Whatever it is, this guy isn’t using it.
Today, the first day of Spring that is both warm and clear, something’s in the air; the bad behavior is off the charts – and it’s everywhere. Cars are standing in crosswalks (as if this will get them to their destination any faster).
Such confusion that today, I step out of my own set of permissible behavior and for a total of 5 seconds, ride in the pedestrian (jogging) lane.
Lying in wait for me is this rider.
My good mood just seems to piss her off – she thinks I don’t take her seriously. She continues her reproach, whining on about last year’s pedestrian deaths in Central Park. Lola and I put on speed hoping to put distance between us, but she catches up when we run straight into a red traffic signal and squeal to a halt. There are no pedestrians, but we stand there anyway, side by side. The last thing I want is to give this woman ammunition – nobody loves a smart ass.
At which point she decides to make nice. “It’s a long learning curve,” she says in her nicest First Grade Teachery voice. I look straight ahead. By now, I’m fuming (even though I know I was wrong). Does this lecture never stop?
Just in time, I am rescued by a couple of cyclists heading straight for us, going the wrong direction. This gets her full attention, and I’m off the hook. The light turns green and Lola and I burn rubber as we make our getaway. I can hear the reprimand droning on in the distance. Sigh.
On a day like this, she has her work cut out for her.
Meanwhile, Lola and I have done three hill repeats: one standing on the pedals, a second in middle gear, and a third in granny gear (which hardly counts; I wasn’t even breathing hard).
So I head home - but the bad behavior hasn’t stopped.
Just two days ago the City Council, in an effort to bring more sanity to the situation, banned cell phone use by cyclists. It’s a good first step – we don’t want drivers using them either - but it’s like trying to legislate morality. Because cyclists take their cue from pedestrians (which is where we all started). And pedestrians in New York are outlaws at heart.
How do you change the mind set of a populace that essentially has no rights? Or rather, has rights but often enough has to defend them posthumously? I recently learned that a person is killed every 32 hours from car collisions. And hitting (or killing) a pedestrian? It's a misdemeanor.
The Central-Park-Know-It-All I met today was doing her part (if annoyingly). And I was certainly at fault. So what’s the answer?
Central Park will have to ban cars, at least in the Summer (I think that's coming). As for the rest of the City, I am pinning my hopes on a saner street layout. There are a few "Complete Streets" in Manhattan – 1st Ave, most of 8th and 9th Avenues, Columbus. The goal is to make the rules for pedestrians, cars and cyclists so clear, that we will gradually fall into line and actually obey them. And of course it starts with me.
Until such time, perhaps I’d better learn the signal for backing into an intersection.
And if you want to know what that is, I'll sell you a bridge.