Report Back from Bike the Line Part 1

Bike the Line Part 1 finished over a week ago! Over the course of 11 days we biked over 100 miles and door-to-door canvassed over 300 homes (phew!) spread across the last four Michigan counties Line 5 runs through before heading into Sarnia, Ontario. We’re late in updating everyone due to being really busy catching up with life as well as what I’ll aptly call “rider’s” block. LOL

The riders' bikes, just before departing from Marysville City Park.
The riders’ bikes, just before departing from Marysville City Park.

Canvassing all those days was fun, stressful at times but we can already tell from the connections we made that it was worth it. Within minutes of biking away from the kickoff event in Marysville, we spoke at length with a community member who’s fighting Enbridge tooth and nail because of what Enbridge’s Line 5 operations are doing to her and her family’s health just outside of Marysville.

Soon after, we were actually granted a chance to tour the runways of the St. Clair International Airport, which Line 5 passes right through! We had already met with employees there earlier in the morning to discuss what the issues were surrounding Line 5, why it is controversial and needs to be shut down.

The wind displays a call to "Shut Down Line 5" as we tour the runways of the St. Clair Airport, which Line 5 passes right through!
The wind blows strongly on our “Shut Down Line 5” flag as we tour the runways of the St. Clair Airport, which Line 5 passes right through!

We proceeded to canvass a few dozen more homes before it got too late in the day to continue. And, despite an unfortunate incident which delayed us for 3 days (more on this to come!), we continued to reach out to community members along Line 5 for several more days.

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Reactions from folks were diverse. They were usually a mix of reactions to the issue of Line 5 and pipelines as well as reactions to just the fact of meeting a pair of bikers canvassing in the middle of farm country. It was definitely a unique experience. There were at least a few instances in which community members were so enamored by bikers traveling across the state to spread the no-line-5-gospel that we had their attention and almost could have said anything. 😉 But we stayed on point.

Pipeline markers like this are almost everywhere along the pipeline route. They're needed for quick pin-pointing of where Line 5 runs if (and when) a leak occurs.
Pipeline markers like this are almost everywhere along the pipeline route. They’re needed for quick pin-pointing of where Line 5 runs if (and when) a leak occurs.

We experienced a diversity of perspectives on the issues surrounding Line 5: immense opposition to Line 5 and a desire to fight it, opposition to Enbridge generally, indifference, neutrality, feelings that we need the crude, actual affection/love for fossil fuels in at least one case, etc. Some folks were pissed at what Enbridge did to them or to their neighbors, others felt that Enbridge was being good to them and took care of them, and still others weren’t particularly excited by Enbridge but were getting paid by them somehow and didn’t want to rock that relationship. In one particularly interesting case, one member of a husband-wife pair was supportive of Enbridge and had a good thing to say about them, while the other was ardently opposed to them and working against them in their own ways.

For many community members, it would seem easy for them to dissociate the pipeline running right through their roads and farmlands from the fact that it also happens to pose a constant threat to the Great Lakes at the Straits of Mackinac. For others, the issues with the pipeline crossing the Straits were clear and that was enough for them to have concern.

One of the bikers stands at the site of a 1993 leak of Line 5 on the outskirts of North Branch, MI.One of the bikers stands at the site of a 1993 leak of Line 5 on the outskirts of North Branch, MI.

There was a particularly interesting moment when we canvassed homes in the vicinity of a Line 5 pump station just outside of North Branch, one which was a few feet away from the site of a 200-gallon leak discovered by a community member in 1993. As it turned out, we ended up canvassing actual Enbridge workers of that selfsame pump station. One of them debated us about pipeline leaks. After claiming that Line 5 was pristine (even Enbridge doesn’t claim that, though their messaging is definitely mixed), he went on to say “but pipeline leaks are natural. Every time you go to the bathroom, that’s a leak.”

Don’t really know what to say about that, other than: wow. If you want to go there… yes, there are certain “pipelines” that “leak”, but that’s their job. It’s not Line 5’s “job” to leak, and it’s not acceptable as just its nature.

If this is the level of logic of an Enbridge Line 5 worker, it just further proves that we need to shut down Line 5 before it leaks, especially in the Straits.