The Bus Rider and Cyclist Should Be Friends
A semi-satirical plea for allyship among the car-free set.
Dear Angry Bus Rider,
I’m writing because you yelled at me yesterday while I was on my bike. I understand that the bus you were waiting for couldn’t pull into its stop with me there, and that not boarding as soon as you saw the bus was probably frustrating. Trust me, my shoulders always drop six inches after I find a seat on the bus and put in my earbuds. I love that bubble-wrapped feeling, and can’t find it anywhere but the bus, not even alone on my bike.
I hope you can understand, though, that I was in a real pickle. Sandwiched between buses, I couldn’t change lanes into the speeding traffic. I might have been more daring on another day, but at that precise moment I was thinking of my 5-year-old daughter, and how she told me she loved me on my way out the door (and would I please let her have an iPhone). I wanted to make sure I got home to her that night, even if just to watch her watch a screen.
Your hostility hurt my feelings. Because I really thought we were allies against car drivers, who already yell at me every day. True, I was on two wheels and you were waiting to get on four or more, but we both care about the environment, right? Or are you taking the bus because you can’t afford to own a car and live in Vancouver? That’s okay too. Alternative transportation is alternative transportation, and we need numbers to build the carless-but-drone-permitted utopia I know we both want.
If you’re new to the anti-car team, trust me when I say it is not easy finding allies. It’s like the whole world woke up thinking cars were an inalienable right. I started questioning whether even pedestrians were my friends after one called me an @$$hole the other day. (True, I was on the sidewalk, but I was pedalling very cautiously, and trying to avoid being hit by a cement mixer.) I started thinking all pedestrians might just be car drivers walking from their cars to a shop — probably to buy something they don’t need and carry it home in single-use plastics.
It even seems like other cyclists are against me lately. A neighbour with an all-black fixie threatened me recently when I took a spot they claimed was theirs in the communal bike room. It wasn’t a direct threat. They took the Vancouver approach: attaching a handwritten note to my bike with painter’s tape, so it wouldn’t damage the frame. It said: “Don’t you know what it means when someone leaves something in a spot on the rack? Duh. Move your bike.” Then they changed my gears both to high and lengthened the strap all the way on one side of my helmet.
I have a more direct communication style, so I thought about keying their bike, poking holes in their tires, or gumming up their lock. Cooler heads prevailed though, and I settled on a note outlining the rules of the rack (and hiding their bike rag).
As you can see, bike-riders need friends. I was thinking about going down to LA and seeing if I could enlist the stand-up electric scooter riders you now see everywhere. But I read an article that said they were having problems of their own. People were vandalizing the scooters, throwing them in the ocean, and even lighting them on fire!
So how can I get you to join me against our common enemy? Just because drivers have convinced everyone they were here first, doesn’t mean we don’t deserve safe travel routes too. What if I told you that we actually pay more for our roads than drivers do? If that doesn’t do it, what if I told you that people who have money for cars in Vancouver make, on average, 1,375,000 times what you do by buying condos with laundered money and flipping them?
If you’re remotely interested, join me at a meeting of the Alliance of Angry Bikers Against Annoying Motorists (AABAAM). Whatever you do, don’t go to the community centre on Wednesdays. The Alliance of Angry Motorists Against Annoying Bikers (AAMAAB) meets then, and, though they do serve donuts, they’re the ones who are @$$holes. I know because I’ve been. Mostly as a mole for our movement, but I also used to drive a car, and got addicted to the flow. That’s what makes drivers angry when they have to stop for cyclists, right? We interrupt the flow?
Don’t get too soft on drivers, though. Remember, we’re saving the world from environmental collapse by using alternative transportation, and they don’t even acknowledge our efforts. Their children — watching SpongeBob in the back seat on those little TVs — have no idea. The whole climate-change talk is probably awkward for parent drivers. Kind of like answering questions about porn.
And just like sex, they’ll find out about our impending armageddon too, right? My guess? The kids will say what I did when I found out my parents used to hotbox their car on long drives in the 60s, or put me in the back of their Volkswagen Squareback without a seatbelt so the engine would keep me warm: “What were you thinking?!”
Anyway, if you’re out there somewhere reading this and want to go to any of those meetings, give me a shout. They don’t have a meeting for angry bus riders yet, but I’d be up for starting a chapter if it got you on board. As Pete Seeger said, “Solidarity forever.”
A Lonely Bike Rider