I knew the officer was going to pin me with a ticket for not having lights on my bike, and that is why I found myself fleeing from his patrol SUV across campus.
I had been studying late in the engineering building and the university was now dark and quiet. I got on my bike at 11:30pm, followed the smaller paths behind some campus buildings, and made my way out to the main street on the west side of campus. My rechargeable bike lights were dead in my backpack. As I hit the bike lane I was risking a dark ride, but I only had to go a block and a half on the main street before I’d be into my quiet residential neighbourhood.
Just a moment after I started on the main street, a Campus Community Police vehicle began to pull out in front of me from a driveway twenty meters ahead. I slowed, knowing he saw me. I anticipated his frustration as he cursed the kid in all black barreling towards his car. So he pulled onto the road, deliberately placing his right wheels in the bike lane. His brake lights glowed red back at me, the stern eyes of authority. I squeezed my brake, matching his halt. I could picture the interaction: his passenger window would be down, awaiting my passing. I could cruise past him, but he’d follow. Either way, I would have to have a conversation with this officer, and I calculated it would end with a hefty ticket slapped into my hand. All of this happened in a breath. Instead, I planted my foot and pivoted 180 degrees. I hoped my immediacy and casualness would make the reversal seem coincidental. I also hoped my return to campus grounds would remove the risk of the ticket.
Don’t mind me Officer, I just left something behind — I need to go get it. I take a left turn back into the freight driveway from which I came. The plan was simple: just stay on campus, take the long way home, and ride on the sidewalks the police don’t monitor. But first, a quick check over my shoulder. A string of profanity fires rapidly out of my mouth — the officer has pulled a U-turn on the busy throughway and is on track to follow me up the drive. Okay. New plan. I didn’t see you, Officer, I was just minding my own business. My headphones are in my ears, blaring some music that I can no longer hear, but they are now a critical component for my innocence. I pick up my pace, rising out of the saddle, but not so much that it looks like a sprint. I’m just riding normally, this isn’t a getaway, after all. Although I pretend not to, I hear the rev of the engine as the SUV, now on the lane with me, presses to catch up.
“Hey!” “HEY!” The officer yells out the driver-side window. He’s half a car length behind me but to corroborate my coming story, I maintain as though I can neither hear nor see him. One last ditch effort to dissuade the officer of pursuing a measly bike-light ticket: I turn sharply up the sidewalk on my left side, across a brick walkway and start riding on the turf of the campus green space. Behaviour I try to play off as typical from cyclists. No sir. Whether incidental or by clever design, the sidewalk is spacious enough for the vehicle pursuit to continue. The patrol car now races on my tail on the grass. Back to plan B, which is still in working order. I know the chase is almost up. As if right on cue, the SUV passes me on my left side and banks to block my path. “Whoa, whoa, whoa!” I shout over the officer’s warnings. Skidding to a stop, I drop my bike to its side. I put my hands up, perhaps laying the act on too thick. I say “I can’t hear you, my music, one sec.” I take my headphones out of my ears. The officer’s out of his vehicle now.
“Did you hear me?” He asks.
“No, sorry, my music.” I say.
“Is this your bike?”
“Yes.” I say.
“Do you have ID?”
“Yes.” I retrieve my student card and hand it to him. He radios my name and student number to headquarters.
“I thought you were running.” He says. “Lots of bike theft on campus.” Ahahaha, of course. I laugh in my head. Idiot. Not being able to connect how just seconds ago I thought running would make me look like anything but a bike thief.
“Oh. Of course.” Is all I manage.
“He’s clear.” I hear over the coms.
“You’re good to go.” The officer says.
“Thank you.” I say. “Sorry again, I should turn my music down.”
“You need bike lights if you’re riding anywhere off campus.” He says.
“They’re in my bag. They’re just out of batteries. Sorry.”
And then I continued my bike ride home. I believe I received a call moments later from a friend and so told the whole story to him while my heart was still racing. Ultimately, I would consider my plan a success. By fleeing, I distracted the officer from the ticket I’m sure he had in mind.
I have had a problem with authority for a long time. I’m not very trusting of them. My brother and I both have an inclination to challenge them. It’s pretty stupid and unnecessary. But I haven’t changed. And writing this hasn’t moved to needle either. Eh, I say, win my trust.
B.F. Greeno, aka,
The Obstinate Outlaw