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Cars Driving on Sharrows in Saskatoon, SKCars driving on sharrows in Saskatoon, SK.
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Sharrows of Saskatoon, SKSharrows of Saskatoon, SK.
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A Sharrow in Saskatoon, SKA partially-hidden sharrow in Saskatoon, SK.
By Robert Judge
Monday afternoon, 7th of February, I learned who I am. Twice.
At 3:45 I was in the slow lane of Broadway Avenue awaiting the light. I heard a honking noise behind me. A nicely coiffed and wildly gesticulating middle-aged woman in a red Toyota Sequoia was offering I make a right turn off Broadway. I could not understand how she would know my route and destination better than myself, so I politely declined with a shake of the head. Beautiful name that, “Sequoia.” It brings to mind dripping mossy groves of ancient redwoods. Chirping woodpeckers. I pondered whether the Sequoia had been part of the “sudden acceleration” recall.
The woman behind me blared her horn more deafeningly and saluted me vigorously with the tightly stitched leather of her middle finger. Venetian lamb, I would guess. If I must become part of the street, I insist the culprit be carefully attired at least. I attempted to explain that my full and timely payment of city taxes left me eligible to use Broadway to fetch groceries for my family, a rather basic urge. This justification for my rudely reducing her speed to a level completely out of the range of the Toyota adverts unless she changed lanes, neither calmed her increasing hysteria nor helped with her growing problem of purple skin.
I was loudly informed that I was a "F--ing Moron!" I was surprised that she could discern my genus and subspecies so quickly under all the winter clothes and without leaving her car seat. Apparently driving a bike along the white-painted sharrows (to re-appear when the snow melts) qualified me as belonging to a very particular group of the genus Morona. It's nice to belong.
A few blocks later as I was parking at the Loblaws, and scratching down three numbers followed by three letters with my frozen ballpoint, a helpful fellow approached rapidly and informed me that I was, in his opinion, not a "F--ing Moron!" and revealed his telephone number.
Over the years, having emitted some thunderous verbal mis-steps of my own, I've slowly realized that I can actually strengthen my case by remaining polite when a motorist is demonstrating such outraged indignance and loudly placing me in such a particular classification of humanoid as the Fkg. Morona.
I had visions of our police calmly telling the good woman that her education was incomplete and she must apologize and promise to never frighten folks on bikes again. Man was I dreaming. I should have known better, having been through this process numerous times before. But this time I had not raised my voice. I had a witness. And I had a sharrow painted on the street somewhere under the piste.
The constable on the phone that night offered to send the woman a letter asking her to refrain from using such language as might curl delicate ears. She would however make no mention in the letter that bicycles do indeed have a right to use most city streets. For such a message to be forwarded, I must attend the downtown constabulary. And no, she would not disclose the woman's home phone number.
Downtown the following day, I met a different variety of constable who could neither find any reason to file a report nor any grounds for a criminal charge, as my life had not been threatened. Hmm, I suspect some people threaten lives each time they twist their ignition key... The constable told me that Ms Sequoia's file with the provincial insurance company would be flagged as 'involved in a road-rage incident.' Still I lingered at his desk, unfulfilled. He suggested I detour on a longer but safer route, at least until the sharrows return from hibernation. He offered Temperance Street (which sadly comes nowhere near the grocery store.) He said I might like to join a bicycle advocacy group (hey there's an idea).
Being a total motorway wimp, I am happy to stick to my usual commute of 90 percent car-free trails, at least until the refridgerator yawns empty again. And I don't wish to leave the impression that this particular motorist reflects the average in my town.
Many motorists here are respectful to a fault, even stopping for you when they have the right of way. Somehow this makes it more difficult to be a thumping bicycle advocate here in my friendly prairie town. But it's a complicated friendliness, that's for certain.