PLEASE NOTE – I wrote this article in early October, but never published it. My cousin Stephanie asked me if I stopped writing. I have slowed down significantly, but am now inspired to keep going (thanks Steph)!
We are now in what I believe is the best month in New York. December brings holiday cheer and awesome energy into the city. That doesn’t mean that everything is hunky dory. This is still a big place with plenty of self important people. Daily battles continue between machine, bike and man (pedestrian). I continue to dodge all obstacles, take verbal abuse and have been hit by a car since I wrote the post below. DON’T WORRY, my bike is ok….
So here we go:
Every year or so I go through what I will call the “New York City Blues” or NYC Blues, a mental slump where the city seems extremely intense, it’s inhabitants unusually ornery and said feelings begin to wear on your soul. Questions materialize about your place in the world – “What am I doing here? Why is everyone such a jackass?”, etc., etc. Then you snap out of it, realize you have been a wanker and find humor in the hyper-reality that is NYC.
October brought me out of my September NYC Blues – funk. I had an amazing August, traveling to Italy for ten days, eating, socializing with future family and cycling in the countryside and mountains of the Emilio Romagna region. I returned refreshed and rejuvenated.
Then September started. Someone close to me, my nearest and dearest got hit by a car – all things considered SHE IS OK, but currently laid up and off the bike. HUGE BUMMER. Work related, I hustle and have my best month to date within my fitness career. Work is going extremely well, but outside on the streets is where things get tough, my patience is getting tested.
Pedestrians and motorists alike are particularly aggressive. Perhaps the pending close of summer and smack of reality of the forthcoming school year left a bad taste in their mouth, that, they would undoubtedly take out on everyone within striking distance. In the first week of the month, I had more close calls being clipped by cars than I care to recall.
BUT – Here are my Top Four Interactions. The last one brought me out of my September bout of NYC Blues.
**Quick disclaimer, in all moments listed below I am riding legally, with the right of way, in broad daylight**
1. Heading north in the bike lane on Amsterdam I’m about to go through the intersection at W. 73rd. Pedestrians are off the curb littered throughout the bike lane and westernmost lane while traffic is darting at them. Then just as I am about to weave through a gap that appeared in the bike lane, a 300 lb middle-aged man steps into the space, looks at me in the eye and tells me in his best Queens accent “to use the f*ckin’ bike lane”. Pure gold. If I had to spit at the time, I would have.
2. Again, heading north in the bike lane on 8th Ave in Midtown. An older “gentleman” ,seemingly on hard times, is walking towards me with a massive bag of empty plastic bottles, using the bike lane as his own private corridor. As I steer my bike to the right to avoid him, he intentionally extends his arm hitting my rear wheel with his recently mined trash bag full of plastic gold, exclaiming that I am a “stupid asshole”. No spit available at this time.
3. Heading north on 3rd Avenue after teaching cycling on the Upper East Side. Riding at about 30 MPH on the west side of a subtle downhill from about 93rd Street through 101 Street, I separate myself from motor traffic behind me. A lone cyclist from the east side of the Avenue decides to cross at a painstakingly slow pace. This young man stares me down the entire time taking his time to position himself directly in front of me as I cross the intersection. I pump the breaks a bit, then decide this guy probably wasn’t spanked enough as a child and is clearly still deserving of such reprimand as an adult, and proceed to blow by in front of him. What I did was probably unnecessary. Both of us likely did not learn any lessons.
4. Heading north in the bike lane of Central Park West (seems to be a trend, prhaps there are so few people when I am heading south to work the percentage of me being abused reduces dramatically as opposed to when I am on my way home), a large work van and I leapfrog each other in traffic for a few blocks up to the 86th Street Transverse across Central Park. From the left the van creeps up from behind me as he slowly pulls into the bike lane to cut me off. No turn signal indicating his intentions. COME ON PEOPLE!
There is an ENTIRE lane to turn from, yet the three foot wide bike lane appears to be the place he needs to be to be able to make this turn, behind some four other cars. With care, I pull into the now open right lane and with zero animosity in my voice, yell a friendly reminder of “TURN SIGNALS!!!” into his window as I passed by. I will not attempt to recreate his gerund laced response, just say that it was a more akin to a response for someone who had wished terminal illness on his whole family as they bludgeoned his firstborn into a stupor. I pedaled off laughing, officially having returned to my normal self.
Big thank you to New York for being the big, angry, dirty, smelly, awesome, beautiful place that you are. You always keep me honest.
If anyone has any crazy New York City or NYC Blues tales of woe, please detail. If there are any cyclists/pedestrians/motorists who have experienced similar insanity, please comment below. It does not have to be in NYC, though New Yorkers’ tend to take pride in their ability to break any and all traffic laws.
P.S. The next write up with be a completely different tone. Just don’t hold your breath. I tend to be slow.