Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Bike Traffic - Friendly or Fr-Frightening?
Canadian WORD OF THE DAY: Toonie
Toonie is Canadian slang for “two bucks.” Canadians like to let loose when it comes to money. Unlike in the states, paper money comes no smaller than five-dollar bills (which are actually a cheerful shade of sky blue!). Ever wonder why all Canadians have extremely bulky, jingly pockets? It’s because they’re carrying a load of one and two dollar coins. The one-dollar coin was created by the Royal Canadian Mint in 1987. During the official government christening, a rather lighthearted officer stepped up: “One dollar? Let’s call it a loonie!” Nine years later, in the same vein of silliness and for lack of creativity, the toonie was born.
Know what also comes in twos? Bicycle wheels!
I’ve never lived in a city with so many bikes. Supporting the theory that Canadians are more environmental, economic, and healthier than Americans, I’ve seen many more cyclists in these parts. Sure, when I lived in New York there were bikers galore – likely true for Portland, San Francisco, and many other progressive cities – but cities are anomalies. And even if I’m just making a convenient assumption, I’ve never seen a group of bikers comparable to the pedal-pumping bike hoards in Toronto.
Last summer, Ei was a bike fiend. She was riding her two-wheeler like a pro. No hands? You bet! No helmet? Yes-sirree. (Right Ei? Yeah, that’s right!)
I hope this cushion is fluffy enough for you, because here comes the blow.
August 16th Ei was hit by a drunk driver. When I met her, my friend’s right arm was weighed by a very lady-like cast. (I’ll hand it to her, even wrapped in plaster she’s still got more fashion sense than I do.) Little did I know, the trooper was hiding dozens of injuries under her cute fall coat – bruises, fractures, cuts, phobias. No I’m not talking about her hatred of cucumbers. (How can you not like cucumbers? Oh come on that makes no sense. What? Yeah, but avocado and peanut butter happen to be damn delicious! *Stay tuned for more information on a delicious Americanadian recipe!*)
Ei’s ordeal only just began when that driver – who would subsequently drive away, crash into a line of parked cars, flee on foot, and then get caught – hit her. The real battle began when the hospital turned her away for being an uninsured American. (Stay tuned for our coverage of the Ultimate Fighting Championship Tour: U.S.A. vs. Socialized Medicine - in Canada!) Months of physical, mental, legal, and financial recovery have been grueling. Every week we celebrate Ei’s slow progress towards being able to give a full thumbs up. I try not to take it personally when she responds to my enthusiasm with a thumb at half-mast. To think – how many thumb wars have become dust in the wind…
As bike season returns again, the hoards have re-emerged. Old bikes, new bikes, bikes built for two… (Remember that really attractive couple we tried to push over on Bloor?! Haha, I know.) Unfortunately their existence, their sheer number is not the subject at hand.
The link between Ei’s accident and our lives in Canada is the number of Torontonians I know who’ve been hit on their bikes – against car doors, driving while drunk, squeezed out of bike lanes, thrown off a pothole…
National news has picked up on it. Protests have been organized. Maybe I’m uninformed (Quite possible, right Ei? Hm.), but I’ve yet to see this extensive bike-crash coverage in the states. Are bikes crashing in America and being ignored?
Or is it an issue brought on by a country with more bikers?
And if there are more bikers here within this progressive atmosphere – why the hell are they all getting hit?
Our personal connection makes this issue pertinent – we're already drafting the cue cards for a future podcast.
Somehow a feisty American has been made to fear the magic of Canada by bike.
Click here for an animation Ei made while recouping from the accident: Bike Animation