Stop mak­ing fun of my bi­cy­cle


When I de­cided to move to New­found­land from Toronto, I ex­pected to be mocked. Usu­ally, this is fine with me. If you want to joke with me about Toronto’s ter­ri­ble hockey team, or charm­less ar­chi­tec­ture, I will laugh with you. The only thing I will not laugh about is my bi­cy­cle.

Since I’ve been in Car­bon­ear, I’ve been get­ting around two ways — by bi­cy­cle or by foot. This is nor­mal for me. While I do tech­ni­cally have a driver’s li­cence, the only time I ever use it is when I get carded at the liquor store. Why would any­one want to drive when they can ride their bi­cy­cle?

If I asked this ques­tion in Toronto, no one would laugh. Ev­ery­one would just nod sym­pa­thet­i­cally and we’d all brain­storm a way to get more bike lanes and slowly squeeze all the cars out of the down­town core.

In New­found­land, ev­ery­one laughs. A se­nior cit­i­zen once told me that bi­cy­cles were a “ funny way to travel in this mod­ern day and age.”

It’s very hard for me to un­der­stand why peo­ple here think my bi­cy­cle is any­thing short of fan­tas­tic. Ev­ery time some­one laughs at my hand sig­nals, or yells at me to get on the side­walk, my cold ur­ban heart sinks. The hand sig­nals may look like an elab­o­rate in­ter­pre­tive dance but they’re nec­es­sary, I want to yell, and bi­cy­cling on the side­walk is against the law.

Hair blow­ing in the wind

The trou­ble is, in down­town Toronto, be­ing a cy­clist is an im­por­tant part of your ur­ban iden­tity. It means a whole lot more than the money you don’t spend money on gas and park­ing, or the time you save weav­ing through idling traf­fic like a cham­pion. It’s not just about the fos- sil fu­els you save or the calo­ries you burn.

One day, you buy a bi­cy­cle, and the next you’re ped­dling home from the or­ganic farm­ers mar­ket, your vintage bike-bas­ket over­flow­ing with fat cu­cum­bers and fresh baguettes, your hair blow­ing in the wind. The feel­ing is ad­dic­tive. It stops be­ing about how you get places, and starts to be about who you are.

This feel­ing has not yet hyp­no­tized small-town New­found­land. When peo­ple here think of cy­clists they con­jure up im­ages of chil­dren on tri­cy­cles, not smug twenty-some­things, com­mut­ing in their high heels. When I ride my bi­cy­cle in Car­bon­ear, sto­ically brav­ing the hills in rain or shine, I am met with only con­fu­sion and laugh­ter.

In Toronto, a bi­cy­cle is a le­git­i­mate ve­hi­cle. In New­found­land, a bi­cy­cle is a toy.

Two-wheeled plague

On the roads, driv­ers don’t know what to do with me. They are so un­ac­cus­tomed to cy­clists that, if they have space, they’ll swerve around me, avoid­ing me like a two-wheeled plague. If they don’t have the space, some­times they just honk at me. When the school bus passes me, the chil­dren press their noses against the win­dows and stare at me with gross fas­ci­na­tion.

I know that liv­ing with­out a car in a small town is crip­plingly in­con­ve­nient. I am, how­ever, only here for the sum­mer and rarely need to travel any­where far away.

My bi­cy­cle — my Green De­mon, as she is fondly called — is not an­ti­quated or silly; she’s sen­si­ble for me.

If I were liv­ing here per­ma­nently, I know I would have to own a car — I might even want to. I would join the ranks of car own­ers if only be­cause green hills and ocean vis­tas are much more beau­ti­ful when you’re not red­faced and wheez­ing from ped­dling up a cliff.

But if you’re just com­mut­ing to work nearby in the sum­mer, I don’t see why more New­found­lan­ders don’t join my ranks.

Sell­ing my bi­cy­cle

In fact, I am so ded­i­cated to spread­ing the joy of cy­cling in this area that when I leave, I want to leave my bi­cy­cle be­hind to start a legacy; a legacy that will be filled with brisk ex­er­cise and de­fi­ance in the face of mock­ery.

In Au­gust, I will put my Green De­mon up for auc­tion, with all the pro­ceeds go­ing to the O’Shaugh­nessy House in Car­bon­ear. More de­tails will come later inThe Com­pass.

Un­til then, I ask you from the bot­tom of my heart to stop laugh­ing at my bi­cy­cle. My bi­cy­cle has only even been good to me. My hockey team, on the other hand … that we can have a laugh about.

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