Thursday, April 10, 2008

I rode my bike and survived

No pads, no helmet, no fear.

I enjoy thrill-seeking. Mountain climbing? Check. Bungie jumping? Check. Racecar driving? Check. But there is one thrill that seems too dangerous even for me: bicycle rides on New York City streets.

It seems like I'm being dramatic but I don't think I am. I've seen enough bike vs. taxi accidents to know. Bike messengers, delivery people and the like are truly a special breed with no fear of death. You never know when a taxi's going to swerve; a car door's going to open or a manic pedestrian will try to run across the street. And there's plenty more to worry about. It's quite the sensory overload. At least in a car you have protection. On a bike, it's optional helmet and pads against concrete. You tell me who's going to win that battle.

This whole situation was on my mind much more this week because my friend A gave me her bike! I have upped my activity level now that spring is here and biking the Central Park loop is on my to-do list. Or you can participate in the 5-Boro Bike Tour. And apparently they have bike lanes in some areas of the city. Somehow I think it's a little different than when I used to bike in Colorado. But I digress.

A was kind enough to traipse all the way to the UES from the LES with her soon-to-be-my bike. When the bike was ready, I realized I'd have to ride it home. I was not looking forward to it. I went to the bike place in the early evening to pick it up when traffic was lighter. I wondered what a bike shop in the city would look like. Turns out, just like one anywhere else. I guess biking in the city is more popular than I thought. When I picked it up I seriously deliberated just walking it home. But then I thought about how stupid that would look -- who walks a bike? So faced with the decision of either potential death or looking strange I of course chose potential death.

It's been a couple of years since I rode a bike regularly but like they say you never forget. I got on, waited for the light to change so I'd have plenty of road to work with and then set off down 2nd Ave. After a couple of blocks, my confidence picked up. That was, until I saw the bus partially blocking the safe far right lane I'd chosen. Taxi to my left, bus to my right. Ack! So I did the only sensible thing -- I stopped. Once the taxi cleared the bus started to pull out and I was able to sail by on the right. Impending disaster averted.

A few blocks later I was safely home and fumbling inside with my bike, which is now safely locked up in my backyard. Until we meet again, city traffic.

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