It’s bicycle season in Missoula, and that means one thing: time to ride off the sidewalk and into the street without looking, blow some stop signs and dart across as many lanes of traffic as I can before hopping the curb again to slam into a knot of tourists. If no tourists are available, I will settle for a dumpster. I just want to crash into something. For you see, I am a cyclist, and I have no regard for safety — even my own.
It’s not that I am ignorant. I know the rules of driving in Missoula: Maintain an 18-inch following distance. When the light turns red, only drivers who saw it change can legally continue through the intersection. At an uncontrolled intersection, the driver who is from here has the right of way. These laws are familiar to me, but I choose to break them, because as the only person in traffic not encased in a two-ton steel box, I simply do not care what happens.
That’s an exaggeration, of course. I do care about some things. It is my sincere desire, for example, to cause as many accidents as possible. When I pull my bike out of storage, release any air that has become trapped in the tires and water the geraniums growing in my helmet, it’s with one goal in mind: to ride as recklessly as I can, ideally to the point of extinguishing all life on earth.
Lately we’ve been making progress on that front. By “we,” I mean the cabal of wealthy cyclists who run this city. Our big project this summer is construction — ubiquitous, lane-closing construction that never ends but is somehow also never announced.
I don’t want to “toot my own horn” — bicycle slang for silently riding into a pedestrian from behind — but I came up with an innovation this year that is going to change the way we think about construction. Ready? If you’re building a house or knocking down a landmark building and replacing it with a Marriott or whatever, and you’re not doing anything to the actual road surface, block off the street anyway. Just store pipes there or something. You’ll find that this one weird trick can turn any development into road work.
“When I pull my bike out of storage, release any air that has become trapped in the tires and water the geraniums growing in my helmet, it’s with one goal in mind: to ride as recklessly as I can, ideally to the point of extinguishing all life on earth.”
No need to thank me — knowing that I have contributed to the larger project of cycling is thanks enough. That project, of course, is to shut down automobile traffic in Missoula completely. With lane closures on Front Street, Main, Pattee, Van Buren and pretty much every block of Orange between Sixth Street and the interstate, we’re basically there already. We had to spend millions of dollars and pull a lot of strings, but that’s fine. If there’s one thing that can be said of people who ride bicycles, it’s that we’re all rich and politically influential.
We’ve leveraged our resources to start construction projects on every major artery between Russell Street and Hellgate Canyon. We’ve even blocked the bike trail. What can I say? We’re nihilists. Soon Missoula will be a car trap with one way in and no way out, and Phase One of our plan will be complete.
The original Phase One was to secretly disable the turn signals on every automobile in town. That proved unnecessary. Our new Phase One is to make it impossible to travel through Missoula by car, forcing everyone to ride bicycles. That will pave the way — i.e., tear up the way, regrade it and cover it with chip seal that will need to be torn up again next spring — for Phase Two, which is to force everyone to ride bicycles directly into one another and die.
Think of the beautiful sounds! At first nothing — no motors, no stereos blasting, only the gentle squeaking of un-lubricated gears. Then, as the bicycles converge, the satisfying slap of rider against rider, like hitting a side of beef with a ham.
Everyone will smash together. People from all walks of life will collide. The goateed fiftysomething who once drove his Super Duty to Wing Street will pedal directly into the farmers market mom who, bereft of her Outback, must cram Braeden and Caydence into the basket of her fixie before they all die.
That last part is really important — the part where they die. As a lifelong cyclist, I love to watch new riders writhe in agony, thrashing against the ground in a vain attempt to beat sensation back into their broken limbs. Sure, it’s senseless. It’s a sick perspective that denies all values except pain and discourtesy, but that’s what riding a bicycle is all about. Soon you will join me in our wild ménage with death, especially now that the warm weather is finally here.
You might say I’m a maniac, but that’s what they said about every historical visionary/maniac. The question is not whether I value human life or even its dignified end. I don’t. The only question is, which one of you drives a truck rugged enough to stop me?
Dan Brooks is on Twitter at @DangerBrooks.