My Auckland e-bike, a long black thing sporting a waterproof saddlebag and a rectangle motor which spoons my seat tube, is heavy.
The bike is hard to hoist over fences and it gets caught going up curbs. It’s tricky to swing around to fit the bike stands and near impossible to rotate it to hide the saddlebag from lazy snatchers. It’s especially difficult to maneuver over little Samu’s scooter which sometimes (often) falls to the floor of the tiny shed where the e-bikes are stored.
If it didn’t have a motor, with it’s pedal-assist purring features, I would be very strong. Or I would be habitually late for my weekend shifts in the city.
But for all my complaints, the heaviness lends a hand in a few areas.
First, that of the Ranui / Korero intersection.
I come here often, zooming into the right turn lane on my way to Cafe Korero. Those subtle etchings in the concrete at the front of the turn lanes are the sensors. They run the length of a car-and-a-half to the edge of the white line, and tell the light systems that they’ve got a responsibility to their right-turning clientele. If I can keep my front tire on the etched line, and stop the bike where the horizontal line meets the perpendicular, then I am just heavy enough to become a right-turning client.
It’s thrilling, really, that I get to turn right while the two cars sitting in front of me have to wait another two minutes until I successfully clear the intersection. Thrilling!
This satisfaction is repeated at the intersection of Swanson and Lincoln. Here, again, do I tight-rope bike the etchings, and get the privilege of turning right on an arrow.
But there are some intersections—like that of Lincoln Rd and Universal Drive—where my e-bike is not heavy enough to trip the sensors. In this case, unless I want to veer to the left side of the road and then get off onto the sidewalk and then press the crosswalk button and then wait seven minutes until the green man waves at me mockingly and tells me to get a move on, I am reliant upon another right-turning car.
This has happened to me three times: I rock on up to the front of the right-turn lane at Lincoln and Universal and find myself hoping a car comes behind me to turn right. Else I’ll be there until my skin rots in the noonday sun. All three times, the cars that eventually come are driven by sweet-faced middle-aged Asian women in a mini-van. And all three times, the middle-aged women have been maternally polite to me, leaving a car length’s distance between the end of my tire and their bumpers.
This is sweet, but annoying. Because now, the car I’ve been praying for is now a car-and-a-half-plus-three-inches away from the front of edge of the white line. Which means they are three inches away from tripping the sensor that will allow us to turn.
So I rotate in my seat to look the women in the face. With a bright smile, I motion with my hand, come on up! Come, don’t be a stranger! They smile at me, and throw back their heads in a sweet peal of laughter. No no, they seem to say, you need your space, dear!
I point at the ground and trace the sensor etchings with my index finger, using my free hand to gesture, no really, I’m serious. Come closer.
Again, again they laugh, smiling at me and shaking their heads, letting me know how goddamn valued I am and how important my life is.
All the while a full cycle of stop lights runs it’s course and we don’t get the right turn arrow.
I try again. Tracing as if I were carving the damn Grand Canyon myself, chanting “sen-sor-lines. Sen-sor-lines. Sen-sor-lines.”
Finally they get the picture and they ease a bit closer, just a little bit closer until finally their front tire rests on the back of the sensor line and we get the green arrow.
The third time was this morning.
I was leaving the stationary store on my way to the city cycle path, and I was the first in to the right-turn lane. This intersection is infested. At any given moment fifty cars are stopped waiting to be released through. It’s bizarre, one side goes with a green light until it’s clear of cars, then the light turns back to red, and not a moment later there are suddenly fifty cars waiting to go again.
There is no way I could just yield go when there was a clear spot. I had to wait until the green right-turn arrow before I could go.
I was first in the lane and not celebrating.
After two cycles of lights, it was still just me on my lonesome, and I had unzipped my jacket due to the heat of the sun. Then the back of my neck alerted me that a car was approaching. I turn, and behold: the mini-van middle aged Asian woman! But she, in all her respectable humanity, stopped a car-and-a-half-plus from me and just missed the sensor etchings. I waved her forwards, waved her forwards, come forwards, yes come along, COME TO ME—and get that head-thrown back laughter and the polite, no no, have your space, really!
Another cycle of lights.
Me, frantic waving.
She, finally, gets the picture, and crawls forwards.
Behold! After twelve minutes of my mind filling up with swear words, a glorious green arrow! The direction of the arrow had never been straighter! The color, never greener! The wind, never clearer—the earth, never sweeter!
I charged into the intersection, our lane the only one with permission to do so, and I raised one fist in the air, shouting with all the breath that I had:
“I LEAD THE BRIGADE! TO ME, FELLOW JOURNEY-MEN! TO ME!”
My hair was streaming from underneath my helmet, and my jacket, which I had forgotten to zip back up, flapped in the wind like a flag. My face was lit with triumph as I led three cars in a perfectly executed right turn, right in front of the millions of other stopped cars waiting at red lights.
Suckers, I thought, as I zoomed away towards the cycle path.
Peace and blessings,