Tuesday, April 1, 2008

A Sacrifice, A Movement

Every time I hear of some component or frame failure that afflicts a fellow cyclist, I remind myself (with a snide snicker) how lucky I’ve been.
I’ve upgraded bits and pieces here and there. But I have a 7-year-old hybrid, a 5-year-old road bike and another road bike heading into year 2, and thus far here is the list of my equipment failures:
Three trashed rear wheels, only one of which really died prematurely.
Assorted broken spokes
Some flat tires
Not bad.
As for wrecks, I’ve lucked out, too. Like everyone else, I took a couple of Monty Python spills when I first started riding clipless. And I wiped out a couple times in races. But I’ve never broken anything, never needed any surgery and never had to do anything repair-wise beyond retaping the bars.
I count my blessings -- especially when I consider what has befallen my fellow cyclists.
This, for instance.

Talk about something that blackens your day. This, I solemnly realized when I came across it at lunch today, could only be a result of tragedy. I removed my helmet in a moment of silent respect.
I shuddered as I thought about what could have caused it.
A high-speed collision with a semitrailer, maybe?
A superheated burst from a space-age argon-gas laser fired from a satellite?
Some bad reaction with a Mexican Village dinner?
In any case, the rider had to have perished, and the funeral surely was closed-casket.
I resolved to find out who had become the cycling community's latest Christ figure, and to seize onto the tragedy as the foundation for a bikes-first campaign the likes of which Cleveland has never seen.
It all came to me in a flash. Within an instant, I’d resolved to form a nonprofit corporation called "Bikes First, You and Your Shitty Petro-ilk Last," and to pursue grants from the Gund and Cleveland Foundations for a multimedia/multiplatform campaign.
I wanted to make sure this tragedy would never be repeated.
The strategic elements hit me like Hincapie hits pave, like Floyd Landis hits testosterone (TBV alert!):
The centerpiece, the organizing principle – the hub, if you will -- would be a Ghostbike memorial featuring an artistic interpretation of the disfigured seat. That statement would be illuminated by a perpetual flame, which would be powered by a renewable organic energy source derived from recycled synthetic bike lube.
But this wouldn't just be a mute white-bike tribute.
The monument’s unveiling would be a major grassroots civic/artistic event.
It would commence with a gigantic Naked Critical Mass ride through Public Square, decrying our oil obsession and its war-machine spawn -- and, if grant dollars permit, denouncing homophobia-based short-shrifting of AIDS research.
This would be the near-violent, in-your-face kickoff that would demand the media pay attention and initiate a participatory Nude Journalism experiment by 19 Action News cultural-milieu reporter Sharon Reed.
After our procession spawns a traffic bottleneck that would inconvenience nearly dozens of people who still work downtown and haven’t been swallowed up by giant sinkholes, we then would head to Voinovich Park for a solemn festival of bike-related performance art at dusk.
Its highlights: graffiti artists tagging vehicles nearby on E. 9th St.; and a hipster mime, covered almost completely with pro-bike tattoos, screwing a gas cap into his rectum (lubed with renewable corn oil) in silent protest of our auto-centric culture.
Finally, we would use about $170,000 of our grant funding for a grassroots campaign aimed at shaming non-bike riders into leaving their Volvos in the garage and giving bike commuting a try.
About 97 of every 100 of those will freak out at the first horn honk or the first time a car passes within four feet. Most will then violently jerk their handlebars to the right and bounce off the curb.
The resultant slaughter of innocents along Chester and Detroit avenues would fuel an unprecedented infrastructure investment into 5-foot-wide bike lanes on every Cleveland traffic artery.
Whoever got annihilated on that twisted specter of a bike would not die in vain, I resolved.
The clarity, immediacy and poignancy of my vision left me so stunned that it took every bit of focus I could summon just to dial Thomas Mulready on my iPhone.
Then, suddenly, everything collapsed even as Mulready’s phone was ringing. This dude stepped out of the Phoenix coffee shop and bent over the combination lock attaching the Death Bike to a railing:

I knew immediately he was a kindred spirit by his rolled-up pants, his light-adorned helmet and the defiant manifesto emblazoned on his messenger bag: "Three Feet – It’s The Law."
Problem was, he was alive.
My vision, which materialized so vividly and immediately, evaporated just as instantly.
Then the rest of the divine revelation congealed in my head: He is alive for now. But it would be so selfish of him to let that little detail stand between the present and my vision.
I followed him home. I’ve rented the U-Haul truck. Tomorrow there just might be a little hit-and-run accident.
But his sacrifice will be a worthy one.


Anonymous said...

Funny. Dead on with the performance-art.

Bench said...

How do you have time to put this all together? Too funny!