Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Bike Wreck

I was biking home one day in late Summer. I hit someone. It was unseasonably cool out.

I bike aggressively, riding as fast as possible and shouting at vehicles and pedestrians. On the Brooklyn Bridge there's a distinctly marked bike lane, but it's packed with people staring directly up, consulting maps, phones and cameras. Pointing at things in the distance. Losing control of strollers. Engaging in long, wandering kisses with eyes closed, backing slowly into the path of a fast biker.

You have to weigh your desire to hit them with the possibility of long-term consequences. The climb up the Manhattan side of the bridge is safe enough because you're slow and easy to hear, but thundering down the other side is dicey. It's like taking an ATV on a crowded beach — you're totally focussed, shouting "Watch out," "Head's up," or "Move!," and the hapless public are adrift in another world. Mostly they snap to, literally throw up their hands, gasp, scream, and are pulled into their lane by fathers or friends. 

I made it through the worst and was sailing cooly toward the final descent when my accident happened. There were pedestrians walking purposefully in their assigned lane, and I was one of several bikes passing them in the bike lane. The process seemed complete when a lady emerged from the herd and bent over an open backpack right in my path. I could have been going 25 mph. She was facing away from me and I was mere feet behind her, a concrete wall to my right and a clot of human beings to my left. I hit her rear-end so squarely that my momentum was fully transferred to her. I came to a complete halt and she catapulted, leapfrog-like, through the air, actually landing on her feet as if completing the standing long jump. She cried out and it was clear she was Italian. 

I had collided with a beautiful Italian lady. She stood stock-still for a full instant, then began to take huge, deliberate steps, her body rigid. Her arms were waving in small circles. She was repeating, "Ayayayayayayai," and touching her buttocks. A few people had stopped. A hairy guy in a sleeveless t-shirt said, "You should watch where you're goin!" A lady in a visor and sunglasses said, "Crazy fucking bikers."

I made sure the lady was ok. I gave her all my information, ostensibly in case there were any long-term complications arising from our chance meeting. The smell of burning rubber lingered from my skidding.

She was earnestly trying to buck up and kept nodding to herself like, "you're okay!"

By now she was walking, talking, and ready to leave. I apologized as sincerely as I knew how, wincing and half-smiling a lot. "I'm really, really sorry."

She clutched her backpack to her chest and looked about, beholding the city. She turned to me, eyes full of water, and spoke:

"Do you know where is River Cafe?"

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