Flying through time and space with the wind in one's hair
I started cycling in Toronto in 1985. A lot has changed since then. For instance, there seems to be at least 10 times the traffic, and now we also have bike lanes and bells.
Non-cyclists, who always like to offer their opinions, regard this as progress. But I have never felt unsafer than I do in a bike lane. It doesn’t help that pedestrians wander into bike lanes with that stupid doe-eyed look. And it doesn’t help that cabs and cops regularly idle on these paths. The problem is, other cyclists are frankly insane. They seem to think that just because they are ringing those annoying little bells that they need not ever slow down or stop for anyone or anything. How a collision has yet to happen is pure luck.
In the old days, a cyclist took his or her chances on city streets. Some things have always been problematic - EMS vehicles, Wheel-Trans, buses, streetcar tracks, the cops. I once had a police car speed up towards me when I was crossing on a yellow light, not for an emergency, but to "Teach me a lesson." That’s the other problem with cycling - everyone wants to teach you a lesson, or offer an unwelcome comment. Like that horrible syphilitic old man who scowled at me for driving my bike on the sidewalk. Did it matter that it was a double-wide sidewalk, that I was nowhere near him, and not inconveniencing anyone? Or the other busybody cyclist who lectured me for not using a helmet. To both of you, go fuck yourselves. I use a sidewalk when road traffic is threatening, and I won’t use a helmet because that I cannot find one that doesn’t grip my skull like a vice.
I am also a motorist, and I can tell you that cycling, for all its horrors, is way preferable. It’s not just eco-friendly, or good exercise. There are rarely delays. I can estimate my time of arrival within a few minutes, something I can never do in a car. But it would help if cyclists wouldn’t turn cars into the enemy. Drivers often cannot see or predict the movements of erratic cyclists, who often take risky chances and then blame the motorists. (The truly crazy ones, and there are many, will often punch or kick cars, totally anti-social and juvenile behaviour.)
That’s the main problem. Other cyclists are assholes. Most are young, often lower income, and for some reason, completely impatient. Bike lanes have elevated their status and provided an entitlement, and everyone else is just in their way. The truth is, even pedestrians are finding downtown Toronto a little too crowded these days. I think it’s time the city remove flower planters, newspaper boxes, or sandwich boards from crowded sidewalks, like on Church Street. And if it is necessary to actually ban cycling on sidewalks, can we also ban people in mobility carts, too? The closest I ever came to being hit was by some twat on a mobility cart.
And yet, for all this, I recommend cycling. It’s the best way to see the city, and the best way to get around. Elevated and flying through time and space with the wind in my hair, it’s the only time I feel truly free.