Once upon a time on the unceded traditional territory of the Kwantlen First Nation, Tulip slips into a dream. The banner reads: gas prices soar to five dollars a litre. Her sleepy eyes open widely and her jaw drops, as a sudden blanket of dark fog surrounds her.
She imagines a plan B to complete her to-do list for the day without the use of her car. She plots out a cycling route using only cycling paths and multiuse paths that millions of taxpayers’ dollars have supported for communities around the territory. There are four errands on the list.
Just plotting out the route turns into a mammoth task because the infrastructure for cycling is piecemeal, convoluted, and illogical, with numerous extra lefts and rights, switchbacks and backtracking. Finally the plan is in place and off she goes feeling excited and optimistic.
Those feelings don’t last long.
Once on the go, obstructions set in almost immediately. From parked cars, delivery trucks, power poles, garbage and recycling bins, broken glass, bolts and debris, loose gravel and dead animals, the trip is very eventful.
Three hours in and only 2 out of four errands are accomplished. She rechecks her route map, her watch and her compass, and starts to wonder how a life without a car could possibly ever happen. She is hungry; her frustration level is high; her blood pressure is above normal and all the meandering routes have caused her to lose her sense of direction. She tosses and turns, and tries to tune it out, but the dream continues.
It brings her to an unobstructed cycling structure on a raised platform high above the power poles, meandering through the landmass below. It is beautifully endowed with First Nations art, framed with fir side panels and cedar shake roofing.
At the end of this part of her dream, she looks down through the fog at the politicians and developers below, raises her arms and proudly sings: “Can you see me now?”
She hears nothing and cannot see the faces.
Tulip jumps out of the sub-dream, smiling, and resolves to take action. She is no stupid bulb. She is strong, resilient and determined. She has risen from the dead a few times, and often brought light to the troubled lives of many.
The next scene is the gathering of a lot of local like-minded cyclists, like a pack of wolves ready to listen to the guiding eagle hungry to devour a good fish. Some would call it an interest group but for Tulip it is to be a pressure group. The time for interest has come and gone, and gone nowhere, and now’s the time for action, real action, loud action, determined action, to feed the fish, that will feed the eagle, that will guide the wolves together to live happily ever after, as all good communities do under even the most challenging of circumstances.
Tulip pulls out her conceptual drawings and video presentation. Following the Kwantlen edict of one Nation, one family, and as believers in leadership with vision, her tireless spirit springs to life. She presses the PLAY button and the Kwantlen SkyNation Track presentation begins.
The group sees Tulip stopping short of hitting the next power pole, illuminated like a rowing paddle, on the multiuse pathway. From the sudden shock, she feels a spirit’s hand reach out to her handlebars and raises her and her bicycle up the transformed pole to a beautifully endowed secret platform, high above the morning fog.
She opens her eyes and sees an Inukshuk beside her pointing south. The platform is five metres wide, enveloped in fir fencing on either side, and roofed with red cedar shingles, just like in the other dream. This time she also sees a clock and a compass held up by a golden eagle’s beak. To her left is a charcoal drawing of a pack of wolves encircling a route map of the risen pathway and another pack is standing around a map of the various amenities located at and
around ground level.
As Tulip continues to drift further into her dream, she mounts her bicycle, heading south as directed, and sets off on an amazing obstruction-free cycling adventure. The impeccable views to the left and to the right are breathtaking. The sides of the meandering pathway are donned with beautiful local First Nations artwork from murals to sculptures, jewelry, fashion designs, paintings, drawings, baskets, hats, talking sticks, feathers and so much more. Each entrance/exit station along the way includes a poet, a singer, a dancer or storyteller, in person or virtually. The word “WOW” springs constantly from her forehead, as she slowly continues on in awe.
On she goes from her hometown of Maple Ridge, south to Pitt Meadows, over the mighty Fraser River, on to New Westminster, veering west to Delta and Richmond. From there she heads east towards Surrey, Langley and Fort Langley and then north to Stave Lake where she stands still, listens to the sound of nature and watches the eagles high above welcoming her to the northern point of the land of the Kwantlen SkyNation track. She feels like she has just had the adventure of a lifetime and woken up in heaven.
In that moment, Tulip feels the courage and strength of the eagle. She resolves to put an extra spring in her step much like a jumping salmon about to head upstream to spawn and bring new life to the waters. She sees both the sun and the moon aligned in the clear blue sky, and returns to the starting point of her journey once again.
Now the wolves have encircled the crowd below. They are watching over the gathered family of politicians, planners and builders, as well as skeptics and optimists, all still hidden under that dense fog. Tulip stands high above as the fog slowly lifts and the sun shines brightly on everyone.
“Can you see me now?”, she asks.
The loud echoing reply from the once muted crowd awakens her from her dream, as she sits up straight in her cozy bed and wonders what just happened.
She writes down her story and prepares to use it in renewed efforts for reconciliation between cyclists and motorists; cyclists and pedestrians; cyclists and city planners; as well as cyclists and politicians.
And so it was, in the land of strife and stubbornness, and a lack of willingness to take bold new steps forward in an environmentally damaged world, a farfetched dream greased the squeaky bicycle wheels and put them up against the once dominant automobile and the pressures of developers.
The simple bicycle soared to new heights showing everyone that where there is a will, there is a way. As unrealistic a dreamed up solution might be the first time hearing about it, the Trans Canada railway was a pipe dream once too, and look at what happened with it! And, what about sending a human to the moon? In the end, didn’t the tortoise beat the hare?
To my cycling friends reading this story, let’s keep the dream alive and look forward to better, safer cycling days ahead.