(written in 2007, posted today)
I got hit by a car, for the third time, while on my bike and I’ve got say it’s begun to upset me.
What upsets me most is how much I deserved it. A blow to my pride.
I realize I’m a tempting target, resplendent in my plastic helmet, legs pumping like a comely gazelle, just asking to be gunned down by the nearest metal death machine. I realize that bicycles have no place on the road, and that if a 15-tonne truck fails to see me it is completely my fault. Under the ‘survival of the fittest’ (not athletically fit, but 'he who possesses the most body armour' principle) there is no getting around blaming the victim.
Of course if bicycles dare to enter mixed traffic, they are vehicles under the Highway Traffic Act. Since the Highway Traffic Act was designed by motorists, for motorists, what this means is that bikes are actually cars. They are not, in fact, bikes. What a coup!
While upwardly mobile types may see this as promotion, I fear it is a misclassification. Unfortunately there is something called reality, which makes life and driving very inconvenient. The Highway Traffic Act is right: bikes are no different from a cement mixer, which is why I guess this last driver who hit me got confused; he thought I was one of his buddies and just wanted to give me a friendly tap. In a similar exercise in reality: when I put my bike helmet in the fridge, it actually becomes a watermelon, so it should come as no surprise if my girlfriend eats my helmet while I’m in the ICU recovering from latest cement-mixer love tap. Once again, it’s completely my fault.
Clearly, helmets do not belong in the fridge, and cyclists do not belong on the road. We must not allow a light, convenient mode of traffic to infest the asphalt, omitting to pollute and omitting to destroy the expensive right of way. Bicycles are too fast for downtown traffic, which according to longstanding traditions ought to function at a crawl. Have you ever seen a cyclist zip through a completely unnecessary traffic signal downtown, as though he had figured out a better way to navigate the road? Not to sit at an intersection and wait for a traffic light - what a horrendous level of efficiency! It’s as though with cyclists, the millions we spend on traffic signals would be completely redundant. This is a mockery! Not to mention we spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year repairing our roadways so that cars and trucks may continue to revert them to rubble. Why, my bike’s failure to destroy the roads threatens to put thousands of construction crews out of work. Why should our politicians divert workers to build subways when they can clean up after automobile wreckage? (Enough nonsense - cars can’t drive on subway tracks, not until we invent special wheels for them.)
Of course, a car goes fast. Much faster than a bike. Yet somehow, lots of cars put together don’t go so fast. When you put 1.5 million cars in Toronto – they go very very slow. The more of them there are, the slower they go? How is this possible; I must be bad at math! Yet I’ve seen it every time downtown: the slower they go, the faster my bike goes in comparison.
But who cares about that anyway, because driving in a car makes you feel free! Free to travel across the country, stopping at every fast-food monopoly at the government-allocated rest stops along the way. Free to pay thousands in mandatory insurance fees, free to line up at the gas pump, free to be fleeced by your mechanic. So free! Free to go wherever you want to go, as long as there are roads, and as long as you don’t mind being surrounded by thousands of cars, all exercising their freedom to commute 90km a day from the suburbs – free to give up any alternative to your car! You’re an individual, so don’t bother to share space on the subway. So free! So many millions of motorists, all exercising their freedom in exactly the same way on an identical stretch of road! Freedom to do what you want - that’s what makes the Highway Traffic Act and the hundreds of rules you need to learn to obtain your license so great!
But yes, there is traffic! Solution? Build more roads, so more cars can rocket around to more places! Will the traffic come to the new roads too? I’ve got a hunch it won’t. Somehow, drivers will stop crowding the roads if we keep paving the city and turn all available urban land over to cars! I’m bad at math, so who cares about logic too!
Will we ever give up cars? Likely not. For this involves heeding another feature of reality, namely history. It was actually the League of American Wheelmen, a cycling interest group, who got American roads paved over, before there were cars everywhere, in the late 19th and early 20th century. Thankfully we have managed to forget this. We don’t want motorists to feel guilty about dispossessing someone else’s territory, pretending it was theirs all along, and then lay waste to it – those pesky Indians make us feel guilty enough for stuff like that.
And so a few of us are sacrificed each year, in the name of tunnel vision, denial and a complete lack of common sense. So be it. I managed to survive my last three love taps, but when my number comes up, I’ll fly gleefully off the handles toward the tough but fair arms of that fateful telephone pole. It’s tough love from that cement-mixer, I guess, because it’s love.