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.