Tuesday, September 1, 2009

fellow down.

today is one of mourning.

i'm sure it happens everywhere, every minute of every day, but this is so rare to so many of us, so comfortably insulated from mortality, that it is deafening when someone on two wheels is silenced forever. 

last night, a toronto politician and a toronto bike messenger had a collision, an altercation, and then a murder by vehicular assault wherein the cyclist was killed. it's one thing to have a collision, another to have an altercation, but to run a car, cyclist attached, onto the oncoming sidewalk and into stationary objects, then ultimately run him over is murder. assault with a deadly weapon resulting in manslaughter. cars are deadly weapons and you only have to be sixteen and semi-literate to wield one. guns are meant for the singular purpose of bringing about death. knives are more like cars, where they are available for a variety of uses, and, depending on the intent of the user, can cause severe harm. like my dad always said: the most dangerous part of a gun is the person holding it.

there are too many things to consider here, and i don't even know much of the details. besides, i bring too many bicycle-centric biases to be even somewhat 'objective' (a stance that i believe is entirely impossible in this world), and i don't even vote Liberal. however, i ride a bike, in traffic, in this city, on that street, at that intersection, and i have had plenty of my own close calls and near-misses and collisions and confrontations and altercations, and it gets me. right there. someone died doing what i do every day. they died right where i could have died. and someone killed them, on purpose.

i ride like no one can see me. i slip here, cross over there, figure that i'm invisible and the only thing i can trust a motorist to do is the wrong thing. yes, it's biased and disappointing and utterly untrue to my tendency to expect the best of people, but it keeps me alive. i used to pick fights. i used to ride too-close to cars and people. i used to flip people off, bang on their windows, yell in their faces, fantasize about taking their keys and throwing them into a trash can or the river or traffic. then, through time and bad experiences and worse experiences, i grew up, gained a little perspective, wore a whole lot more lights and reflective shit, and got on with the ride. i'm not saying everyone out there should ride like i do. it takes me too long to get places, because i try to stop for lights and stop signs and pedestrian crosswalks (not pedestrians if not in crosswalks though, give me a break already). couriers wouldn't make any money if they rode as slowly and almost-law-abidingly as i. however, if it's going to let some helmetless messenger live, or some meandering asian mango-shopper make it across spadina, or some overburdened mother of five make it from Holt Renfrew to Harry Rosen in one piece, i think it's time to give a little. give just a little room, a little space, make things a little smoother, and this might be a better place for it. i know we have to fight tooth and nail for every inch we take on the road. i know the battle gets far more lethal and frightening the further we venture out of the downtown core. i know that we are the ones who are out on the limb, risking life to get around the best way we can. but i think we are in a great position to lead by example, and give a little. 

it's the old age talking, but it seems to work. i hold my tongue and don't have anything regretful to answer for. i anticipate that no one will look for or see me until it's far too late, so i ride further ahead and behind all that heavy steel on wheels with too many blindspots and cell phones and ipods blaring. and i wear a fucking helmet. always. wind in my hair? tons. they're called 'vents', maybe you've heard of them. look like a freak? of course, and isn't that what your colorway and messenger motif are all about? hit by a car? yes. hit a person? yes. dead? no.

anyway, peace to you, mr. sheppard. this city is less without you.

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