I'm on my way to join The Bromptoneers, a jolly band of Brompton riders, who gather at NYCeWheels for a weekly ride. I arrive at 85th and York as planned - then turn right around: we’re headed back to Central Park. I’m a little anxious about how we will fit into the already crowded scene there. This is the first sight to greet us upon entry at 86th St. Kind of wonderful.
We pass the turn off at 105th, and I realize we will be tackling Fiend’s Hill. Hooray! Fiend’s Hill is a tough-love friend if you bike in Central Park. It will tell you whether you’re in the shape you think you’re in, whether your state of mind is what you had thought it was, what the humidity really is, whether you brought the right bike. It’s a great barometer.
You can always tell you’re at Fiend’s Hill by this sight.
And it strikes me that one of the reasons I’ve improved climbing Fiend’s Hill, is that I have the advantage of knowing just how long my struggle will be. Like a familiar adversary, Fiend’s Hill and I have sized each other up. Today, I am the master. But that could change if I don’t come here for a few days.
We round the southern end of the Park and I decide to leave the Bromptoneers when they exit at 86th – no point in riding back to the far East Side. I’ll do the loop one more time and take the subway home. We wave good bye as we go our separate ways, and it’s up Fiend’s Hill one more time.
As I come down the other side, there is a conveyance I haven’t seen in the Park: a garbage truck, towing a skate boarder (hard to spot but he was there).
New York has always been a dangerous city. And there are enough ghost bikes around to remind us all how dangerous cycling can be here. As cyclists, we’ve long been accustomed to thinking of ourselves as the minority. As potential victims. And certainly that’s an aspect of cycling in NY. But something is shifting in the Park. And it’s not because of Citi Bikes and rental bikes there – these are far too clunky to pose a threat to anybody.
My recollection of Central Park up to now, is that it was a sort of controlled chaos, but it basically worked if you kept your wits about you. Pedestrians had their numbers going for them, cyclists their speed. But now the number of cyclists has reached a critical mass and it’s threatening the balance. The tragedy that occurred two days ago never should have happened. And it simply cannot be repeated.
As cyclists, we've always depended on the kindness of strangers for our activity. If we abuse that kindness, we will be dealing with a word I am increasingly hearing, “Bikelash.” Already there are those who would like to take some of our privileges away (The Post is one of those).
As our numbers have grown in the Park, we are going to have to reframe how we see ourselves - no longer as the minority, as victims, but as a powerful and even dangerous contingent. And that means taking on the responsibility that power confers. Let’s see what happens.