on close calls, parenthood, and eye twitches.
We were cycling to the notary’s office to sign the last of the official papers to buy the farm—a pretty big deal for us, to say the least. It had been a long time coming. I’m always iffy about biking with kiddo around rush hour but it was early enough and we had planned our route so as to ride solely on bike paths and roads with bike lanes. We set off with the babe on my bike in a seat clasped to the fork at my handlebars.
We had crossed over to Québec and were waiting for the light at the corner of Montcalm and Alexandre-Taché. The pedestrian light changed for us, with reds all around. My partner leads the way as I’m a bit slower starting. He’s crossed the four lanes as I get passed the first and as I enter the second lane, I see a speeding police car coming at the child and I. The cruiser’s lights are flashing but its sirens aren’t on. I look at my front wheel, with my toddler child sitting not too far from its edge and the scene just seems too surreal. I couldn’t have seen the cruiser, hidden behind the other lane of traffic and I can’t comprehend why I’m not hearing warning sirens. I put a foot down, I retreat as much as I can without toppling and the driver swerves an inch or two, just enough for my wheel (bike, child and person) to not be sent flying and smashing into the intersection.
I’m in shock.
I’ve never had a speeding car close call like this.
And never a close call with child-in-tow.
I somehow made it back to the sidewalk.
The police officer parked off Montcalm, walked over, said he was entirely to blame, apologized and told me he had kids, he was shook up, and that this would serve as a lesson and reminder for him.
I stood crying at that street corner for a bit, not knowing what to do. With kiddo beautifully oblivious, pointing at buses and babbling happily. We walked the rest of the way.
What gets me about this (among other things) is that already, as a mother, in order to be a semi-normal person, every day I have to force myself to forget or play down the (very real) risk of losing this little person (and having grown, birthed, nursed and carried this child, I can’t even imagine what would happen to me were he to die).
Another real struggle is living in this effed up world, being true to our ideals and convictions all the while appreciating that the way we choose to do things is harder or unpractical with a kid, and definitely not as safe (in the immediate, short term) as mainstreaming it. Transportation and getting from A to B is an obvious one here (choosing bikes, feet and buses over cars), but the way we work, and the way we conceptualize our responsibility to others and the planet are other big ones.
We didn’t bring a child into this world to start driving everywhere. I’ll admit I feel more justified now taking an automobile than I ever have (and I just got my license after three glorious decades without one, in fact), but the truth of the matter is, our kids have chronic respiratory diseases, are trucked everywhere, and are losing green space everyday to roads, highways and parking lots. They’re going to inherit the havoc wreaked by wars for oil and a climate crisis the magnitude of which we probably can’t fathom at this point in time. My kid needs a car ride as much as our democracy needs another shady back room deal.
When our governments invest peanuts in real cycling (and other active transportation) infrastructure, we’re jammed between a rock and a hard place. I refuse to believe that my only other choice here is to live apathetically in (relative) safety and succumb to the eye twitches of cognitive dissonance brought on by going against my ethic as I try to raise a compassionate and engaged child.
Regardless, I’m frazzled and we’re going on foot tomorrow.