For my post this week I was originally going to write about the concept of reputation, with a particular focus on Lebron James and his classless, drunk-on-ego Superfriends performance (filtered nicely through the thoughtful lens of two heroes, Alexandra Samuel and Steve Nash). And then I was going to argue that rural living is superior to urban living in every way. And then I was going to discuss the ridiculousness of how 90% or more of medical, financial, delivery, and professional services operate on a 9-5 time line, which is exactly when most of their clients are working.
But that all changed after an epic 99 B-Line bus ride from Commercial Drive to UBC.
Here is the Cast of Characters who made up our commuter community today:
The Bus Driver of Bus Number R8061: a fortysomething man clad in a hipster hat and in possession of a pocketful of righteousness.
Broadway Bike Rider: a woman dressed all in black, wearing a helmet, fearless, full of conviction.
Jack Sparrow with a Bicycle: nice guy, we chatted logistics as we put our bikes on together at Commercial Drive (mine went on first because I was getting off at UBC)…and he looked like a pirate.
Thoughtful Young Commuter: glasses, short haircut, clever looking backpack: everything about the kid looked smart.
Engaging Senior Citizen: a very “big picture” thinker who tried to find common ground amongst our Wednesday morning commuter community.
The Chorus: the background opinions and verbosity that echoed the primary dialogue and also piped up to fill the heavy silences.
It happened exactly like this, more or less:
Suddenly, there was a fierce braking by the driver followed by a long, loud, incessant honk of the horn (not me, the bus’s horn).
“You’re in the middle of the lane!” said the Driver.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa!” said Jack Sparrow. “What are you doing?! That was not right. You’re only a foot and a half away from her! Jesus. You could’ve killed her.”
“She’s gotta share the road,” replied The Driver.
The Chorus: “What happened? What happened?”
“She is sharing the road,” spat Jack Sparrow.
“She’s in the middle of the lane. It’s a bus lane,” spat back The Driver.
“You might not agree with what she’s doing,” piped up Thoughtful Young Commuter (TYC). “But that’s no way to deal with it. What if your brakes failed? Hell, what if one brake failed? You would’ve run her over.”
“Look. Right there. It says ‘BUS AND BIKE LANE’!” pointed Jack Sparrow.
The Chorus: “Did you see it? Did you see it? Should we just call Translink or the police, too?”
The bus pulls up to the stop sign.
“Hey! You can’t take up a whole lane. It’s for buses,” The Driver shouted out the window to the Broadway Bike Rider (BBR), who was on his left. “Share the road.”
The light turns green and the BBR sped out in front of the bus. As she rode, the BBR pointed to the “Bus and Bike Lane” signs that dotted the street every 15-20 meters. Interesting.
“They shouldn’t have a shared bike and bus lane. It causes problems like this one right here,” the Engaging Senior Citizen (ESC) contributed to the discussion, which was very lively at this point.
“Fine, honk at her when she’s 100 meters away, that’s fine,” Jack Sparrow was coaching The Driver on proper techniques. “Keep your distance. Fine. Let her know you’re coming and use the other lane to swing out and go around her.”
“She’s not sharing the road,” repeated The Driver.
“Look, she’s allowed to ride three feet from the curb. It’s her right,” said TYC.
“Okay, here, look to your left. Just pull out into the next lane – even just a little bit – and pass her. See, it’s just that easy. No need to act the way you’re acting, man.” The Driver was steering, but Jack Sparrow was pretty much driving the bus.
Red light. The doors fly open and the BBR finds herself – yet again – to be the target of The Driver’s verbal barrage.
“This is a lane for buses. You can’t ride in the middle of it. Get out of the road before something bad happens,” yelled The Driver.
“The sign clearly says it’s a bike and bus lane. We share it. You can go around me easily,” yelled back the BBR.
“So share it,” retorted The Driver.
The Chorus: “Why isn’t she riding on tenth? It’s a bike street. This guy is an asshole! I’d be riding in front of the bus too if he tried to hit me. What? Do you want to get run over by a bus?”
Dramatic re-creation of the Character "Jack Sparrow...on a bike"!
“There shouldn’t be a shared lane for bicycles and buses,” offered the Engaging Senior Citizen. “It doesn’t make any sense. Especially on Broadway.”
“[INSERT SEVERAL EXPLETIVES HERE],” expressed Jack Sparrow. “You’re encroaching on her! You’re pushing her against the curb!”
Sure enough, the 99 B-Line was inching ever so slightly on an angle towards the curb. Out of the corner of my eye I notice a cyclist on the sidewalk – on the wrong side of the road – weaving through pedestrians. A wry, ironic smile creeps across my lips.
“Do you understand what you’re doing?” asked TYC. “What do you think this is doing to the rider? She’s getting scared. You’re making her an enemy of buses. Stop it now. You’re already in enough trouble. Just stop it.”
Exiting Chorus Members on their phones: “Yeah, the bus number is R8061…”
“You need to get out of the bus lane!” chided the unrelenting Driver, mostly to himself, as the doors were now closed.
“[INSERT MORE EXPLETIVES]!” Captain Jack Sparrow was getting close to vigilante justice. “You’re a terrible person and I hope you lose your job for this.”
Away went the BBR, ahead of the bus, continuing to point at the bus/bike lane signs. The Driver, as he held down his horn, moved out around the cyclist, back into the bus/bike lane, and continued along Broadway (later he would produce another long, angry horning, but it was because of a confusedly-parked driver and, folks, that’s another story for another time). The Driver – clearly – was having a very bad day.
Vancouver is an interesting place to cycle (and, apparently, take the bus!). In the past year the city’s built landscape has changed a fair bit because of the bike-friendly creations on the Burrard Street Bridge and the Dunsmuir Viaduct. These things are supposed to make cycling safer. And we’re supposed to be future-living in the world’s greenest, most bicycle-oriented city. Or at least that’s the idea.
In the past few weeks one of my pedaling friends was hit by a car and another was hit by pavement after avoiding a car. This year I’ve seen half-a-dozen sprawled-out, injured cyclists at the horrible Clark-and-Tenth intersection, too. And then there’s Kurt Heinrich, whose casual cycling through stop signs and traffic lights has earned him over $300 in tickets. I confront annoying sidewalk-bike-riders on Commercial Drive nearly every time I go outside. And then there’s this – the above tale of a very overzealous bus driver. No matter how you spin or slice it, cycling is a messy business here in Vancouver.
So there it is. This story is just part of the larger fabric. And I bet ten more just like it pop up in your lives by the end of the week.