Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Thursday, October 1, 2009
An obese thirtysomething wielding a silver Lexus SUV nearly knocked me off my bicycle on Brooklyn Bridge Boulevard today. That stretch of road has a green path on the right with white spray-painted bike icons (bicons?) every ten yards, but that didn't stop this douche from veering into my lane as if to "peek" around the mass of traffic ahead. Compressed between him & an illegally parked mail truck, I pounded on the side of his car to avoid being crushed. He glanced right and I saw the cellphone on his ear. He jerked back into his lane, then veered out once again. I passed him and made an extra effort not to look in his direction.
Thirty seconds later on Atlantic Avenue he honked incessantly as he pulled up behind me at a busy intersection, courting me with a "what gives?" look; I wheeled up alongside his window.
"You were driving in the bike lane and nearly killed me!" He shrugged and mouthed, "Whatever" in slow motion. I pounded on his window and summoned my menacing face, "I took your fucking license plate number! I'm calling the cops right now! You're fucked!" He locked his doors. Of course I had no idea what his license plate number was. I rhythmically pounded an extended middle finger against his window. Some evidently drunk house painters driving by said, "Punch his hood, man, punch the hood!" I spat on his window instead, and rode off.
Within seconds, I heard a screech, followed by the dopplerized bleat of a speeding, honking car. He blasted past, blew a red light at Hicks, blew a red light at Henry, and came to jerky stop at the base of Atlantic Avenue where crossing traffic blocked his passage. I passed him again and made an extra effort not to look in his direction.
Thursday, September 24, 2009
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
I rode home tonight in a strong thunderstorm. Each raindrop was a fluid ounce. Traction and visibility were out of the question. The bike lane, a place that begs—and renders—constant hazard, is especially dangerous in conditions like this. Motorists are agitated, and they keep whipping in and out of the protected lane, as if to peek around gridlock traffic. Some even squeeze through and speed past their less audacious counterparts. There were big dirty raindrops in my eyes and I couldn't help but feel a little endangered. One car barged in, braking inches from my revolving shins. I shouted. The window rolled down and a kind-eyed older man said, with apparent remorse, "I'm sorry!" I glared. I think I said, "You're gonna kill somebody," or some PG admonition like that (I have tried to stopped cursing on the road) and rode on. He yelled after me, over the din of the rain and traffic, a vitriolic "Fuck You!" His mock remorse didn't instantly earn him a pardon, so he gave it up and reverted back to blind rage.
It reminded me of a story I just read about an off-duty firefighter who shot a cyclist in the head because he thought the biker was endangering himself. Amazingly the victim was unharmed (wear your helmets, kids).
I think the message here is, "If you don't acknowledge I'm looking out for your best interests, I'm going to kill you."
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
I went for a long bike ride on Sunday.
By "long" I mean 40 miles; I am working up to a century. I like the idea of pedaling every last inch of 100 miles.
I left my house in Brooklyn at 7am to avoid the crowds, but ended up running into the New York City Triathlon on 96th street and Riverside Park. The participants were just emerging from the water and running, dripping, barefoot, to their bikes. I heard one ask as he ran, "Did you feel a current? I like, didn't feel any fuckin' current at all!"
My intended route was totally blocked by wet running people, orange temporary fencing, and otiose police officers. I asked one of the officers, "Excuse me, do you know how far up the path is blocked?"
He said, "How the fuck did you get here?"
I said, "On my bike."
He said. "Oh, we got a smart ass here."
So I biked off in the opposite direction and found my own way.
Monday, June 22, 2009
For months it simply doesn't occur to you. You pass the same way every day without incident. Then an abrupt unevenness enters your consciousness, a notable variation in pace and stability, the unmistakable grinding of grit in the road. It's dead flat.
Now you get a flat every day. You say to friends, "Man, I got a flat tire every day this week!" They ask, "Same wheel?"
No! A pinch in the front. Glass in the back. Bad tube in the front, followed by what looks like half a staple in the back. A leak too slow to identify, but a leak nonetheless. One insightful passerby said the constant rain brings the sharpest shards to the surface.
I was repairing my third flat when I met a homeless man named David. He introduced himself by noting I had tools. He asked if he could borrow my tools to repair his bike—a beaten white bmx significantly too small for him. He had to go just a few blocks to the men's shelter to get the front wheel off another bike. I replied I wasn't in the habit of loaning my tools, but I could come with him.
David spoke in broad terms: Hell of a day. Traffic's crazy. New York really is the meltin' pot, you know? It takes all kinds. Between that and the bike-talk, it was easy to keep the conversation moving.
The men's shelter is in a giant mid-century neo-gothic municipal nightmare right next to the hospital. Tall concertina fencing obliterates whatever charm may have lain within those stones. To get around to the entrance you have to pass through an interminable temporary walkway, very narrow for a bike and full of uncomfortable murmured conversations.
In the claustrophobic courtyard I saw a man with large teardrops tattooed on his cheek. I heard old men discussing Henry Winkler. The security guard was armed.
The favor was done and I left without much ceremony. On the way out I heard one man say to another man,
"Noooo, nigga! He be sellin' loosies? Oh, shit. That nigga be sellin' loosies!"