A manifesto.

I never thought myself a fearful person, but once in a while, I am shaken. On Saturday night my good friend Jason was hit by a car edging out from a side street as he rode west on Queen St. He was on his way back from Toby’s Disco Inferno alleycat (though he had already dropped out when the accident happening, thus ruling out any reckless cycling in the equation). As he approached Trinity Bellwoods, the car gunned out suddenly, sending him over and across the hood. He dislocated and broke his right shoulder in three places, and the driver did not stay at the scene. Presumably he either panicked, or saw that Jason got up on his own two feet (hardly an indication of being ‘okay’) and sped off momentarily. A group of pedestrians walking by helped him off the street, jotted down the license plate, and called an ambulance.

This particular moment bothers me, because at the moment Jason was hit, I was probably absentmindedly twiddling my fingers at a checkpoint across from every Toronto hipster’s favourite joint, The Boat, waiting for the last racer to come through. I would sign his manifest, and he would pull a frantic U-turn and head back in the direction he came from. Twenty-one of the 22 racers pulled through my checkpoint. The other guy manning this checkpoint, Paul, called Toby to find out whether this guy was coming at all. Toby says, I dunno, I have no idea who it is. I waited until 12:30 a.m., but decided to pack it in when I figured any rider as slow as this mystery racer wasn’t worth waiting for any longer. So I made my way west on Queen, passing by a crowd of onlookers staring, probably as Jason was being loaded into the back of the ambulance, lights flashing into the darkness of Trinity Bellwoods at night. I hesitated for a moment, knowing how awful it is to ride that section of Queen, and presciently, feeling bad because it was probably some poor cyclist that got hit.

In the last month, I have seen many of my friends explain other stories… how one cab clipped his handlebars and sent him tumbling onto the road before speeding off, close calls and arguments; that night, in fact, another rider in this race clipped the back of a car after it suddenly U-turned. On the ride home from the alleycat, a cab swerved into me. At the next red light, I nearly smashed in his windshield with my lock after he told me I ought to be riding in the gutter, and he would have no reason to signal or check his blind spot before turning if I had been there in the first place.

It wasn’t until Sunday that I got a call from Drew, worried after Jason never showed up at his place the night before. Several hours later, we would find out he was at St. Mike’s recovering from surgery.

Which leads me to think, really, if any amount of altruism in this fucked up world and saving one gallon of petroleum at a time in the name of curbing global warming makes any difference at all. Being drenched in sweat, bumped, having doors opened on me, honked at, bullied into street curbs, breathing noxious fumes from the tailpipes of assholes, secure in their bigger faster stronger vehicles… Is any of it worth the risk?

It’s not, but for the illusions of weightless, unencumbered flight, the fleeting moments of tailwind and abandoned, buttery smooth stretches of asphalt at 3 a.m., I’ll deal with it.

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4 Comments

  1. Posted July 30, 2007 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    What’s sad is that the most alarming of recent incidents (when someone actually TRIED to swing a door open on you) isn’t listen here and perfectly illustrates the contempt that a sizable amount of drivers have for cyclists, for whatever reason.

    The same night that this happened to you a cabbie opened his door on Ashlee – she yelled and he told her to “fuck off” – she waited for him to go where he was going and “sent him to the body shop” figuratively speaking. Clearly, not the right approach but the right approach is fundamentally useless. If you called the Police they’d ask if there was an actual accident or intent to harm, which there wasn’t. If you called the cab company, they’d tell you how seriously they take these matters and apologize for the driver and that would be that. If they have to go pay for some bodywork they will think twice before pulling that shit again – either that or they will be even more aggressive towards cyclists but we’re deluding ourselves if we think they give us any kind of consideration in the first place – not like it needs to be said, though, we all know >a href=”http://makergo.com/shutup/?p=15″>how I feel about cabs in this city.

  2. Posted July 31, 2007 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    PS – The sentiment at the end is beautiful. I had the same thought riding home from Mississauga on Sunday after some old family friends said “see, people talk about global warming but here is someone who is doing something about it.” I think the environment is important, perhaps moreso than a lot of people, but I ride because I’m compelled to for a variety of reasons; the environment is just one piece of that puzzle but not the most important one.

  3. Posted July 31, 2007 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    I don’t even know if it’s worth being nice and accommodating, then getting taken advantage of on the roads, and finally getting mad over it anymore… from now on I will just stick to a “don’t give a fuck”-ism about cars and do whatever I want to protect myself.

    Anyway to fill in clueless readers, last week I was almost doored by a woman getting out on the passenger side of an SUV that had pulled over at an intersection (which was highly illegal anyway, since it was rush hour and in the middle of a green light). After I yelled at her for almost hitting me, she shrugged and told me snidely to chill out. I let it go, and tried to get around the errant car by riding around the back of the still-parked SUV on the driver’s side, only to have the girl’s boyfriend in the driver’s seat open his door on me intentionally. I swerved into the left lane, the edge of the open door missing me by an inch or two. There was a car in the left lane right on my tail, and if traffic had been moving any faster, or I swerved any wider, I probably would have been hit from behind. I took down his license plate and plan on reporting it. I wouldn’t normally put that much effort into ruining someone’s day if they did it accidentally, but this guy knew full well what he was doing – an intent to harm.

  4. Jason OY
    Posted August 20, 2007 at 3:24 am | Permalink

    Wow. I just found out about this (from the man himself). I hope he makes a full recovery. Please boys and girls, watch yourselves out there!

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