My ride to work for Bike To Work Week yesterday was pretty typical. Nice weather for a 20km ride, and 4 people attempted to murder me.
One was a person in an SUV blowing through a stop sign into my path on a residential Vancouver street, which was easy to forgive because she gave me that ubiquitous “oops” wave. One person pulled a bone-headed u-turn right in front of me as I am going down a hill on another designated bike route in Vancouver, causing me to lock up both wheels on slick streets. No “oops” wave this time, but he did give me a dismissive spin of his tires as he shot away from the scene, which I guess is acknowledgement. One was an attempted dooring on a traffic-calmed bike route, followed a few hundred metres later by a guy in a CLK brush-passing me at 50km/h when I try to stay out of the door zone on another traffic calmed bike route. I foiled them all.
There were also two places where City works crews (one in Burnaby, one in Vancouver) chose to completely close off a relatively safe bike route with no warning and no indications of alternative routes in order to do horticulture work, which is kinda a nice nod to Bike to Work Week.
There were also three places where I was forced to make sketchy moves on the bike because of horrid cycling infrastructure failures. One infrastructure failure in Burnaby is a long-standing grievance at Royal Oak station that will get someone killed eventually. Another is the relatively new one in Burnaby I have already lamented, that the City of Burnaby has now made even worse with the addition of a pedestrian fence. The third one is related to recent construction at the Nanaimo Skytrain Station in Vancouver that has been there for a few months, and seems like it may continue to be there for a very long time. All three of them are adjacent to or near transit stations, so perhaps I should be complaining to TransLink? But not one of them would be acceptable, or last this long, if it was cars forced to make the sketchy move. If drivers were forced to even lighten up slightly on the gas pedal for a brief moment, there would be signs and flagging people and traffic studies. Because even where cycling routes meet transit stations in pedestrian-heavy areas adjacent to popular parks, it is cars that are accommodated first, and the rest of us can fuck right off and get killed. In the context of a ride where several people in cars did actually try to kill me, these little grievances and seemingly minor inconveniences start to grind your gears.
But I’m tired of complaining. And I’m tired of hearing that “scofflaw cyclists” are the bane of urban areas. I’m tired of reading study after study showing that pedestrians and cyclists are getting killed by cars at increasing rates at the same time that driver fatalities are going down. I am tired of Police and ICBC telling me to make eye contact and dress up like a Christmas tree or I had it coming when some asshole left hooks me. I am tired of the profound gap between the lack of responsibility that the people who choose to use cars feel, and their absolute righteousness around their use of cars. I am tired of arguing for basic cycling infrastructure against the societal priority of (preferably free) storage of cars in all public space. I am tired of meetings at City Hall where the only time we discuss cycling infrastructure, it is in the context of how we can maybe afford some half-measure some time off in the future if it doesn’t irritate too many people, but we certainly can’t afford to build something that is safe, connected, and integrated. I’m tired of ceding so much space and energy and money and atmosphere to cars. I’m tired of us treating this City-destroying and planet-killing addiction like it is untreatable, or even beneficial. I’m sick and tired of car culture, of Motordom.
Cycling is making me tired. But it isn’t my legs that hurt, its my heart. I’m afraid that this weariness has taken away the joy I used to get from riding a bicycle.
2 comments on “BTWW 2019”
….and thus, Patrick has made the difficult decision to arm his bicycle like those cars you see in the spy movies… rockets, guns and an oil-slick feature for tailgaters.
I was walking along a pedestrian / cycle route this morning which was blocked by a landscaping truck. The guy I was walking with quipped that Patrick Johnstone wouldn’t be happy about this. We had a chuckle and made our way around the obstacle. He actually sent me a link to this post. This was a good read as per usual… thanks. I suggest that you find the energy to carry on fighting the good fight. We all have days that leave us believing the whole world has gone mad. (Partially true). But the reality is our Country is changing, albeit at a slower pace than you might have expected or hoped for. I spent decades riding noisy Harley’s and driving ridiculous muscle cars around New West. I no longer own those things. I walk 60k a week, ride my bicycle and when necessary, drive my Ford Fiesta. (I no longer build racing engines as a hobby, I’m now building bicycle trailers). You change hearts and minds one at a time. I’ll give you a little credit for changing mine.
To the future Patrick.