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The Dragon, the Buffalo and the Fly

Sometimes bicycle rides have themes. On a ride Friday, May 20th I noticed two. The following was originally published as ‘The Train the Buffalo and the Fly’ -  theme II of the ‘Cars doing rolling stops…‘ post from that day.

- now edited for betterness – with extra metaphors for added laughiness – I hope:

Theme II …

I should note here that in my old age – and as a political posture that I hope will help to bring road users together – and because I am no longer racing around the core trying to make enough money to pay my rent delivering messages (impossible) – I’ve become an extreme traffic law obey-or.

Ten years ago my driving habits were a lot different. Working both as a bicycle messenger (in a box bounded by Dufferin, Eglinton and Carlaw Ave – but mostly in the deep core: University, College, Jarvis (see map) ) — and as a piece-worker, and as a human being with fragile skin — I learned that to survive/thrive in the 2 tonne jungle, a working cyclist had to break many of the traffic laws that were designed with-out cycling in mind.

Now, I avoid busy streets and when I have to take them during busy hours, I obey traffic laws strictly.

As a counter point and an example of how my riding has changed, today I saw a fellow, about my age with a lot of bad driving habits that I once had as well. I was heading east on Queen Street East just past Leslie Street at about mid-day, heading towards the Beaches. Traffic along Queen at this time is building to a noon time rush hour. It’s dangerous as hell – people are experiencing low sugar and are in a rush, with only one hour to get to where they’re going to eat, eat, and get back to work. There’s a street car just ahead, and I’m watching from well back as a cyclist joins the roadway in front of me. As the blocks go by he falls behind the street car and a gaggle of cars stuck behind the train. It’s noon as I said, so there’s parking allowed and there’s no room for cars to pass the street car except after street car stops and at the odd space when there are no cars are parked for a long stretch.

The cars as well as the cyclist are operating on auto pilot – they’re not seeing the situation around them – they’re neurotic – they’re trying to change their circumstance by doing stuff that doesn’t change the circumstance – no matter how many times they try it. They all seem intent on passing the street car – out in front of which they must imagine an idyllic roadway lined with green trees and blue skies that stretches to the horizon where a rainbow arch marks the spot their solace lies.

The thundering mass of steel and fumes in front reminds me of a herd of running buffalo kicking up a dust storm in their wake. The cyclist darting to and fro in amongst these beasts can only be a fly – he’s so small and insignificant, a hairs breath from an accidental squashing. The whole group; the train, the buffalo and the fly do this dance forever. All of a sudden the train becomes a dragon as the buffalo seem have turned into dogs jockeying for position, nipping at the tail of a dragon they must slay.

But from my point of view there is no point to it – they can’t see outside the little box they’re stuck in – they’re intoxicated with their ritual, they must slay their dragon.

So, as the the circus of ‘buffalo dog the dragon’ reaches it’s top speed the fly falls off the chase, only to catch it again as the dragon stops to ‘feed’. The little fly doesn’t just stop when he catches up though – instead he crawls his way to the front of the snorting beasts, maybe to taste the dragon, but, just as he gets to the dragon’s wings (which it is written, no person shall pass – be they either two wheeled or four) the dragon resumes it’s way, and the fly is caught in the impatient zig-zag, gas and brake, farts billowing at dragons heels again.

The fact is the bike and street car and the rush hour traffic all average the SAME SPEED – but from where the cyclist is he can’t see what is obvious from just behind – he’s sprinting like a bat out of hell, pushed up against the curb while trying to stay ahead of the stampede. He’s focused on the pavement flying under his front wheel, watching just ahead for ‘accident pot-holes’ (spots where the road is in such bad repair – usually around storm drains and patches over past excavations – where the road can literally ‘swallow’ a bike by slamming the front wheel into a hole that the wheel’s diametre cannot rotate out of – thus causing a serious, and extremely dangerous ass-over-tea-kettle event). As such, with each of his attempts to leave behind the melee, he peddles himself into the deadly matrix – which it – itself, is blinding him to the solution to the conundrum.

Isn’t the universe wonderful?

Meanwhile, I’m riding stress-free about 40 feet behind – calmly falling back and catching the tail of this jabberwocky just as it begins to pull away again.

Just past Greenwood two cabs are 1, 2 – in line beside the stopped street car. It’s obvious their both planing to gun it as the doors close — almost in their grasp, a victory over an idea that exists only in their heads… .

As the light turns the cyclist buzzes off the curb and in front of Cab #1 just as he guns the accelerator for Victory.

From where I am, all I see the red brake lights of the second cab come on as the rear of the cab lifts – then bounces – a quick dangerous stop — then I see why. The first cab has had to slam on his breaks because the cyclist has taken his right-full 1 metre off the curb and there is no room between the street car the cyclist and the end of the runway (mix in another metaphor, what the hell – confused yet?)

The fly has become Lance Armstrong up on his peddles, dancing back and forth up a mountain at the Tour de France – determined as he is, to get away from this cow-pie he’s in.

Almost a rear-end accident – and a minute later the buffalo are dogging the dragon and the cyclist is still a fly.

I turn north at Scarborough Road and leave them to their lot.


Posted: May 22nd, 2011
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