It was the first warm day of spring. The street was busy with morning rush hour; cars, buses and cyclists going in all directions. Engines rumbled, horns honked and the smell of exhaust filled the air.
A long line of traffic stretched down the road, waiting to turn left onto the bridge. Each vehicle inched forward whenever the one ahead of them started to creep; insistent, as if every bit of accumulated space would get them to work faster.
I was stopped on my bike alongside them, signalling to turn left. I’d have to cut through them to get down the side road.
A frazzled-looking messy-haired woman creeping past me in a gold SUV must have been in a world of her own because as her eyes focused on me, she jumped in surprise and tried to pull out of my way. She swerved, accelerating from almost stopped to what might have been 40 kilometres an hour, and started to move into the next lane. She didn’t notice the cyclist making her way up the other side of the vehicle.
It happened in slow motion: the vehicle pulled out and the cyclist slipped from her bike to the pavement, her lean, spandex-clad leg disappearing into the darkness below.
The driver slammed on her brakes, frantically looking back and forth from me to the place that the biker had suddenly appeared, and just as suddenly disappeared. She was jarred from the thoughts which had been preoccupying her mind moments before.
“I didn’t see her!” the woman protested through her open window.
“You shoulda looked!” interjected a middle-aged man from the window of a small, beat-up navy car that was spewing foul-smelling smoke from its exhaust. He was stopped in the lane the SUV driver had tried to pull into and had seen the whole thing happen.
“She came out of nowhere!” the woman tried, desperation puckering her face, eager for someone to understand.
“Well, she didn’t, actually, you just didn’t look before you pulled out,” I said.
“Fuckin’ cyclists,” the man turned to me now. “Give her a break.”
“What?” I asked, incredulous. I looked towards where the cyclist was getting up. She was pulling her bike out from under the SUV.
The cars up ahead continued to try to inch forward, but around the scene of the accident, things had come to a standstill.
Managing to drag her twisted bike to the curb, the cyclist turned to the man in the car. “I’m ok, thanks for asking.” Her voice was quiet.
“Hey, lady, I didn’t hit you,” he spat back, his face reddening. “You fuckin’ cyclists,” he muttered again, “ya never watch where you’re goin’ an you always think you’re right. Shouldn’t even be allowed on the road.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t see you,” the SUV driver called urgently from inside her car. She hadn’t put the car in park, and seemed torn, unsure of how to check on her victim while also keeping her foot on the brake.
“You going to be ok?” I asked the cyclist, since no one else was going to. When she nodded, I suggested she should get the insurance and contact information from the driver who had hit her.
She looked at the woman in the SUV and shook her head. “No, I’ll be ok. Thank you.”
The SUV driver looked relieved and allowed her car to creep forward slightly.
“You’re just going to drive off?” I asked her.
“She said she’s fine,” the woman said in a pleading voice, ready to continue her commute. She looked hopefully again at the cyclist, who nodded. And then she drove away.
The cyclist slowly pushed her bike down the sidewalk. Her helmet was sitting crookedly on the side of her head, and her left foot had a slight twist to it.
The man in the navy car shook his head, looking at the cyclist. “Fuckin’ cyclists,” he grumbled once more before he, too, drove away.
Weekly Writing Prompt: Gonzo Journalism