My thighs burn. Nineteen, twenty, twenty-one, twenty-two. I stand up on the peddles of my bike, using my legs to gain momentum going up the hill. I do it everyday. It takes sixty rotations to get up the hill. Twenty-eight, twenty-nine, thirty. So tired. My legs feel like they are going to give out. Thirty-three, thirty-four, thirty-f… Clink. The peddle drops, the chain goes slack. The lack of resistance makes me lose my grip. My left foot falls off the peddle and begins to drag. I frantically try to keep my bike upright, adjusting my handlebars to try to compensate for the current predicament. I pray that there is no street car behind me. I drop my right foot off the peddle and begin to drag the toes of my shoes on the ground, trying to come to a stop without wiping out. I can’t keep control. I head toward the streetcar tracks. Please let there be no traffic behind me. I’ve heard horror stories about bikers getting hit by trams. I head for the tracks and can keep my balance no longer. My bike tips. I hit the ground on my side. My head smacks against the streetcar track. Thankfully, my helmet saves the day and I only hear the crack of plastic. A momentary thought flits through my mind, “Right Dad, and you say there’s no point in helmets.” Or at least, that’s what he said when I was eight. There’s a burning sensation in my legs. I’ve felt it before. Road burn. My legs are so tired that I can barely move. I certainly can’t move out of the line of traffic. I’m not facing oncoming traffic. I have no idea what’s behind me. Up ahead there is a silver Vespa zooming towards me. It’s an odd angle to see it from. You don’t see many views from the pavement looking up.
The Vespa suddenly veers into my lane right in front of me and comes to a stop, effectively stopping any traffic that may try to get past me– not that I think there is any. A young man jumps off his bike. I’m slightly dazed and don’t know what he looks like, but his voice is kind. “Are you alright?” he asks in a concerned voice. A woman on her bike has stopped, as has another young man. Vespa man is kneeling beside me.
“Yes, I’m fine. I’ll be alright.” I try to pick myself and my bike up off the ground. My thighs are so tired that my legs give out beneath me.
“Woah. Let me help you. And I’ll get your bike too.” Vespa guy holds on to my arm and helps me up, grabbing the handlebar on my bike with his other hand. He guides me towards the sidewalk. I still don’t know how much traffic I’ve backed up, but at least I didn’t get run over. The other man and woman are on the sidewalk.
“Do you want me to call you an ambulance? Is there anyone you want me to call?” the young woman asks.
“No, no,” I say, shaking my head. “I’ll be fine. Just a bit of a headache.”
“Are you sure?” She asks.
“Yes, but thank you.”
“Alright. Take care of yourself getting home.”
I assure her I will.
The man on the Vespa looks at me. “You’re sure you’re alright?”
I glance up at him. He’s probably around thirty, reddish hair and is working on growing a beard. He’s quite a bit taller than I am, and looks a bit folksy with an edge of hipster, complete with the big dark rimmed glasses.
“Yes, I’m fine. Thank you for your help. I’ll walk my bike the rest of the way home.”
“You’re welcome. Make sure you be careful on your way.”
“I will. Thank you again.”
And with that he’s off. I glance down at my legs. My right knee has a good slice of road burn, double the size of a toonie, as well as a few other cuts and scrapes. My right leg has only one or two minor grazes. I breath deeply. My day had been going so well up until now. Now my head just hurts. I’m slightly dazed. I don’t even want to try getting back on my bike. I’m just sad. I’m done with the day. I just want to go home. And so, I start walking my bike the rest of the way up the hill. One foot in front of the other. Thankfully I’m only about a kilometer from home. But I find myself thankful for the good Samaritans who took the time to stop and help a total stranger. I may live in a big city, but it only takes a small crisis to prove that people still care.