Sometimes something so simple can be hard. I had the idea of riding my bike on the last Summer Streets on Park Avenue down to the Brooklyn Bridge. I keep my bike in my office. It’s a short folding bike, allowing for both my feet to touch the ground when I stop. It’s in my office so I can get out when the impulse strikes. It rarely strikes. I call myself a wimpy rider since I want to easily touch the ground, and I am not skilled enough to weave in and out of traffic. I will only face the streets to get into Central Park or ride on the East River promenade to Randall’s Island where there are few if any cars. Sometimes I lack the gumption. I have to fill the tires with air days before a ride since I’m not even sure what to do should I find myself with a flat.
I was out of town the first Summer Street week, and last week I thought I might, but my timing was off. The trick is to go early before the crowds. It’s not so bad riding on Park Avenue, which is wide and has separate sides going in either direction. But once we head around Grand Central Terminal and pass Union Square, we squeeze together on Lafayette Street, unable to pass slow cyclists, and the inevitable joggers in the wrong lane. (It is also true that certain cyclists ride on the jogging side.)
There was one cyclist on a Citibike chatting with her friend. I was on her left, when she veered to her left almost hitting me, and I yelled “On Your Left!” She was startled. I couldn’t believe that I reacted with such verve. Sometimes I think I’m fine only to have an innocuous moment force me to see how stressed I am. That was such a moment. It was contrasted by a lovely biker passing me on my way uptown simply stating in a warm, soothing voice, “ On your left.” I could move incrementally to my right to let her pass. It was an easy moment that juxtaposed my rash reaction.
I was excited and scared to take my bike on the ride. I liked the idea of being able to move easily through the streets of Manhattan. I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity. I love this city, and taking part in something like this elicits an inner thrill. But I am not great in terms of being part of a crowd. I’m a defensive rider, with a bit of anxiety thrown in to make it interesting, well, more like marginally stressful. I’m better off on an empty path speeding up and slowing down based on my own estimations, not on the precarious bicycling of strangers.
I didn’t wake up early enough to leave at 7 AM when the streets were wide open. Instead I ventured to Park Avenue at 10:30 AM, with all those tourists and New Yorkers on a pre-bunch ride. Nonetheless, I was set to go down to the Brooklyn Bridge and back again to Yorkville. I’m proud I made the ride, but I went for a slow jog today. I had enough of my bike for the weekend. If I can, perhaps I’ll make it to Central Park during a break this week. After all, my tires are filled with air.