It’s not the appearance of the police that signals a return to mundanity. It’s the chanting.
“Let him go!” shout a few dozen stragglers as a young cyclist is put in the back of a cruiser.
“Let him go!” Oh, it’s a protest now, and it’s become rather boring – which is a feat, considering we’ve taken over the Gardiner Expressway with 200 bikes.
I know what you’re thinking. But maybe I should point out that it was only once police showed up that anyone was injured.
Or maybe I should back up a little.
We’ve all heard someone, after some extraordinary experience, say they predicted it.
“I just knew something was going to happen.” Well, this time it’s true. I did, and I don’t believe I was alone.
Sometimes enough people have the same feeling – somewhere between premonition and need – that an event is created to fill what would otherwise be a vacuum of desire. I think it’s the city, with its convoluted confluences, that picks up that feeling and turns it into a happening.
You may have seen the Critical Mass bike ride on Bloor, Friday, May 30, but you probably didn’t feel it.
And you certainly didn’t see that odd look of urgency in participants’ eyes, or feel the conspiratorial rush among strangers. And if you had, you would have had to ask where we were going. We didn’t.
Must have been over 300 cyclists. Weaving in from behind, I could tell there were more new riders than usual. No expectations and all expectation. Ready for anything and nothing specific.
Which brought us here, via the Parliament onramp to the Dunn exit of the Gardiner, 200 of us, on bikes.
Now police with badges reorder the highway, stopping car traffic. Tomorrow, people with press cards will reorder memory. And this will all be about a “reckless 7-kilometre protest.”
“Reckless” will be the insult, but the designation “protest’’ will be the real injury forcing ethereal longings to have to negotiate the rigged traffic signals of political argument.Other cyclists will join in over beers, brunches and bulletin boards.
“How did taking the Gardiner advance the cause?” It didn’t – whatever cause you’re talking about.
“What did it accomplish?” Not a damn thing. (Such satisfaction, such relief in admitting it.)
“Then why do it?” Because it was fun.
I can’t speak for the others who decided to follow when the first bikes headed up the ramp, and I certainly can’t speak for the guy who thought riding alone past the police barricade was somehow a good plan. Maybe he was headed for Hamilton and we’d just happened by.
But there was no destination, no slogan, to describe the reason I went along. Because there was no reason.
If we must interpret the event, let’s say it wasn’t an event at all but a collection of acts, the remainders from the long division of collective desire and political reasoning.
Friends expect me to say we did it to protest cars, to demand bike lanes, but how can I speak for the others?
And how could a demand for bike lanes address a body’s need to travel rather than be transported? To whom do I address the letter demanding that we have free run of our city, our time, our bodies, simply because they are ours and only for a short time?
To no one. So I ride.
All right, but wasn’t it dangerous to head up that ramp? Some angry trucker could have driven right through the group, a friend will say later. Because being on a highway makes people mass murderers? If that suggestion’s allowed in the credulity lane, we have a bigger problem than 300 cyclists on the Gardiner.
Four days earlier, west of Dunn, two cars on the Gardiner collided and flipped over. No reports of nearby cyclists interfering. No reports either of “hundreds of motorists” in “reckless 70-kilometre commutes.”
Smog, hypertension and collisions – between cars – claim thousands of lives each year so we can drive to jobs we hate so we can pay for the cars to do it in, but it’s the cyclists who were irresponsible.
But that’s reason’s warm gravity pulling again. A friend snaps me out of it. “You know, this kind of thing should probably be planned,” he says on the Gardiner as we watch people shout and police draw retractable batons. “But, then, if it had, it probably wouldn’t have happened” – the paradox known to lovers and revolutionaries alike.
“Let him go!” people yell as police grab the fellow who happened by their barrier. Hey. “Let him go!” Ach – I’ve been here before. Or rather, it’s been visited on me – on all of us. “Let him go!” Time to go. We now return you to your regularly scheduled disaster, already in progress.