I’d known Dave Salovesh for something like ten years before we ever met. When we did finally meet, it was because I was leaving the United States to live in the Netherlands, and I was selling some things. He bought my bike trailer.
Bikes and bike-things are personal, and it can be hard to let them go. It’s much better if they go to someone you know — to keep it “in the family,” as it were. I was really pleased that Dave wanted the trailer, and even more pleased when he texted me photos of errands he’d done with it. He was so tickled at the way it opened up the possibilities of what he could carry by bike, and I was tickled to be included in the Continuing Adventures of the Burley Flatbed.
It’s usually a little awkward the first time you meet online friends in real life, but occasionally it feels like you’re not so much meeting them as recognizing them. Dave was like that.
A lot of people have trouble understanding why I’d move across an ocean, by myself, just to be able to ride my bike in peace. Not Dave. I said something like “I just can’t do it anymore. And I’m not willing to give up the bike,” and he immediately did that emphatic nodding thing people do when they TOTALLY GET IT.
After he loaded the trailer into his car, we stood there in the parking lot of my storage unit chatting, the sort of biketalk that people who are of an age and have a similar love of bicycling do. Mostly I remember his face that day, the wry smile that seemed to live there, and the way I felt comfortable with him in a way I don’t with most people.
Dave was killed by a reckless driver 3 days ago, and when I heard the news, I kept seeing his face in that moment, over and over again, smiling that crooked smile.
I’m having trouble processing the reality that he’s actually gone. That I will never have a beer with him. That I will never meet his partner or his daughter. That I will never go on a goddamned bike ride with him.
The night before he died, I was up very late (the frat house next door was having another of their all-night parties), so I was actually awake for the #bikeschool twitter chat, which is where I’d first met Dave in, oh, about 2009. I wasn’t paying good attention to the chat, to be honest, but I saw a @darsal tweet pop up & thought “Oh hey Dave!” as I always did when I saw him on there, and favorited the tweet (because it was a good one). I wish I’d said hi properly. It would have been my last chance to talk with him.
The next day, after I heard, I kept thinking if they can do this to the strongest of us…
Dave was strong, but I’m talking about a rarer kind than physical strength (though he had that, too, of course). He was committed to telling difficult truths — and to persisting in telling them — even though that very often meant that people got uncomfortable and pushed back. I think he believed that making the streets safe for people on bicycles and feet (and mobility scooters and skateboards and…) was too important not to keep pushing, not to keep speaking the truth. And the truth is that it’s not safe in Washington, DC, and it’s not safe in any other US city, either.
That belief was something we shared — as well as a willingness to call out bullshit half-measures (although it’s more like microfraction-measures) and the kind of incrementalism and foot-dragging that gets people killed.
I left the US because I didn’t want to die like Dave did. I don’t want anyone to die like Dave did. I wish to hell Dave hadn’t died like Dave did.
One of the terrible things that’s run through my mind the last few days is wondering if he was aware in the last moment, if he knew what was happening. I hope it was so sudden that he didn’t have to know, but if he did, I’m pretty sure I know what he was thinking: OF FUCKING COURSE.
I’ve been riding around on my little old mixte every day since Dave was killed, watching the families go by, parents’ steadying hands on the backs of young children riding next to them. I can’t help thinking that if Dave’s family had lived here, he’d still be alive. I might have seen them in the flower fields yesterday, bikes propped on their kickstands (all bikes have kickstands here) while they stopped to smell the hyacinths — the whole field a cloud of perfume.
I’ve had a hard time looking at the photos of his friends crowded around the ghost bike. I keep expecting to see a furious @darsal tweet about the terrible death on Florida Ave., and it’s weird when someone retweets one of his tweets because for a moment, just a split-second, I think he’s back.
I want him to haunt us, to pop up with that Cheshire cat smile and make another wisecrack. He was so good at that. He was good at a lot of things. He was good at being a friend. A lot of people have mentioned times when they argued with Dave, when he drove them crazy, and they mention them with fondness. I find these stories deeply touching. That is how humans love one another, in real life. A lot of people loved Dave. He was a very human human, and a very good one. The world feels wrong without him; there’s a hollow where he should be.