For the worst days of winter, I had decided to combine my Bixi membership with a TTC Metropass in order to keep biking a regular part of my commute. As I biked east toward the Bixi station at Queen St. W. and York St., I spotted the 501 Queen streetcar coming up behind me. In a bid to catch the 501, I raced towards my destination, arriving at the intersection just behind a 502 Downtowner streetcar with passengers already stepping off the curb.
In a split second, I decided to go against my better judgement, and proceed on my bike. This action also went against my personal beliefs; I am usually the cyclist waiting patiently for TTC commuters to board and disembark, and shouting at cyclists who callously plow through them.
But my impatience got the better of me, and I committed an offence. As I biked behind a passenger, he turned around suddenly and body checked me. The sturdiness of the Bixi saved me from flying into the glass TTC shelter, and I recovered quickly. I screamed at the man who had just assaulted me, while he shouted back his justification for this act.
I quickly parked my Bixi at the station, and ran back across the intersection in time to board the streetcar of my assailant. I demanded that the streetcar operator call the police to report an assault. There was a collective groan from the passengers. The TTC employee asked me if I was hurt. I was forced to admit that I was not. “Do you really want to delay this streetcar full of people for nothing?” he asked. Some of the passengers started heckling me.
In desperation, I asked the TTC employee to kick my assailant off the streetcar so that we could both wait for the police on the sidewalk. I could not hear his answer in the chorus of protests. “Why should he be kicked off?” “You shouldn’t have been cycling past a stopped streetcar!” “It was your fault!” I cannot recall hearing anything from my assailant, who hid at the back, letting others take up his cause.
As I stood in the middle of the streetcar, shaking from the adrenaline still coursing through me, I withered under the hostility and indifference. For these TTC passengers, I represented every cyclist who almost hit them when they should have stopped, every fixie aficionado who couldn’t skid stop fast enough, every cyclist who biked merrily on, oblivious to the shouts of outrage directed at his or her back.
I retreated for the exit of the streetcar, throwing accusations at the passengers that they had just assisted in an assault. One passenger got up abruptly, announcing that she was getting off because she did not support the assault. Others watched in silence. To the credit of the streetcar operator, he did not slam the doors shut in my face.
It meant a lot to have the support of that one passenger, but it was upsetting to be the focus of the simmering anger of TTC riders, kindled by a thousand discourteous acts of my fellow cyclists.