There is no bike path on my street. And anyway, traffic is going the wrong direction if you want to get to Riverside Park. Riding unofficially on the sidewalk is a great way to test if I've gotten the seat post at the right height before I hit traffic, gives me time to make corrections. And it's only half a block. I go slow (and frequently dismount). But she was clearly pissed off.
I see her point. To NY pedestrians it must seem - especially since the introduction of the Citi Bike - that they have no rights at all anymore; that bikes rule, that it's the Wild West; that all streets are becoming like Central Park on the weekends. The delivery guys are a hazard. They run lights, go down streets the wrong way and yes, ride on the sidewalk routinely (and fast too). Many of the Citi Bikes are ridden by tourists who either don't understand, or don't care about our traffic laws.
At the same time I know the protocol this woman used to address me. In a city as tightly packed as we are here, there are very strict rules for addressing strangers. One of them is to first make sure that you're bigger than they are, or that for some reason they can't fight back. I clearly fit the latter category, in her opinion - a little humbling - and I'm sure humbled is what she wanted me to feel. I passed her and dismounted, considering myself chastened (she was right after all).
Then took the bike lane going in the wrong direction to get to my starting point - hey there was nobody on it!
There was something more than just the objection to my sidewalk riding in that remark, and the toxicity of it stuck with me for awhile as I made my way to the River. But after a few blocks of good breathing (it was the weekend, traffic on the West Side highway was light), Lucille and I left both her and her bad attitude behind, and headed for the two promenades to see how they looked after the rain. Yesterday:
Decided to make a day of it and go up to the George Washington Bridge. That trip involves some concentration because the pavement has buckled in many spots (tree roots I'd guess), so I was surprised to hear someone call my name as she passed. I stopped and looked around, and there was a friend of mine, who also happens to be training for a bike tour in Europe. We had been talking about joining a bike group for a day trip the following day. She has a lot more biking experience than I do, so when she speaks, I listen. She counseled me to get a water bottle, an extra inner tube and a patch kit for this trip, just in case. Neither of us knows how to change or fix a tire, mind you; but if there's one sport that relies on the kindness of strangers, biking is it. We figured there would be someone who would come to our rescue if the need arose. Meanwhile, this would necessitate a trip back to BFold (the only bike store I trust with Lucille's affairs), but Lucille was due for at tune up anyway.
I continued on to the Bridge - and made it up the adjacent hill, teetering all over the road. When I got to the top, I parked Lucille, stood on an outcropping of schist (yes, I spelled that right), and took in the view. On days like this, you can't help thinking that this is how the Hudson must have looked the first time Henry saw it (without the Bridge and those buildings of course). Breath taking.
As we returned home mission accomplished, I reflected on the tone with which the day had begun.
You know, there was a time I wouldn't not venture into Central Park as a pedestrian for fear of my life, even though I lived just a couple of blocks away: the bikes, the scooters, the skate boards; the rappers and dancers. It seemed pure pedestrian hell - why would I ever go there? And yet now, it's one of my favorite places to go. It's true, riding a bike on the sidewalk is inconsiderate and if there were a bike lane on my street I would never do it (and shouldn't do it anyway). On the other hand, if there is a toxic element to your life, you'd be surprised how easily a ride on a good bike can turn it around.
Sometimes if you can't beat 'em, it's just easier to join 'em.