Steve Stoller, Toronto

Cycling Chronicles Vol 3

BikeBrampton brings you a short story by Steve Stoller. 

It was a fine summer day. Not hot enough to result in a veil of sweat when you stopped at a stop light, but not cool enough to make you question your clothing choice for the ride. Pleasantly warm.

I was off to nowhere in particular, a full day of riding, if I chose. The journey was the destination.

Around mid-day, I found myself traveling eastbound on Bloor Street, in the hustle and bustle of a weekday in the Toronto urban core. I slowed to a stop at the corner of Avenue Road, as the light had turned amber.

As I came to a stop, and put my foot down, a cyclist passed me close on the left, at a fair rate of speed. My immediate thought was that this individual had totally misjudged his attempt at making it across this large, busy intersection, before the lights turned green in the north/south direction. He was moving at a good rate of speed, and instead of trying to clear the intersection with the shortest route, he chose to carve a large arcing path across the middle of the intersection.

I stared, transfixed, as to what was about to happen. In fact it wasn’t a bicyclist at all. It appeared to be a young man in his early twenties on an adult tricycle. He seemed to be afflicted by a neuro-muscular disease, perhaps Cerebral Palsy. The effort he was putting in to propel the bike at that speed, gave the appearance of him being flung off the bike. Contributing to this was that his cornering was so acute as to lift one of the rear wheels off the ground.

I looked at the cars that were beginning to move into the intersection, wondering which drivers were looking for this unexpected hazard. The tricycle made it through the intersection, with two near misses and proceeded at high speed, zigzagging through the congested traffic on Bloor Street East. I eventually lost sight of him, and stood waiting for the light to change, reflecting on the reasons for what just happened.

To my surprise, before the light had changed in my direction, the same tricyclist, entered the intersection still at high speed. This time he came from in between the stopped cars on the east bound side of Bloor Street. The effect was much more dramatic and surreal, as now the north and south bound traffic was travelling at speed. Car horns blared and tires skidded, as the tricyclist endeavoured to carve a figure eight route through the middle of the intersection. My body seemed frozen as I waited for the inevitable collision. There were a number of very near misses but no contact was made. Again, the tricyclist disappeared into the traffic of the east bound Bloor Street lanes.

The light changed and I slowly continued eastbound on Bloor, trying to digest what had just happened. I had only travelled about a hundred metres, when I spotted him again, this time traveling toward me, going west bound, in the middle of the east bound lanes. I pulled over to the curb and tried to flag him down. His head was cocked over to his left shoulder and he was still putting everything he had into pedalling. I could not make eye contact as he swept past me, before making an arcing U-turn, cutting off two cars, then riding east bound in the west bound lanes of Bloor Street. I thought for a moment of trying to follow him, but I realized, as he was breaking all the rules, he could travel faster than I could in downtown traffic.

To my left, on the sidewalk, standing beside her bike, was a young woman, just completing a cell phone call. I asked her if she had seen what had just happened. She said yes and had just called 911 to report it. She also told me that she had seen the man, a half hour previously, doing the same thing at an intersection on Harbord Street.

I waited about 15 minutes for the police to show up, in order to give them some information, but then decided I would leave it with the young lady and continued on my way.

What was happening that day? I will leave it up to you to judge. Was this individual suicidal or self harming? Was he under the influence of some narcotics? Maybe he was just some kind of a dare devil. At this point, I will never know, but it will be one of my memories of cycling that I transcribe in the cycling chronicles.

Tricycle on Brampton bike rack

Other stories by Steve Stoller