Posts Tagged ‘traffic


my bike split in half in the middle of the street

Well, it wasn’t my bike.  It was wife K’s, but I use it when out running errands.

Crossing at a busy intersection just before noon today – on the green – thinking about how much I’m looking forward to the rest of my day off and about my mountain biking holiday coming up this Friday, and three weeks in Newfoundland next summer, what I should get K for Christmas, and all those sorts of things that just rattle through your head when you’re not focused on anything in particular, when all of a sudden WHAM! The bike simply falls out from under me.

In a flash I’m hitting the ground and land in a heap on the back half of the bike, the front half splayed out in front like some wheezed-out mule.

It just split in two.  Just like that.

Sinking to the pavement in the blink of an eye is the last thing you’d expect to happen at any time of day, so for a second or two I just lay there feeling like I’d suddenly found myself underwater, confused as hell and not comprehending.

I get up and realise I’m scraped on the elbow and knees, but I’m more shocked and bewildered than anything.  I look around and a lady is asking if I’m all right, another picks up and hands me the air pump that popped from its mooring and skidded away, and then HONK!  HONK!  Some prick behind the wheel on the cross-street figures I’m taking too long clearing what’s left of the bike off the street, so I should just get the hell out of the road.

Then the cops come over.

I’d seen the pair of them while approaching the intersection, all decked out in their police biking gear and e-bikes to boot.  It’s a tall man and a short woman.

“Did you see that?” I ask the man.

“No,” he says, “but looking at your bike – I’ve never seen anything like it.”

“Are you injured?” the woman asks me.

“Naw,” I say, pulling up my pant leg, “I’m more shocked than anything.  I just can’t believe it.”

By now the male cop is taking out his iPhone and taking photos of the wreck that was wife K’s bike, purchased three and a half years ago after hers got stolen, and only three days ago outfitted with a new front light and internal hub generator.  He says he’ll send them to me the photos in a day or two.

“Guess I’ll have to take this in to the shop where I bought it and get them to replace the frame,” I say.

That’s what I did this afternoon.

They were pretty shocked to see the wreck that was a bike as I wheeled it in, the two halves still connected by the brake and gear cables.

I hope they replace the frame at least. It’s just had normal riding around town, nothing out of the ordinary.


Woman on bus in Cairo

I’m also going to be on the road for a while…


on not giving a pig’s arse about swine flu

The little red-haired girl is getting over swine flu.  Well, I say swine flu because it’s the hysteria du jour, but it could have been anything that lays a kid low for a few days.

She is one of 16 from her grade 7 class of 28 at home instead of school right now, though we don’t know how many of those kids have simply been taken out of school because their parents got the jitters, or whether they’re genuinely ill like she was.

We also don’t know for sure if it was swine flu, but the symptoms seem to match.

Temperature about 38?  She got up to 39.3C – or nearly 103F – at one point, though thankfully she’s now back to just above normal.

Headache? Runny nose? Sore throat? Lethargy? The British National Health service says if you’ve got only two of their laundry list of symptoms you may have swine flu, so with five already, she had more than a double dose, I guess.

Never mind that most of us have headaches, a runny nose, sore throat and feel like crap when we have a common cold, too, but we’ve got to keep the worry up, right?

The other day the headlines in Germany screamed that a healthy 15-year-old girl died of swine flu within a few hours of her first symptoms, that 14 in Germany have died so far, that we’d all better get vaccinated or the numbers will only climb, and on and on.

Tell you what, people.  When the headlines start to blare about how dangerous it is to go outside and move about in traffic, I’ll start to take swine flu seriously.

The number of people in Germany who die in traffic accidents – that includes cyclists, pedestrians, bus riders, car drivers and passengers, the works – was a little under 5,000 last year, or around 13 – 14 every single day.   The annual death toll is always framed as GOOD NEWS, because the figure has been falling steadily from a high of around 20,000 per year four decades ago.

But if we’re all potential victims of swine flu, and are told we should get a vaccination, we’re also all potential traffic stats, against which there’s not much you can do but try to follow the rules and hope for the best.

Every morning when I haul the little red-haired girl’s bike out of the basement to carry it up the stairs for her, I try not to think of the dangers  she faces in rush hour traffic, armed with only a good light, reflectors, reflective vest and helmet.   I shake my head and imagine her steering well clear of those roving one-tonne tin cans of death she has to make her way through, arriving at her destination safely.

Just before the kiss good-bye, I always slip in a “be careful” in as many ways I can think of spread out over each month, a verbal talisman to pin on her as her rear light fades from view, round the corner and out of sight.

I remember rolling my eyes a bit whenever my own mother said that to me.   Every time, without fail: You be careful, now!  It was her standard send-off, though she’d often tack on short summaries of her more harrowing shifts at the Lion’s Gate Hospital emergency intake.

Ya shoulda seen this guy on a bike who came in lass week, I tellya, he was a mess! Car smucked him going down Lonsdale and they brought him in within five minutes, but his head was so bashed in you couldn’t tell what he looked like.

If I was headed up to Whistler skiing I’d hear about everything from torn ligaments, spiral fractures and quadraplegic cases to ski pole impalements and guys getting lost in the woods, their corpses recovered the following Spring.

Anything to ward off a parent’s worst fear, the fear that came true when her first-born was killed in a car accident at 18, and the constant worry that it might happen again to us.

No, we didn’t get swine flu vaccinations, and don’t plan to.  Too late for our daughter anyway, who got hers the hard way.

I know it’s only human to fear a new disease whose final impact is not yet known more than it is to cower at the daily sight of a throng of traffic at an intersection, but I wish there were a vaccine to protect cyclists.  A pill to pop that would shield us from the dangers lurking around the corner.

I wonder if it would sell, though.  First you’d have to whip up the hysteria, but all we do is take for granted that 5,000 people will die a horrible death in this country every year, and hundreds of thousands  more around the world, and hope to hell it isn’t us.


Definitions of stress

1. Driving along at normal speed along a two-lane highway with your 90-year-old mother-in-law bundled up in the passenger seat on the way home to Hamburg in the late afternoon when you see a small car pulling out to pass a semi-trailer coming against you and think well since I’ve got the lights on he’ll see me and pull back in behind the truck but then you realise the jerk is actually going to try to pass the semi-trailer with his gutless wonder and just when you think the two of you are going to smash into each other head-on any second you hit the binders and veer off to roll through the rough grass shoulder leaning on the horn and screaming FUCK! WHAT AN IDIOT! as he’s still only half-way past the semi which has also pulled over as far as he can without landing in the ditch and you’re wishing you’d had the presence of mind to get the guy’s license number but of course all you can think of at a time like that is trying to stay on the road to make sure the both of you don’t get killed.

2. The body’s reaction to the mind’s desire to choke the living shit out of some driver who really deserves it.

The banner photograph shows the town of Britannia Beach, BC, Canada, where I grew up. It's home. But I don't live there anymore.

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