The sun glistened off my bike tires that late October (2014) evening as I made my way across Colorado State’s University campus. I always dreamed of this moment, but it came when I least expected it. If you have not heard, almost all college campuses have what they call “bike cops”. And it is exactly what it sounds like: cop on a bike. Not a motorcycle. A bicycle. It is as silly as it sounds and even better in person. To see a bike cop for the first time with their matching uniforms (polo shirt and bike shorts), walkie talkies, fanny packs and goggles…is intimidating to say the least, and I mean least. I used to think to myself, “who on earth becomes a bicycle cop?” I still remember seeing about five of these “cops” on campus chasing a poor skateboarder who decided to keep skating passed the dismount zone (the area on campus where you must “dismount” and walk your bike or hold your skateboard- or rollerblades).
He grabbed hold of his board and ran inside the nearest building and these “cops” jumped off their bikes and chased him in the building. I never saw if he got caught, but the crowd of students went wild and were cheering for the skateboarder; it was a memorable moment. The thrill seeker in me always thought it would be a bucket list worthy “check-mark” (If I had a bucket list) to outrun these men in fanny packs and goggles. It was rumored that they were not actually cops, just students interested in law enforcement, and if you got off campus, they could no longer give you tickets or pursue the chase any longer. Don’t get me wrong, I am a Traditional Roman Catholic very much interested in abiding by the law and of course want to DEFEND the police (not defund). But bicycle cops? It was just laughable. Even looking at them was hysterical, with their serious faces while wearing a fanny pack. I was always the kid that liked being spun in a circle by my mom even if it made me fall. I got up and wanted her to do it again! You could say somewhere in the back of my mind, I felt the same way about secretly wanting to outrun these “cops” on my bicycle if I ever had the chance.
I had my fair share of run-ins with these bike cops. So much so, that the head of the bike cops knew my name. “Miss Banks…Miss Banks!” The day the sun glistened off my bike tires was a day to remember. I did not usually go through the university when I got off work from Ace Hardware, but for some reason-that day- I took a detour and cut across campus. There they were. In the distance, ready for “action”! Five bike cops were “parked” by the intramural fields next to the gym. Oh, I saw them. The reasons they always stopped me in the past were for going up one-way streets, running stop signs on campus (only when no pedestrians or cars were in site, sheesh), not having your bike registered or the famous “you went past the dismount zone”. All these encounters were eye roll worthy, when I remember them handing out tickets to students for these reasons- hourly. I mean, “get a life” I would think to myself. Anyway, where was I? Yes, I saw them. They saw me…we saw each other. I remember thinking, “there can’t possibly be anything I have done wrong this time”. What was that? Oh… oops, I just ran a stop sign. Was that always there? Out of the corner of my eye I saw them mount and take off after me.
At that particular moment in my life, I was wearing headphones. I do not remember the song I was listening to; however, it occurred to me that the timing was impeccable for some theme music. I began peddling faster, music going…. nearby students and pedestrians began to watch. Without hearing, I am sure they were saying “Miss…Miss. (maybe even Miss Banks) “. Before becoming a nun, I had a strange liking for British flags and my backpack at the time was a British flag Jansport. I must admit, I was trying to make this a sort of movie moment chase scene, as I passed by the student gym that had a perfect view from the inside for the students on their treadmills and exercise bikes. It was a crowded part of the day; students were going home and these bike cops and myself were right in the middle of it all. I finally slowed down; the main guy caught up. I did not really intend to outrun him and his crew, I just thought for a split second maybe I could fulfill my secret dream of outrunning these fanny packed men. When we began talking though, things grew serious. He told me not only did I run a stop sign, but that it was illegal to bike with no hands in the state of Colorado. I was not going to let them take away the best part about biking. No hands, absurd!
You might think that the chase is over at this point, right? I stopped and got off. Here is the twist. The chase really begins right here. Right then, as I was face to face with this “cop”. I told him I was tired, had a bad day and quite honestly did not feel like dealing with these fake cops. Oh yes, I did my research; these men really were just interns, students from the university. That’s why they could not carry guns, they were not legally law enforcement. Yes, they worked for the University Police Station, but years later students protested that these “students” had no authority to pass out tickets to other students. That job goes to the real law enforcement. Anyhow, I looked him in the eye and said:
My name is so and so, send me a bill.
This is where it really began and without truly giving it any proper thought, discernment- you know- asking God if this is a really bad idea… I jumped on my bike. Before taking off, he said one thing: “don’t run”. I did! “What am I doing”? Apart of me was really having an inner battle. “You can still stop” I told myself. The other part of me “But, you have already committed”. Talk about the good angel vs bad angel scene. Then it turned into a cartoon scene, as my headphones fell out of both ears and full on twisted themselves perfectly in my bike tires. I did not need theme music anymore, anyway. Sheer panic started to kick in as I heard the main bike cop start radioing his “team” for back up. That’s right, there were five of them. But when he stopped me, it was just him. Where did they go and where did they come from? I began scouting out my surroundings and to my great surprise there was a bike cop coming at me from my left. Did I want to look to my right? Might as well; there was a bike cop to my right, too. Not to mention the one behind me. At this point I was away from the gym and off the intramural fields in the student parking lot filled with cars and students coming on and off campus.
I began dodging cars, pedestrians and from all sides closing in on me, were his “back up”. The whole team of the fantastic five bicycle police were closing in on me from every angle. My only option was pedal faster on my cheap 55-dollar bike from Big Five. I began to have the scenarios going off in my mind of what would happen if they got me. Would it actually be possible to be arrested by bicycle cops? (Thank GOD they did not have guns!) I did not want to find out. But remember when I said that once you were off campus, they can’t pursue the chase? Off in the near, but distant horizon, blocked by cars and pedestrians, in the student lot of cars, was the end of university boundaries. I had but one way: forward (remember Lot’s wife!). I had one more minor problem. To get off the University property, you had to get past the signal, which was not so fortunate or easy in my case, because it was a main street. Students waiting to leave in their cars leaving the lot often waited a good 3-5 minutes before the light changed to green. “NO, this light never changes”, I thought! This is where they are going to get me. Never pray to get out of things you should have not done in the first place, but I needed Jesus and Mary. My prayer to them:
I am so sorry, I am a terrible daughter, but please save me! I don’t know why I did this, but I need You! Make the light change please please please Jesus and Mary!!
I was approaching the signal, heading toward the bike lane, the bike cops getting closer on all sides, I knew if the light did not change, I was finished. Please Jesus and Mary…BING! Right at that very second, the light changed to green! I couldn’t believe it; I biked across the street as fast as I could without looking back. Only forward. The nearest thing to me was a row of student housing and I finally “dismounted” and walked my bike, more like ran it behind the apartments and waited behind the building in a row of trees and bushes. I caught my breath. I was absolutely ready to never leave that spot. But, it was true, they really could not get me off campus. My curiosity allowed me to tip toe out and check the signal where I last left the squad of antagonists and I saw all five of them swarming that signal back and forth looking for me. Few! I actually made it; a part of me still could not believe it! Of course, I thanked Jesus and Mary. But am I some sort of criminal? I walked my bike quickly across the street. Only a few streets over was my University Catholic Church, where there was daily confession before the 5:15 student Mass. I better find out and seek sanctuary in the Church just in case.
I basically ran in the confessional: “Forgive me Father for I have sinned it’s been x and x amount of time since my last confession…..
Father…I JUST OUTRAN THE BIKE COPS”.
Father’s expression and words are so memorable: “You what?” Jesus truly speaks through the confessional; all I can say apart from my penance of only an Our Father, Hail Mary and a Glory Be, Father told me Our Lord would take care of everything and I absolutely did not have to worry. Although Father never let me live that story down. He just laughed and laughed when he remembered it. I still remember telling him that if SEEMED like God was on my side with making the light change when I prayed for it. He proceeded to say, “or it was Satan.” Oh brother, no… I guess if it really WAS Jesus and Mary helping me that faithful day, then it proves They do not see bike cops as Law Enforcement either… just a thought.
I went to Mass and gave my worries to Our Lady. That night, however, I still had a shift at the college veterinary hospital. I biked to work and I was feeling pretty paranoid. I think I decided not to wear the British flag backpack so as to “lay low”. I was pretty scared. I walked in the lobby to clock in and what do you know! I see an actual Police Officer waiting in the lounge. Our eyes locked and he gave me the kind of smile that says: “I know everything.” Act natural, I told myself. I smiled and continued on my way. “He definitely knows! But why isn’t he stopping me?” I only had a three-hour shift, and nothing happened. I began to breathe, again.
After clocking out, I was making my way through the same old lobby and the same cop was there. This time he put his hand up and used his index finger and motioned me to come to him. The thought that kept coming up over and over was: he knows. Oh he definitely knows. As if he read my mind, the first words out of his mouth were- “I know it was you.” I laughed a casual nervous laugh. “What are you referring to?” He gave me a sly smile- “I know you outran the bike cops today.” The best part was he leaned in and in a low voice said-“ look, I know you don’t think they are actual law enforcement- I don’t either-but now the actual cops are after you and they are planning on arresting you when they find you.”
Why isn’t this guy arresting me, then, I thought? Remember Father said Our Lord would take care of everything? The cop proceeded to say, “I am just warning you; you seem like a respectable young lady; I would never want to come in here at your job and make you look bad (that’s why he waited!), here is my name (handed me a sticky note) go to the University Police department first thing in the morning and talk to my boss. Say you know me, and you will be alright! Turn yourself in while there is still time.” Turn myself in? This is starting to sound like I am a wanted criminal. I was certainly learning my lesson. I was so grateful to God for sending this man! Years later I ran into him at Ace Hardware during one of my shifts. He wasn’t in a uniform, but I still thought he looked familiar, he said the same thing: “do I know you?… HEY YOU OUTRAN THE BIKE COPS” with a giant smile. We laughed about it, and he asked what my future plans were and when I said I wanted to be a nun, he couldn’t get over it (neither could I). He wished me all the best. I know, a future nun who outran bike cops. That’s not one he probably heard before. That man was a God sent and I was so glad the opportunity presented itself to give him a proper thank you!
Sidenote: After everything was smoothed over, I worked for a company called Landmark Event Staff, where, for major college events at Colorado State, like football games what have you, you stand and guard certain areas as a sort of security guard. I was always placed at the top of the football stadium, the best view to be found, where the cameras were rolling and near “replay officials” who watch the game from up top replay footage etc. It was the best spot in the house, and before football became a woke joke, I was a big fan. Landmark Event Staff, ironically enough, are likened to bike cops, we are students who get paid to be there, have no real authority, but get paid to stand there, watch, and wear a yellow pollo shirt to at least make you look important. One memorable game I was “standing watch” when the very bike cop who chased me months earlier, along with a number of fellow “bike cops” came up there to also “watch”. Our eyes met and it was an instant recognition. I can’t help but smile to myself now that I was supposed to be in the place of “security”… like them… but I acted as a criminal, which had an irony of its own.
That following morning after speaking with the nice cop at the vet clinic, I breathed in and tried to play it calm. I pulled open the double doors to the University Police Department and walked up to the secretary window. “Hi, my name is so and so….I uh… outran the bike cops yesterday and I’m… uh… turning myself in”. Okay, I got all of that out, thankfully the station was dead, or I would have had to whisper that. “Oh! Please take a seat over there and we will be with you shortly.” I walked over to the lounge where I did everything BUT lounge. I pulled out my rosary and prayed- begged- Our Lady to get me out of this mess; in a short time, I had a shift at Ace that morning. The head officer came out and after saying who I was and what I had done, he said: “that was you?” He said in an incredibly serious tone and in a British accent (Hey! He’s British- according to my backpack and ancestry.com- I am 60+% British- maybe he will have sympathy for his own kind). My first thought in my mind was, wow! After he said, “that was you?” I wanted to say- “Yeah, I outran all your 5 guys in fanny packs, I know! Pretty admirable, huh?” Of course, I didn’t say that, but I really did not realize how serious the situation was.
He proceeded to say how much trouble I caused the day before, with all of his men having to chase after me and the breaking of the law, choosing to run etc. I clung to my rosary saying Hail Mary’s as he chastised me. He then took my student ID and said he was very glad I turned myself in as they would be looking for me today, and I gave him the name of the nice cop from the sticky note whom I faithfully obeyed. He continued by saying that he needed to take my ID to his office and think my situation over and to remain in the lounge. No problem, I’ll just finish my rosary! The minutes that felt like hours rolled on by. But, I had so much confidence in my heavenly Mother, I knew She was going to get me out of this. I indeed learned my lesson and I was trying to make things right. “Miss Banks.” (Haven’t heard that one before) The British officer came back in, handed back my ID back and said because of my cooperation- “I am not going to put this on your criminal record (Few! “outruns bicycle cops” on job resume). However, you will be receiving a 175-dollar ticket today: 45 dollars for running a stop sign, 45 dollars for biking with no hands and -my personal favorite- 85 dollars for disobedience” (ironic that just a few years later I would be taking a vow of obedience in religious life).
I told him to add it to my already overdue student account, we shook hands and I was on my way. Everything truly happens for a reason, because when I became a Carmelite, one evening at recreation the Mother Superiors wanted to go around the room and ask each sister what was the most daring thing she had ever done. I smiled, as I knew exactly what story I would tell.
Dedicated to my favorite Mother of all time! On Her First Saturday and for always getting me out of trouble.
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