In NYC especially, possession is 9/10ths of the law. On the streets that’s a stark reality. Today, I decided not to try to claim my 9/10ths, and just walked Lucille from around 40th to 43rd. New York is dangerous enough without standing on principle.
The Park was MOBBED – could barely find my way in: rappers and dancers, buskers and hustlers, lovers, wheelchairs and strollers – they were all out (where ELSE were they gonna go?)! Finally made it to the bike path, and just before launching, I removed a Kleenex from my pack and gave a preparatory blow.
Can we talk about hygiene? I am probably the only cyclist in history to carry Kleenex – and use it. It wasn’t an easy feat, especially in the beginning on Lucille, tippy as she is, to maintain this level of hygiene, but old habits die hard; if I had to pull over to the curb, that’s what I did. Noticing that I seemed to be alone here, I asked my nephew – the bike racer - in Minneapolis just how racers handle this situation. You can guess. Snot-avoidance seems to be just one of the many perks that goes with being at the front of the line. I however stick to my old routine and always bring a packet of Kleenex.
And I’ve gotten better at using it on the go. But although I’m right-handed, I blow much better with my right hand (so to speak) preferring to steer with my left. This comes from years of riding Redlight, where I relegated the steering to my left hand, so that I could hold the ice cream in my right, instantly revealing my priorities: in the event of an accident, save the Good Humor! The result is that I’m much better at signaling right than I am left. See how these things happen? The tiniest preferences can make all the difference
“But Officer, you don’t understand. It was the Good Humor that was to blame…”
Certainly today, navigation – not to say negotiation – was a bigger part of the ride than usual. Today was so wild, there were even police at the crosswalks – that’s a first! – protecting those hapless pedestrians. But as I rode further into the park, the sounds changed: sirens, back beats, general crowd noises began to fade, the air became fresher and in spite of the number of cyclists on the path (how many of these will make it up Fiend’s Hill I wondered?), the ride took on the meditative nature of an almost normal bike ride.
Until some mad man came right at me from the left, reared up and did a wheelie right across my path, nearly ending my bike riding career on the spot. That’s the problem with bike riding: there’s no insurance. Just as I think guns should be registered – just registered, even THAT would be good – bikes, as vehicles should be issued only with licenses and all cyclists should carry insurance. Yes, I know it will never happen. Otherwise, we would never be able to afford Chinese delivery, and what’s more important? Still it does make you wonder…
We sped around towards Fiend’s Hill, and as I had expected early on, groups of tourists were already walking their bikes up with their guides. Me and Lucille made it up in 3rd gear – the best yet – breathing evenly and (dare I say it?) almost effortlessly. Alongside a guy with four Sprinkle Terriers (Yorkshire) in baskets 2 in front and 2 in back. After that, it was only slightly disconcerting as we crested, to see an ambulance with lights on, stopped at the side of the hill. In NYC you don’t always have time to ask what happened; we just went on.
And that’s City biking. In Minneapolis, you can ride for miles and never be disturbed or distracted by the kinds of obstacles you have here. But it’s such a long commute to the theatre. Only this morning, I went to hear Alan Ayckbourn speak at 59 East 59th, and ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in ages in Hells Kitchen going to a different play the same day. We caught up briefly before going our separate ways.
This would never happen in Minneapolis, although it’s heaven on earth for cycling, especially in the Spring. It’s like that eternal conversation about Los Angeles vs New York – it will never really be solved.
So which one would I choose?
Buy me a Good Humor and I’ll tell you.