With Vancouver’s Bike to Work now officially in the rear-view mirror of my four-door, canary-yellow VW City Golf, it’s time for a little reflection.
It started with a relatively innocuous tweet, the contents of which included the line “I hate cyclists.”
Before you pull on your Charles Jeffrey Loverboy Swirl Print Cycling Shorts and grab your Trek Madone-brand pitchforks, let’s get something out of the way: I bike to work, 10 kilometres each way daily.
It’s not something I do because I’m trying to save the planet, send a message to the 'roided-up Hummer owners of the world, or save $1.75 on bus fare. I cycle because I look like I’m well into my third trimester.
A bit of background. For years I drove to work, mostly because Vancouver is a city that will make you not only loathe cyclists, but do anything to avoid becoming one of them.
Eight years ago, while keeping the pounds off with three hockey games per week (I’m Canadian, eh), I massively herniated two discs. Unable to skate, run, or tie my shoelaces, I slowly ballooned from a portly 202 pounds to a whopping 222 pounds. Desperate to reverse things, I began riding a bike left behind at my house by a Dutch metalhead tenant—a vintage Kuwahara two sizes too small for me.
I’ve since upgraded to a built-out-of-spare parts Norco Sasquatch. Currently, despite riding 20 kilometres per day to work four days per week, I look like Mr. Creosote from The Meaning of Life. But at least I’m trying to do something about it.
Over the past half-decade, despite accepting I’m never going to lose weight doing it, I’ve actually come to like cycling. A big part of that is that fully half, if not more, of motorists in Vancouver are fucking morons. To drive in this city is to be perpetually enraged by fellow drivers who do 30 kph in 50 kph zones and who don’t understand those plastic sticks on their steering wheels are called turn signals.
What I like about biking is I don’t get stuck waiting for the six-block train on Prior, I don’t have to spend 20 minutes driving around Kits looking for a nonexistent parking spot, and after getting some exercise two times a day I find my blood pressure is a healthy 196/97. I like that we have bike lanes, even on the Burrard Bridge.
The only downside? That would be that I spend most of my commute being reminded that cyclists in this city are hated by everyone but fellow cyclists for a reason.
First, some clarification on that.
As sure as all vegans, Germans, and women who call themselves wymyn are humourless, I’m obviously exaggerating here for dramatic effect.
I don’t really hate all cyclists. Plenty of them are lovely people: the ones towing kid trailers, the ones with small dogs in their front baskets, Ken Dean, and the ones that actually follow the rules that every cyclist is supposed to follow in the city of Vancouver. You know, simple rules that include stopping at stop signs, not running red lights, and stopping for pedestrians in occupied crosswalks.
But here’s the thing: we live in a city where large swaths of people on bikes think the rules of the road don’t apply them. That's evidently not a rarity around the globe. Call cyclists on that, and they’ll get outraged.
Let's get back to my Bike to Work tweet. After two days of watching countless two-wheeled fuckwits ignore any and all regulations as set out to keep everyone safe, enough was enough. When this happened, it seemed Twitter-worthy.
Let’s clarify “hilarious”. No one’s suggested it would have been funny had said cyclist been mowed down like Paul McCrane in Robocop. By “clipped” we’re talking about a fool ending up on America’s Funniest Home Videos for getting exactly what he deserves for being stupid.
Still, it didn’t take long for the One Less Car cabal to unleash their inner keyboard gangsters, the first shot fired by someone’s whose Twitter handle is—and I’m not making this up—Cars Are Death Machines. Plenty of people who actually live in Vancouver liked the tweet—if you live here, you get it. Meanwhile, sanctimonious and dogmatic two-wheelin’ eco-warriors from all over America, and as far away as Australia, couldn’t wait to step up to the plate.
The most common accusation was that I don’t really ride a bike. Because how could anyone who does ride a bike be critical of someone else who’s chosen pedal power over a gasoline-powered deathmobile? A frequent refrain was that any cyclist is superior to any “drivist” operating “oversized, overpowered, incorrectly scaled, toxic, metal boxes”. It was also suggested, numerous times, that I had made it up—as Donald Trump has taught America, when you’ve read something you don’t like, just respond with “Fake News”.
I was also told that I was horrible person for finding the idea of people (in particular kids) wiping out on bikes funny. And sorry, it's often not only funny, it's fucking hilarious.
As much as I make an effort not to engage with angry militants who divide the world, MAGA-style, into “us vs. them” on Twitter, I admittedly broke my own rules this time out. In clarifying that I’m a cyclist, I qualified that with the admission I don’t cycle on days when it’s pissing in Vancouver. This led to tweets like “We’ve got a real badass here” and “Your life must be sheltered and baby soft.” These, of course, came from folks who clearly don’t understand that Vancouverites deserve a fucking medal just for getting out of bed when the November monsoons arrive.
If there was common thread to the barrage of tweets, it was that those who’ll defend any cyclist just because they aren’t driving a car are strangely humourless. And often speak in a way that makes you wondering if they’re really Darill from Kids in the Hall.
Asking folks a simple question: “Do you believe that cyclists should have to follow the same rules of the road as drivers, pedestrians, Amigo scooter operators, and skittish East Van squirrels,” and they’d refuse to answer it. Instead, you’d get something like this...
...which was weird, considering he was the guy who started engaging with me first.
Anyhow, as a social experiment it was fun and illuminating. The more dogmatic and sanctimonious the cyclists—look for the One Less Car stickers, or the Critical Mass hoodies, or the barrage of tweets on my Twitter account—the more they’re convinced that the rules of the road aren’t for them.
Suggest that your only point is that everyone needs to be following the rules and not willfully ignoring them, and what you’ll get back is something along the lines of “All drivers are terrorists who break every law on the books.” Except that when I bike I don’t see drivers barrelling through occupied sidewalks, running stop signs, or roaring through red lights. Cyclists do. And it’s not a rarity—as anyone with two eyes in this city knows, it’s a given.
Below is a video from my commute this morning. And, no, I didn’t have to wait two hours to get the video. All I did was follow the guy who blew the stop sign the previous block.
Remember that, if you’re on a bike, you’re not making the world a better place if you don’t give a shit about anyone’s rules except the ones you make for yourself.
P.S. I've ballooned up to 232 pounds despite cycling to work every day this month. Except the ones when it was raining.