If you live in Melbourne you’ve probably seen them: old, unrideable bikes with a religious message emblazoned on their side.
They litter the CBD, fused to public bike racks with homemade locks and carrying placards warning of an afterlife filled with torment.
“WARNING: TURN OR ELSE HELL” reads one along Swanston St in central Melbourne.
Another asks pedestrians: “If you die today, where will you spend eternity?”
Any time one of the bikes is removed another one pops up overnight.
There are about 12 locked to public bike racks around the CBD at any one time, which is a lot of work for their creator, a man who asked to be called “Barry” and belongs to what he claims is a small collective of unseen evangelists.
Now, one local resident has decided to “fight fire with water” by taking the venom out of the religious messages, pasting his own positive slogans over the top of them. And his message is all about pasta.
“Someone is stealing a public resource to promote a religious ideology. It’s simply wrong,” says I.G McSporran, who claims to be a Pastafarian. “They’re a cancer on our city, just horrible things.”
Mr McSporran has recently become a cult figure among internet sleuths.
He’s been spotted many times around the CBD wearing a colander on his head (religious headwear, he claims) and on the hunt for what he calls ‘Jesus bikes’.
“HELL: Is a village in Norway” reads one of the posters he’s stuck over an offending cycle. “Relax and enjoy some pasta.”
His apparent obsession with the starchy meal originates from the ‘Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster’, a social movement that promotes a jocular view of religion and opposes the teaching of creationism in schools.
“I can’t imagine why the council continues to allow this to happen,” Mr McSporran says.
Despite the contact details displayed on many of the placards, City of Melbourne Senior Media Advisor David King told The New Daily it was difficult to determine the owners of bicycles.
“It is not possible for Council to fine people for illegitimate bike hoop parking,” he said.
“Council will take steps to remove any bike that is deemed unrideable or parked for illegitimate purposes from our bike hoops once we are made aware.”
The New Daily understands that the City of Melbourne does not regard Barry’s use of public bike racks as legitimate.
However, Barry (who did not want to reveal his full name), disputes that the displays are a misuse of bike racks.
“I spoke to one nice man at the council and he just said he’d like to see them moved [around the city] more often,” he says.
“They were rideable when I first took them to the city … We have as much right as anyone else to park at a public bike rack.”
Although Mr McSporran began his anti-Barry crusade simply as a means of promoting a crowdfunding campaign for his custom-made wearable colanders, he was quickly labelled a hero by online fans fed up with seeing the aggressive slogans around the city.
“I’m taking the force of the key words and trying to make them into something amusing. I’m satirising it,” Mr McSporran says.
“I don’t want to be disparaging or offend anybody.”
He has set up an interactive map which allows bike-spotters to help him find all the latest locations.
Despite the attention he’s getting for his efforts, he expressed no interest in speaking to cycle evangelist Barry face-to-face.
“I imagine that his mind is like his locks – reinforced with concrete.”