How not to ride a bike in NYC

About a month and a half ago I got bike fever – it’s kind of like baby fever, except instead of being overwhelmed by the feeling of wanting to give life to something and love it for the next however many years, I really just wanted to be able to buy groceries from the Trader Joe’s on 72nd street without lugging them a mile and a half uptown.

Every time I saw a bike I’d image how much better my life in the city could be. Living up on 106 street could be this quaint, adorable thing I do because I have a bike and it really doesn’t take that long to get anywhere in the city with a bike, and on top of it you’re all green and shit! I started imagining myself riding down to the flower market on Saturday mornings, and across the Brooklyn bridge in the afternoons where I’d buy cheese and meat from some local farm or whatever and put it in my bike basket and bring it home to my friends where I could bestow upon them the gifts I’d found only because of having a bike in Manhattan.

A couple weeks after calling my parents and whining about how much I wanted the bike, but didn’t have $300 to spend on said bike, my dad gave me money for it (I LOVE YOU DAD YOU ARE THE BEST EVER EVER EVER). I spent several days shopping online, looking for the perfect foldable bike and all the accessories. Only a week later it arrived at my office in a Fedex box. It was so tiny and efficient – that afternoon I assembled the bike in my office, brought it downstairs, and rather than taking the 30 minute train ride in the stale C train air, I rode my bike along the Hudson River path the nine miles up to my apartment.

Big Blue, the best little bike ever

Riding along the Hudson

Seriously better than the subway

Having a bike in New York is totally life changing. It’s not that you get anywhere faster, but there’s this element of feeling in control. I don’t have to wait for the subway, I don’t have to carry all my shit and, best of all, I’m working out while going anywhere. On Fridays I particularly enjoy riding the bike home from work, because we get out a 4 PM and I take a nice, leisurely ride past the Statue of Liberty, that weird white Frank Gehry building and a bunch of other super New Yorky stuff.

Frank Gehry building

Times Square at night, by bike

I was telling Nina the other day that having a bike feels like cheating. It’s already so great to live in this city that everyone thinks is the best ever, and to almost be able to afford my rent that I feel guilty for live being any better than that. I have this feeling that someone should steal my bike, or fine me for having it, or something awful should happen when I’m riding it.

Turns out I was right about that last part – I’ve had the bike (that I affectionately call Big Blue) for a little over a month and I have injured myself twice. The first time, I was being a dumbass. I was late to yoga, tried to jump the curb and wiped out in front of a bunch of people waiting outside the Colbert Report studio across the street. While my leg was scraped and my shoulder bruised, the incident felt minor and within a few days I was back on Big Blue.

And then last weekend, I decided to take a scenic route down to my boyfriend’s apartment. It was supposed to be the last weekend of NYC Summer Streets. The entire time I was on my bike I couldn’t stop thinking about how relaxing and wonderful the ride was.

I went down the East Side, across Union Square and headed up the my boyfriend’s apartment. About two blocks from his apartment, I approached an intersection. A cab was pulled over into the bike lane, but not excessively so. I’ve been reading Gothamist articles about fatal cycling accidents long enough now to know that sometimes people open car doors and fuck bikers up, so I’m always watching the cars ahead of me to make sure I’m not biking into an open door.

That being said, I did NOT realize that someone can open a car door about two inches in front of your face. In trying to pass the cab, the side of the door rammed right into my leg. I barely got a sound out of my mouth (which was likely ‘Oh FUCK’) before I got pushed by the door onto the space between the street and the curb.

I laid on the ground for a few moments before I heard the person who’d opened the door say something about being SO SORRY. I start to freak out, because his words didn’t sound normal… his voice was all muddled. For about 5 seconds I was POSITIVE that I had bike-accident brain damage, despite the fact that my head didn’t hurt and that I was wearing a helmet. Then I realized that the guy who hit me with his door was deaf. I was relieved but also a little pissed at the universe, because like, YOU CAN’T EVEN BE MAD AT THAT. Yes, you have just fucked me up with your cab door, but I’m just gonna have a bruise. You can’t hear. You have a perfectly good excuse for not hearing my bike bell, or my oh fuck or anything that may have indicated to you that I was in the bike lane.

I looked up at the cab driver who had rolled down his window, and he’s just all, “um, can I leave?” And I’m like, fine, yes, you can leave, you didn’t hit me. And then I look at the deaf guy and he’s standing there and looking SO UPSET, so on top of feeling injured, I just feel guilty. Then I looked at the curb as I pick up my bike and realize there are like 10 tourists staring at me, so I said the only thing I could think of –

“Hey guys….”

The tourists seemed too scared to react until I sat on the curb with Big Blue and called Chris to ask him to pick me up. At that point, one of the women wiped off my shoulder and a man offered me water and to stay with me until Chris arrived- tourists are so nice. A couple minutes later Chris showed up and told me I could probably take my helmet off now and then walked me back to his apartment.

Needless to say, my leg is fucked. up. Since this weekend, I’ve learned a lot about properly icing, elevating and compressing one’s leg. I’d take a picture of my bruise if I weren’t so grossed out by photos of other people’s injuries that I’d feel hypocritical or something.

Annnnnnyway. Bike/Drive/Walk safe all.

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

3 thoughts on “How not to ride a bike in NYC

  1. Anna D says:

    This is fantastic. I’m really excited to have a new blog post here, because I need to tell you that I read your blog all the time. Except when you don’t post new things. And being a bike commuter, how do I not comment? I’ve really come to appreciate bike shorts and also people that ride bikes at any point in their lives ever. Props!

  2. […] Which is difficult considering the fact that I don’t have money for cabs and that I regularly get hit by things on my […]

  3. […] doored by a cab, joined the ranks of hipster bikers […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: