John Luton, the former Victoria city councilor, challenged me to a friendly competition once again.
It was our fifth matchup in the car-bike race from the Esquimalt Road Tim Hortons at Admirals to Monk Office on Blanshard Street. “Bike to Work Week” is designed to raise awareness of the practical possibilities of getting to and from work on a bike. In past iterations of this “friendly” competition, we had mutually agreed to the route selection. Going into this dog-eat-dog competition, we were tied 2-2. It felt like Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final.
We usually have a light snack prior to the race beginning. To my surprise, John wanted to get right to it. As we exited the doughnut shop, he jumped on his bike and took off, leaving me standing there trying to cross the road to get into my strategically placed driving-school vehicle. You have no idea how many people use this Esquimalt route to get to work downtown. I waited for an entire traffic light cycle before crossing the road and getting into my car. John was well ahead at this point, but as fate would have it, we met at the traffic light by the arena in Esquimalt. At that point I left him in the dust, literally and figuratively. I never saw him again until the end of the commute.
As I approached the brand-new bridge, it occurred to me that John may have arranged a ship’s passage under said bridge, in order to somehow impede my travel and catch up. Luckily, the bridge deck was down, and I proceeded up Johnson Street to my final stop, feeling quite confident in my progress. A few glances in the rearview mirror assured be of the imminent victory at hand. John was nowhere to be seen!
That is when my confidence was tested. I got this strange Darth Vader-type feeling of an unexplained presence. Was he taking a different route? Surely, with all the downtown behind-the-wheel experience, my route selection would be superior. That’s when every traffic light turned red upon my approach. Uncontrolled crosswalks began to look like individual pedestrian conventions.
I arrived at Blanshard, and was lucky to make the right turn after stopping for the red light. As I approached Fort Street, it was obvious John had yet to arrive. I saw a truck parked at the curb in front of Monk Office, with its left signal flashing. This was great luck! I waited for the truck to leave for a half-minute, only to discover it was the left four-way-flasher I was looking at. No worries, I spied someone leaving a space on the next block. Of course, I had to wait for the red light.
That’s when it happened. John came around the corner on his bike, dismounted and casually walked to the finish line to collect his bouquet of flowers, designating him as the winner. He had taken Fort Street. Yes, the designated bike lane route.
I parallel-parked and walked the path of defeat to the finish line. It would have been an inconspicuous occurrence had there not been a master of ceremonies, none other than Joe Perkins of CFAX, announcing what seemed to be every remaining vanquished stride. He insisted there were no losers in this yearly event.
Despite this pronouncement, it was difficult to witness his obvious glee when announcing the lopsided bike-over-car victory. After all, he’s no ordinary Joe.
Congrats to John, not only for the race, but rather his recovery from organ failure and his transplant success of the past year. It couldn’t happen to a nicer guy!
Steve Wallace is the owner of Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island. He is a former vice-president of the Driving Schools Association of the Americas, a registered B.C. teacher and a University of Manitoba graduate.