Culture will post a longer column on that topic during the coming weeks. But today, we focus on the Caution! signs.

The posters are apparently the work of the Department of D.I.Y., whom Zach Behrens of the website LAist describes as “a group of anonymous renegade do-gooders.” Thanks to a trusted intermediary, City / Culture emailed a few questions to the Department of D.I.Y. earlier this week. Edited text of the questions and replies follow:

City / Culture: Who, or what, is the Department of D.I.Y.?

Department of D.I.Y.: A growing group of discontented citizens who want better service from the LADOT [Los Angeles Department of Transportation].

City / Culture: Why did the person or people who created the sign campaign do it?

Department of D.I.Y.: This campaign was created and supported by several hit-and-run victims and cyclists who have been treated like dirt by the City.

City / Culture: Did the people behind the campaign, or others, first try to get official approval?

Department of D.I.Y.: Cyclists are constantly trying in vain to get the City to help them stay alive and protected. As a hit-and-run victim myself, there is little the government has done to protect us. From the LAPD all the way through the court system, cyclists are very low on the radar.

City / Culture: Does the person or people who created the posters consider him, her, or themselves to be artists or designers?

Department of D.I.Y.: The Department of D.I.Y. does not create art and I personally do not see art in those posters. I see an important message for the people to consider. It could be called art if you consider the creative thinking behind the campaign itself.

City / Culture: This column is about creative people doing work in urban settings – work that could, at least arguably, be done by governments instead of individuals. Does this campaign fit that description?

Department of D.I.Y.: Again, to me, these posters are not so much art but a well-designed and desperate appeal to citizens. It’s frankly a shame on the City of Los Angeles for doing so little to protect cyclists on the roads that its own citizens have to do the work for them, and for free.

(Related: A couple of Modest Proposals regarding the Department of D.I.Y., including here and here. Also related: Two Damien Newton stories from LA.Streetsblog, here and here.

Read past City / Culture columns here and contact the columnist.

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Tags: los angeles

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