Brand building through storytelling

Cyclists vs drivers: a war on the streets of my city

Lately I’ve been thinking of a man who’s lying in a hospital bed, incoherent and minus a leg. It’s been six days now since he was maimed in a noisy stand-off with a taxi driver, and he’s still in no condition to tell police exactly what happened late last Friday night on a picturesque downtown corner flanked on one side by a cafe and on the other by a former bread factory, recently converted into lofts.

If a few things had been different, I’d be living in one of those lofts. I remember standing on that corner with my husband, imagining ourselves among the passing dog walkers and stroller-pushing parents. That bright winter morning, the air hinted of spring. An old colleague happened by, thrilled to learn that we might soon be her neighbours in this tucked-away community, which maintains a village feel just a few blocks north of the usual urban hubbub. “You’ll love it here!” she said.

We decided not to offer on the loft, but I still have proprietary feelings about that corner. I want life to be as good there as it seemed just 10 months ago. If I was mistaken, then what does that say about the city I’ve been proud to call home?

No one saw the taxi hit the cyclist and barrel away. Several people heard what has been called “a sickening crunch.” A woman who rushed to cyclist’s aid found him surrounded by more blood than she had ever seen, his leg in tatters.

The man with the missing leg is thought to be in his 30s. By the sound of things, he was a typical guerilla cyclist: beard, shaggy hair, no reflective clothing and a foul mouth. Just before the collision, he had been vehemently cursing the cabbie, as guerilla cyclists invariably do when any driver has the gall to threaten their imperial command of the streets.

I’ve grown accustomed to verbal warfare between cyclists and drivers. Until now, it hasn’t touched me personally: I stopped driving eons ago and, believe it or not, never learned to ride a bike. Observing the urban scene from sidewalks and streetcar windows, I think of myself as a champion of civility. Can’t we all  get where going without viewing other people and their means of transportation as mere obstacles deserving the finger or the fist? Is that so much to ask?

Lately the battle for the road has begun to pollute the sidewalk. On a weekend stroll a while ago, I was shunted aside by a cyclist in a hurry (like most rude cyclists, he wore no helmet). A fellow pedestrian rolled his eyes in sympathy. “Don’t worry,” said my new friend, who was enjoying a walk with his toddler.”The way that guy rides, he won’t last long.”

United in resentment, the two of us watched the cyclist veer into traffic while drivers honked in frustration. I wanted to get my own back, and I had. But I never wanted anyone hurt, much less crippled for life. And so I can’t forget that ruin of a man who will never ride a bike again.

Update (November 22): The cyclist has at last been interviewed by police, and the taxi charger is facing criminal charges. 

Posted by Rona

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