Saturday I took out the bike again to pedal across Manhattan to Randall’s Island for a game of touch football. It was my first venture out into traffic with my little blue bike, so I made sure to wear my helmet and to be extra careful. Even so, I definitely still have some things to learn. A truck and I got into an argument about who should have the right of way at the traffic circle on 110th by Central Park. The truck won the argument.
Things went more smoothly as I sailed through Harlem. I whizzed around a taco truck, sang along to an old R&B song from middle school blasting from a car, and gave myself a mental pat on the back for cranking myself up and over the footbridge to Randall’s Island. Hills are hard, y’all.
I passed a few teammates as they walked to the field. “Oh my God! I love your bike!” One of the girls cried. I chatted for a bit while I circled around them, and then went on to the turf field. My teammate Teddy burst out laughing when he saw me come rolling in, but he was the first person after the game to jank it and go pedaling off down the street. Anyway, I wasn’t the only one with the idea to bike over to Randall’s Island. I chained my bike up to the fence next to five other bikes, at least. Not as crowded as Brooklyn, but it’s a start.
We lost the football game, unfortunately, but was such a great day, hardly anyone minded. One of the girls had a friend who is a rugby player (A female rugby player, no less), so we all headed over to the rugby fields where we could find free beer and barbecue, and watch muscular men pound each other to bits. I could feel my skin burning in the bright sun as I hung out, but I didn’t care. After a long winter, I need more sunshine in my life.
Somebody got the idea to get ice cream and go to Sheep Meadow in Central Park, so we walked back over the footbridge. I let some more people try out my bike, and of course they all had grins on their faces as they rode in circles. Really, you cannot be upset when you are on a bike. It’s impossible!
The poor guys from Barclay’s had to go back to work, so the girls climbed into a cab with them so they swing by the Park and expense it. I continued on my bike, cutting across the East Side on 102nd, through the Park, andaround the large roundabout. No surprise, Sheep Meadow looked like Woodstock, it was so crowded with New Yorkers enjoying the summer-like day. I found my friends again resting under a shady tree and munching on chips and salsa. “You’re already here!” one said. I came in five minutes behind their cab, and 15 minutes ahead of the second, even though I rode up and around the roundabout.
When I had to leave to shower and get ready for a night out, I couldn’t figure out a good way to go through the Park, so I cut West and up Broadway. I was petrified of being doored, so I used my little bell constantly, until one exasperated man in a car waved as if to say “Yes, yes, I see you, it’s fine.”
Usually one doesn’t think of the city as smelling nice. But as I pedaled north I was wrapped in the smells of bagel shops, Indian restaurants, bakeries, and even blossoming bushes on the medians. It was true what a friend of a friend said: Biking changes your whole perspective on the city. You see what you wouldn’t if you were underground or whizzing along in a taxi.
This morning I didn’t take my bike to work because it was raining out. I’m actually not sure on the protocol on riding in the rain. Will the bike rust? But when my coworker, Challen, arrived, I found she had been bitten by the bike bug this weekend too! She rode all the way to Coney Island, and gushed to me about how great it was. Now she wants a bike too, though not necessarily to ride to work.
I just wish New York City would get rolling on putting in more bike lanes. I always tell anyone who will listen about Denmark, which puts curbs along bike lanes so crazy taxis couldn’t run over cyclists even if they wanted to. In fact, the director of transportation doesn’t care if he pisses of drivers in the pursuit of making it easier to bike around the city. That’s pretty cool, I think. Right now I’m a little bit terrified to be in traffic in New York, but the city has it’s most alternative transportation-friendly director ever, so we’ll see!