Walking down the street, a couple weeks ago. Guy on a bike was going down a steep hill. Meanwhile a mother was unpacking her BMW® X5™ Sport Utility Crossover. Both drivers side doors open into the bike lane. She was laying groceries at her feet; pulling out her baby in the plastic safety chair. The guy started screaming. “Watch your FUCKIN doors, CUNT!” He swerved around her. Was going fast. But he stopped. Backtracked a little. This was so he could give her hood a couple solid hammerfists before speeding off.
At the time I thought: what a nut. But now I understand. Now I remember. Because now I got a bike for the first time in ten years. I had forgotten: riding a bike turns you crazy.
You’re cranking up a hill sweating your balls off and your heart is going four beats a second and you feel every cigarette you’ve ever smoked as nails scraping up and down your trachea. And suddenly a ’94 Honda® Odyssey™ in metallic beige cranks a hard unsignaled right right in front of you. Almost clips your wheel. You are so pumped with adrenaline that you just become an animal. You have to chase the driver down. Catch up to them at the light. Gesture for them to roll the window down. Tell them: next time that happens I’m gonna pull you out of your car and stomp your fucking teeth into the curb. Provided, you know, that they’re white or Asian. African American males get to cut me off all they want.
You’re like this because you remember. All the times you almost got killed. The guy with the ladder hanging out the back of his pickup truck who almost cut your head off with it. The Santa Cruz townies who tossed a block of ice in front of your front tire hoping to see you eat shit. That fucking cunt soccer mom with her stupid fat baby in the child seat opening her doors as you barrel down a hill.
You remember the times you got hurt. I had my thumb ripped off on my bike. The bones shattered and the flesh peeled back like a banana; meat hanging by a strip of skin. I remember wobbling a little and then just eating shit on rough pavement, putting out my hands. A second later my left hand felt cold and I held it up to look at it and arterial blood squirted in my eye. There was a big car wreck at the small town hospital so I sat there for four hours waiting for someone to sew it back together.
Or the time I bit it on a curb and went over the handlebars. My bike seat went up my ass. It actually penetrated me; the bike and I had anal sex. I went to a doctor who told me my shitpipe was only mildly lacerated. But I had to take Cipro. It killed my gut fauna and gave me Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
You remember these things in your gut, so you are unbelievably aware of the fragility of the bike and your body. I half expect the pedal to break off with each pump. My chain to slip off in traffic. My seat to drop down and make me wobble and glide into a fucking dump truck. You’re just constantly terrified, like it’s your first day in prison and you’ve been told to kill the first guy who fucks with you with your bare hands. Like if you let one car get away with it, others will know.
Plus, you are part of a tribe. Us against them. There is the bike tribe, the car tribe, the walking tribe. Fuck the cars but fuck the pedestrians too. Get the FUCK out of my lane you dirty Aztec peasant, you think at a kindly Mexican woman crossing the street. Your stupid fat kids and your god damn old person standup wire shopping cart full of jicama and cactus parts. I hope you fucking get AIDS.
Get the FUCK to the side you dumb ugly cunt, you think at a twelve year old girl. So help me God I will pull some fucking Ben Hur shit; I will rip a branch off a tree and speed up and crack it right into your stupid little cunt pigtails. Her crime is walking next to her friend instead of in single file on the sidewalk. I will push you into traffic and laugh as a dump truck grinds your bones into the bloody pavement, you bald-cunted whore. How dare you not psychically sense me behind you and form a line. I am thinking this on my bike that looks like Dorothy’s from The Wizard of Oz. A bike that should have a little bell on the handlebars or perhaps one of those horns blown by trained seals. A basket in the back.
The other cyclists think this way, too. You’re next to one at a stop light and there’s a second of eye contact that says: we are at war, brother. We are the insurgency. It transcends race, age, gender. It transcends the type of bike. When I’m driving and I see one of these tools with a Tour de France ten speed and wind tunnel tested pointy-in-the-back helmet; stupid spandex shirt covered in logos for Italian parts companies that are not sponsoring his flabby ass– when I see that from my car, I rightly think: look at that fucking nincompoop. I’d like to take a quick jerk of the steering wheel and turn him into hamburger. But on a bike he is my brother. I would bleed for him.
After all, we could die at any time out there. They’d give us one of those stupid cardboard sign memorials at the intersection. Vigils. Groups of doughy white Portlandia losers would block traffic on their jerry rigged ten speeds, chanting. Infuriate the the world further. Piss the drivers off, make them open the doors into the bike lane, cause another death, another vigil. It just escalates and escalates and escalates until world war three starts between the cars and the fucking bikes.
The bike beef I remember most is the guy with the boat. Up north, ten years ago. I was grinding up a big long hill, on the side of the road. There was no bike lane. A guy hauling a 30 foot sailboat with his F350™ crept up behind me. Started leaning on the horn. Yelling at me to get on the sidewalk. There was an 18 inch curb and I was halfway up quarter mile slope and no, fuck that. So I got as far over as I could, right up to where my pedals were almost clipping the concrete. If I wobbled I would have hit curb and dropped under his wheels. This was so he could pass. He wouldn’t. He just kept leaning on the horn.
I did what any rational person would do. I steered right in front of him and slowed way the fuck down and held up a sustained bird. Stayed like that until the top of the hill. At the next intersection he made a point of making a too-hard turn and swinging his boat into my path. It almost got me. The trailer didn’t quite make contact but I felt the wind from it. He tried to kill me. So I chased him down.
He was ahead of me now, and faster, and he got to some fenced off part of the marina and drove his boat in and closed the gate behind him. He was scared! Ha. He had tried to kill me and I lived; now he had a nut on his hands. I was shirtless and sweaty, maniac hair from the wind, six foot one and a buck ninety five at the time.
I shook the fence and screamed. Other boaters came out to watch. I told him he couldn’t hide behind that fence forever. That I had his license plate and that I was going to find his house. Burn him alive. Make him watch while I mutilated his children’s genitals. When I was out of ideas I got back on my bike and went to work. That bike was a beach cruiser too, like my new one. It was sparkly blue with white pedals. Rainbow letters on the side said “Malibu Hopper.” There was a bell on the handlebars. As I pedaled off I gave it a good “ding ding.”
On a bike, cars are Israel and you are Palestinian. You know not all drivers are bad. They are just human beings. You know they have all the power, a big machine that could instantly kill you. But that only makes you more pissed off. More prone not to take any shit; to defend your territory to the death. The next guy who cuts me off, you think, I’m gonna fucking kill him. If I die in the process, so be it. Maybe it will make them think next time. Maybe the next generation will have a road of their own.
Ding ding, motherfuckers.