Mike Rankin. Bike messenger on the streets of Toronto, Canada. On November 7, 2012, Mike was struck by a cab at University and Richmond streets and succumbed to his injuries.

On Nov. 9 about a hundred cyclists gathered in Toronto to remember Mike Rankin with a vigil and moment of silence.

Did I know him? No. I know only that he was 56 and I am 55. I know that he worked in what many consider an honourable profession in a city that I love, but that doesn’t always return the affection. And I know that Mike rode with me today. We rode together, on the streets of Jakarta, to celebrate our common love of being on a bicycle. To memorialize his untimely and unnecessary death. Mike and I, we shared a Ghost Bike Ride, because I couldn’t be in Toronto to join the official one. Here is our ride.

We started at my kost, determined to ride our message through horrifically polluted, unyielding traffic, in a city where life is valued differently.

Start_kost

The weather was hot and humid. As we rode into the alarming lanes of smog and metal, I was reminded of Robin’s song, Indestructible.

I’m gonna love you like I’ve never been hurt before. I’m gonna love you like I’m indestructible.

DestitutestreetsBadairqualityTurnaroundpimTurnradiodalamTrafficfatmawati

What do I love? Well, I love my bike, that it’s reliable and stable. I love the independence it affords me. I love that my life is not dictated by others, when I’m on my bicycle. Over the past year, I have heard the same refrain in many, many bike stories. And as odd as it sounds, many of those stories started with a bike courier.

The first stage of Kubler-Ross’s Stages of Grief hit me. I’m in denial. This can’t be happening still. Not after Jack Roper’s death, not after Jenna Morrison’s death. Why?

Passing PIM, where I worked for Wall Street Institute for nearly four months, I became angry. The pollution here has prevented me from fulfilling my twelve-month teaching contract; a car has prevented Mike from fulfilling his lifelong courier contract. We’re both heading home, but on entirely different planes.

Gatesofpim

Turning around, we headed back up Radio Dalam. I decided to keep to routes I know intimately. Getting lost on a Ghost Bike Ride would be foolish, and potentially more dangerous. Cycling past the pile of ice where my Ice Man collects his supplies, we stopped to pay our respects to someone else who makes his living on a bike. 

IceIcebike

Taking my carfee Sunday route, we passed a variety of men all intent on earning a living. While none understood why I took their photograph, they all nodded at the sign in my bike’s wheel. There were the men delivering carts of garbage, hauled through the streets on two wheels.

Garbagecollectors

Meals. On Wheels.

SnackvendorFoodvendor

Another Ice Man, this one as generous of his time and proud of his work as my Ice Man is.

Iceman2

Someone dragging used tires through dense traffic.

Tiresporter

I’ve run into bicycles bearing fruit and vegetables, like a farmer’s market; I’ve watched men pull out full tailoring businesses, complete with a sewing machine, from the front of a bike; I’ve seen knife sharpening equipment hauled into neighbourhoods on a bicycle; people transport all manner of materials–both new and castoff–around this town. Bicycles work hard here.

A policeman was directing traffic on the other side of a busy intersection. As we rode through, I made eye contact with the officer and we nodded, I in gratitude, the policeman in acknowledgement of my advocacy. So many people, who have seen me over the months travelling on my bike, waved and called to me. We are happy to reconnect each time I ride past. You can only do this on a bike. In a car or on a motorcycle, the speed you travel and the distance between you and your audience make connection with others very complicated.

At Sudirman, I was settling into depression. There was no point in bargaining. And yet, on this ride we were witnessing the beauty of unmotorized transportation for business. It was kind of inspiring.

SudirmanHyatt

When we stopped momentarily at Plaza FX, we found a snack and coffee vendor who very happily posed for a photo. He made me laugh, a sound I couldn’t have heard in traffic. The intensity of the ride was finally winding down.

FxplazaCoffeevendor

I know. You’re thinking how naive I am, that many don’t have a choice about using a bicycle for work. If everyone rode only because they want to, where would that put the indominable human spirit? We ride because. And that should be enough.

By the time we reached our destination–the Selamat Datang monument near Plaza Indonesia–I had reached that point of abandonment to the joy of being out on a bike ride.

PlazaindonesiaPlazaindonesia2Plazaindonesiagrin

Getting off the bike, I looked up to see a fluorescent blue butterfly floating past. Life. This was the inevitable moment of the Ghost Bike Ride where you are very glad to be with others on two wheels. Across the square was a lone cyclist, also braving the traffic.

Lonecyclist

Across the street was a drinks and snacks vendor. For me, life was hitting the reset button.

DrinksvendorDrinksvendorboke

All this food reminded me how hungry I was becoming. People here generally don’t get the whole bike for transportation thing, so you always have to battle out the parking. After some back and forth, I left my bike in the capable hands of the JKT police. “Do you have a key for your lock?” he asked me, worried. Yes, I had a key. We locked against the rather disturbing barbed wire fence. You have to find these moments entertaining. The policeman and I shook hands warmly.

Sgtklunderguarded

On the ride home, we followed a vendor who was having trouble with pushing his bike uphill in the muggy heat. He stopped mid-hill and took a drink, before continuing onto work.

VendorthirstyVendorthirstyonhisway

And then, we found a tree wearing a peculiar skirt. “Is this a girl tree, or a boy tree?” I wondered, happily reminiscing something similar my daughter had said about a horse and his landing gear, years ago.

Girltree

I once read a fitting tribute to a guitar, which sums up my affection for Sargeant Klunder, my Jakarta bicycle.

Takes a beating and keeps on bleeding.

Plazaindonesiasgtklunder

Work, family, my bicycle. And most importantly for me, there are many other people out on bicycles. This woman and I met as I turned off Radio Dalam onto Kamboja. She was delivering snacks to my neighbourhood. Life is good.

Dijakarta

 

Wake up, comb my hair
Making food disappear
Riding bikes, making out
Elephants run you down

You and I run away, blushing cheeks
Howling wolves, colourful fireworks

Every time, everyone, everything’s full of life
Everyday, everywhere, people are so alive

We should all be (Oh Oh Oh) alive!
We should all be (Oh Oh Oh) alive!

Horfandi, þegjandi, tala við, skríðandi
Dreymandi, strjúka af, koma við ekki má
Mála á líkama, spilað á renglandi
Hlaupandi! Leikandi!

Get it on, let it out, fucking and spúandi
Get it on, let it out, fucking and kæfandi

We should all be (Oh Oh Oh) alive!
Exist all in love, in life!
We should all be (Oh Oh Oh) alive!
Let’s not stop, let’s grow and live!

I see you colourful : I see you in the trees
I see you spiritful : You’re in the breeze
I see it in your hands : Tree fingers draw a beam
I see you in the sand : Roll down the stream

I see you in the trees : I see you colourful
I see you in the breeze : You’re spiritful
Tree fingers draw a beam : I see it in your hands
You’re rolling down the stream : You’re in the sand

I see you colourful : I see you in the trees
I see you spiritful : You’re in the breeze
I see it in your hands : Tree fingers draw a beam
I see you in the sand : Roll down the stream

I see you in the trees : I see you colourful
I see you in the breeze : You’re spiritful
Tree fingers draw a beam : I see it in your hands
You’re rolling down the stream : You’re in the sand

I see you colourful : I see you in the trees
I see you spiritful : You’re in the breeze
I see it in your hands : Tree fingers draw a beam
I see you in the sand : Roll down the stream.

Jonsi: Animal Arithmetic

Mike Rankin, bike messenger. R.O.P. Ride On, People.

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