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Produced by a bunch of smart, opinionated, dishy, nosy, funny New Yorkers
who love to run around Lower Manhattan eating, going to movies and plays, listening to music, taking pictures, and sharing all the dish

Biker’s Angst

by Yori Yanover

An old Disney cartoon depicts Mr. Walker, a good natured suburban man whose hobbies are smelling fresh flowers and patting his children’s heads on the way to work—and who gets into his car to become Mr. Driver: aggressive, hateful, cursing at anything that dares get in his way. I can attest faithfully to the above phenomenon. Although I do not own a car (I live in Manhattan, for crying out loud, what would I do with a car?), I do rent one occasionally, and have witnessed in myself the transformation from the innocence of the walker to the uncontrollable rage of the driver.

But there exists a vehicle-related character which is neither walker nor driver. Enter Mr. Cyclist. He might present the ideal amalgamation of the other two, using free, renewable energy, yet getting everywhere quickly and, may I add, in elegant fashion.

Is urban bicycle riding not the transportation alternative of the future? Ask the good citizens of Amsterdam. In the 1960s environmentalist Luud Schimmelpennink (pronounced loud schmeklepupik) put free bicycles on the streets of their city. He figured if there were enough bicycles people could just grab one wherever they were and leave it at their destination for someone else to use.

Indeed, all the bikes were quickly stolen, and the program was cancelled. But in 1998 Schimmelpennink, with corporate sponsorship, brought back the public bikes to 19 depots around the Dutch metropolis, offering 450 free bicycles.

Over on this side of the Atlantic we’re still paying for our bicycles, but even so, there is no cheaper or more useful means of transportation around. I’ve done the math: Back in 1999 I purchased my current bike from our local cyclemeister, Frank Arroyo, for around $400. I figure, since then I’ve saved at a minimum one weekly cab ride. At $10 an average ride that’s $520 a year, easily $2,500 in five years.

Look at me moving quietly down Grand Street, my legs pumping, a pleasant smile on my face. Look at me saving money, increasing my health and listening to the walkman, all at once.

Look at me getting to the intersection of Grand and Suffolk. Look at the Jersey-plated Toyota making a right turn, on its way to the Williamsburg bridge. Look at me realizing in panic that the driver has no idea I exist. Look at me crashing into a lamppost, trying to get away. Look at me getting up with great difficulty, my knees and elbows scraped. Look at me shaking my fist at the runaway Toyota.

That may be the bicycle’s only drawback, namely that car drivers are either blind to its existence, or see it as a nuisance, like deer crossing the highway. Both cases may result in roadkill.

New York City is not hospitable to cyclists. I recall pumping madly up 49th Street one Sunday morning, with construction walls on either side making it impossible for the car behind me to pass without mowing me down. As we reached the intersection, the furious driver, weighing 400 lbs if he weighed a pound, in a gas guzzler bearing Connecticut plates, screamed at me: “Move your expletive fat expletive!”

On my city street, paid for by my taxes, with him sitting behind the wheel and me pedaling for my life... I would have let him have it, but he gunned away, leaving me in a cloud of his fumes. So there are some advantages to driving a car in Manhattan, but they have mostly to do with killing things...

Some of our avenues offer bike lanes, but only bike riders know they exist. Drivers habitually double park on them and pedestrians regard them as ideal for hailing cabs.

Ah, pedestrians, the other great menace. They are even less aware of the existence of bikes in their midst than are car drivers. Watch them crowding the special bike paths along the East River and the Hudson. Watch them J-walking on a red traffic light, smack into my bike. Watch them freezing in my path when I holler a warning, and then swiftly jumping right into my path again, as I’m steering madly to avoid them.

Nevertheless, last month my daughter and I talked my wife into purchasing a brand new bike from Frank. We rode around the southern tip of the island to see a movie in Battery Park City.

Pedaling leisurely along the water we stopped now and then for a drink of water or to listen to the live band at the South Sea Port. Then off we rode, light and swift against the pinkish sunset, Mr. and Mrs. Cyclist and their biker progeny...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't you think that by now you would know his name is Frank "Arroyo"

10/27/2006 1:40 AM  
Anonymous David Rutstein said...

Oh joy, yet another self-indulgent poor me cyclist piece

10/27/2006 2:08 AM  
Blogger Yori Yanover said...

Anonymous -- Thanks, fixed the typo.

David Rutstein -- I swear to you, it's the one and only self-indulgent poor me cyclist piece. Most of my writings are self-indulgent poor me father and husband pieces, I recommend them (just google it under sipm).

Also, I recommend the self indulgent poor me kiler student classic Crime and Punishment, and the self indulgent poor me Napoleon's invading War and Peace. Also to be considered, self indulgent poor me elderly fisherman diatribe, you know, with the sea...

10/27/2006 5:46 AM  
Blogger todd said...

not that this will really accomplish anything, but it is amusing none-the-less:


10/30/2006 10:20 AM  

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