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Flash of Silver Makes Gentle Cyclist See Red

by Ryan Parton

The Montreal Gazette, June 16, 2002

Over the past few years, my bike has become my primary mode of transportation around Montreal.† Whether weaving through downtown traffic, spinning casually through the Old Port or navigating the streets and alleyways of the Plateau, I found cycling to be not only efficient, but therapeutic as well.

Hitting the streets on two wheels, my progress measured by pedal strokes rather than numbers rolling by infinitely on an odometer, soothed my soul and helped put certain things into perspective.† Things like road rage.

How silly these drivers looked with their fiery little eyes and flailing arms, swearing loudly and yet unheard beyond the steel and glass walls of their four-wheeled cages.† I saw them as I cycled past, and I laughed at their absurdity. The simple peacefulness of cycling, I believed, had elevated me above the day-to-day trivialities that cause tempers to flare and road rage to take over.

But with a powerful roar and a flash of silver, my illusion was shattered.

It happened the other day as I was riding down Sherbrooke Street in Westmount. I was in the right lane, riding alongside an endless string of parked cars, when a silver Porsche convertible rocketed past my left shoulder, mere inches from clipping my handlebar.

I saw red.

At the next traffic light I pulled up next to the Porsche and had a good look at the guy who had nearly run me down.† He was in his mid- to late-thirties, and wore a black Porsche ball cap to match his expensive ride. He must have been going about 60 kilometres per hour when he passed me, and this guy looked like he didnít have a care in the world.† His confident, almost haughty, expression betrayed his attitude that behind his leather-covered steering wheel, this guy was king of the road.

I hated him.† I hated his arrogance.† Most of all, I hated the disrespect he had shown me, if indeed my presence on the road had registered with him at all. I wanted to test him.

I jumped the light and immediately pulled into the left lane, his lane, and pedaled casually and deliberately down the centre.† Eventually there came from behind me two loud, hard honks, and the guy in the Porsche tore past my left-hand side, cursing me loudly as he thundered down the opposing lane. I responded with the traditional single-digit salute and perhaps an expletive of my own, but what scares me now, in hindsight, is that I wanted more.

As I pulled up alongside him at the next red light, I gave him a long, hard look.† I wanted dearly for him to say something, or give me a dirty look; anything that would justify me throwing his cap to the pavement and driving a gloved fist through his bleached, silver spoon-suckling teeth. But nothing was said.† The light turned green and I pedaled away.

The sole casualty of our brief exchange was my own perceived immunity to a dangerous plague of anger that is becoming more and more routine on our city streets.† As automobiles become increasingly luxurious, and hurried drivers more artificially cut off from the world beyond their windows, it is a trend that shows no sign of relenting.

On that nearly fateful day I learned a simple, if unfortunate, lesson:† ride the road, and the rage will follow.

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