A Cyclist With a Question

Graphic Carl Bindman

Here’s a question: do I have the right to safely get where I want to go?

I’m starting to feel like Montreal doesn’t think I do, but I can’t imagine why—all the possible reasons seem preposterous.

Could it be because I don’t have the means to own a car, so I don’t deserve a safe commute? That can’t be it—the city would never discriminate based on financial situation. Might it be that I haven’t learned to drive, naively thinking public transit is adequate and then getting a bike after realizing it isn’t? No, that can’t be it either, because if something were inadequate, Montreal would fix it.

Is it because I want so badly to be physically active—for at least a tiny portion of my day as I bounce between seats and screens—that I get threatened by drivers and swallowed by potholes? No, of course the city wants me to live a healthy life, and not to put more garbage in the air—literally and figuratively.

So I’m at a loss. I can only think that the reason I fear for my life, daily, is because of a basic and fundamental failure of foresight, hindsight, and urban planning going back decades. But that can’t be it. Nobody would let that happen. But… what if?

What if bikers’ pleas for lifesaving lanes are answered with farcical three-inch-wide strips of paint directly in the Get A Door Opened Into Your Face Zone—also known as the Oh Look There’s A Car Parked In The Bike Lane Zone?

What if, on the rare protected bike lanes, the roads are so bad that it’s actually dangerous to ride on them for fear of ruining the only mode of transportation you have? What if those same lanes are so congested that to get anywhere à l’heure it’s basically required that you break a traffic law here or there?

What if cyclists who don’t live in Le Plateau want to get somewhere and ride on the street, only to face the absurd double standard in behavior imposed on bikers? (Friendly reminder: when a biker makes a mistake, they fall. When a driver makes a mistake, they kill people)

But yeah, what if after years of complaining and lobbying and DYING, things barely change for cyclists? That would mean, by process of elimination, that the answer to my first question is: pas icitte. You do not have the right to be safe. I don’t like that.

I’m so sick of having close calls. I’m so sick of having friends have close calls. I’m so sick of seeing pictures in the Gazette of a dead cyclist’s memorial and knowing deep down that there isn’t really anything in the way of the next memorial being for me.

Or it being for you.