Huh. Morning came around soon. Put bike into road. Swing leg over. Left shoulder? Nothing. Pull out. Brake again. Look right. Goodness that SUV’s coming fast. Swish. Swish. Swish. All gone? Start pedalling. Start pedalling, turn left, into the bike lane. Here we go.
Yeah, I like this first bit on Smith St. Head down. Bit of a slope. Get moving as fast as I can. 16mph. 17mph. Feels like skipping sometimes, pushing down hard each stroke of the pedals.
|Here we go. Yup. Here we go.|
Oh. Big Toyota SUV poking out from the sidestreet. Wheels? Not moving. Check over shoulder. Signal. Pull out round him. Stern look. What do I think that’s achieving? Driver probably hates me. Maybe just shakes his head.
Traffic backed up to lights. Slip down the bike lane. Car doors? Wheels moving? Doors? Wheels moving? Which way’s this guy gonna turn at these lights? Pull left round him. Stop.
Kind of like what they’ve done with
Carroll St subway station. Simple.
Modern. Red hand for pedestrians still flashing, flashing. Just red. So look up
at lights, look up at lights, green. Go!
Move legs fast, pedal, swing right before the cars catch up. Oops. Car poking into bike lane. Brake. Look over shoulder, pull round it.
There’s the school. I wonder what Alexander’s doing in his class. What’s it like to play out in that little playground?
But yikes. Car turning right in front of me. Brake, signal left to go round turning car.
dangerous and negligent driving this morning. Funny how they never send me the
memo about that. Scary. Carroll
But now it’s clear. Pump, pump, pump, pump legs. Slip onto the big chainring. Left shoulder? Clear. Left round that pothole. Car at the sidestreet, creeping forward slowly. Firm finger pointed at him. Eye contact. Ooh – fierce glare, driver. But you stopped, didn’t you?
|Spot the gap. Head for it.|
Here we go again, though. Huge truck, narrow gap letting me through to the lights. Look up at the driver. Seen me? Seen me? Good. Thumbs up. So off again. Yeah, Mr limo driver, I do need to pull out round this delivery truck. I do and that’s why I’m pulling into the middle of the lane. No, I’m sure you don’t like it.
Oh there’s that guy.
“Hi, Robert. Nice one they’ve laid on for us today.”
“I think it’s something to do with the Pulaski Skyway’s being closed.”
“Yeah, have a nice ride.”
So now Atlantic Avenue.
Yes, Mr Driver: I know you want to turn right. But I’m to your right and I’m going straight on. So hold on a moment. What was that swishing sound? Oh, that cyclist thought that gap was big enough to pass on my right? How many bikes are there at this light now? One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight…
Green. Pedal fast, check left shoulder, guy’s not turning through me. How’s bike lane in this busy bit? Oh, guy’s signalling right into car parking. Brake. Check shoulder, signal, move left. Up to next lot of lights. Stop.
Funny seeing the Corrections Department buses. You never see the guys inside. Funny thinking how downtown
got a jail. Do they look out at me from the windows? High-rise jail. Funny.
Lights green. OK. Tricky bit by where they’re doing this building work. Glad they’ve moved the barriers. Didn’t like it when they had that big bulge out into the traffic. Now this corner. What are these minibuses always stopping in the right lane here? There’s that voice, the automated voice, “The walk sign to cross
St is aaawn.” Broad New York accent. Always funny. Read once about
the guy whose voice it is. Lives in Staten Island.
Why do drivers have that look of injured innocence when they finally give way and agree not to crush you? It wasn’t a big favour to wave me through, madam. Legal and moral obligation.
“The bridge is coming. Focus on that.”
Green again. Sir, I’m sure your life is not full of people you can defy. But I wish you’d express your sense of powerlessness another way. Your wandering slowly across my path is just frustrating when I have the light.
Cut through bus stop. Could all that grease make me skid? Into bike lane. Lights by that funny tunnel-underpass thing. Red. Stop.
Oh, please, other cyclists. Do not buzz that pedestrian. Please do not.
Ha, serious condemnation from a British person that, “tut, tut” – if anyone could hear me.
But no-one can and now lights are green. Mr Driver, I am not going to be able to fly over that car in the bike lane so I am sticking my arm out left until I see noticeable braking from you. Slowing down? Good, I’m pulling left and let’s go.
Green light by the college. Everybody’s flying towards
Tillary St, fast.
Oh, close pass. Better get over to the left somewhere. Signal left, check over
shoulder in left-turn lane. Get to front of traffic at Tillary St. Lights red?
There’s the bridge. I can see the bridge. The bridge is coming; the bridge is coming.
Policewoman over there directing traffic. How does it feel standing there with all the speeding cars, all the people crossing, all the cyclists trying to get to the Brooklyn Bridge or the
Hey, lookie here, Ms Policewoman – look at these cars trying to run down these
pedestrians. Interested? Didn’t think so. Manhattan Bridge
OK. Green light again and pedal fast. No, Mr turning-across-my-path, you have to yield to me, you have to yield to me, OK. I’ll swerve round you. Fast, fast, fast across this intersection. Cars lined up. Always feeling like they’re just waiting for the chance to run me over.
bike lane again but how are we organising ourselves this morning, fellow
cyclists? OK, OK. Let’s do two abreast this bit. Spurt of speed. Pull to front
of pack, now upset everyone behind by stopping for these lights.
Never mind. The bridge is coming. Lights green, go. Tricky bit here. Cut across the bridge off-ramp to the bike lane. How fast is that truck coming down the ramp? Probably OK. In the bike lane, ride down the side of the cars, get to the kerb cut for the bridge bike lane, swing onto the sidewalk, across under the bridge and it’s there:
bike path. Manhattan
Best bit of the ride this, best bit of the ride. Love the spiral on-ramp for a start.
Guy on fixie ahead. Never understand why people ride fixed over the bridge. Pedal, pedal, pedal. Catch up with him. Look into the Brooklyn-bound lane, clear, and bye Mr Fixed Wheel Loser, bye. Get some gears.
Up the slope, up the slope. Subway train climbing the slope too. Scan the passengers. None to wave at. Shoot me when I no longer feel like racing subway trains. Or maybe shoot me when I no longer feel like racing subway trains but check first if I’ve changed my mind with advancing age.
|Clunky hybrid rider: feel like I'll pass her, chance that I'll fail.|
Bye, Mr Citibike rider. Bye, Ms Pootling Along on a Cutesie Pink Bike.
Oh, hi, fixed-wheel rider overtaking me. Yeah, well, I’ve got kind of a heavy bike. Oh, there’s the long-bike commuting-with-kids guy. Kind-of hurts when he overtakes me with his kid sitting on the back. This wind catches my big frame. That’s the problem.
But who cares now? Climbing out over the river. Barge down below. What do they carry? Look out towards the
Always remember now that bushfire day. City covered in smoke, could barely see the
Williamsburg Bridge . Met Doug Gordon that morning. He
stopped to take a picture. Can see it OK this morning. Odd-looking bridge. Williamsburg Bridge
Now look for the
Empire State Building.
There it is. Sun on one side, shade on the other. Middle of midtown, looking
Best bit of the ride, this, best bit of the ride.
Past halfway now. Getting faster. 20 on the bike computer. Bye, Mr Citibike rider, bye, Ms Clunky Hybrid. Hello,
Not much of a cooking smell today. 22.5mph. Let’s go right over that manhole
cover. Love that clanking sound. Now slow for the final curves. Final awkward downhill turn. Brake for the
lights in Chinatown. Stop. But whish, whish,
whish. Other riders running the lights. Oh my goodness that car is going to hit
that guy. No, just missed.
|Empire State Building: in Midtown, in the sun.|
But now green and off, right.
Feels faster now, after the bridge.
Chinatown Dragon Fighters’
– always like that fire station name. Not sure it makes sense. But like it.
Speed up. Grand
down bike lane but red light at Delancey.
|Crossing Delancey: but not like in the movies.|
Crossing Delancey – wasn’t that a film? Yes, it was a film. Not sure what it was about. Tough street to cross, though. Tough. Probably not a film about cyclist safety, though.
But now green, speed up and off up bike lane and then Rivington, left, fast along Rivington until, oh, that old woman’s sorting her recycling in the bike lane again. Round her, then see old synagogue. Places change. Where did that synagogue’s people go? Four-way stop, hard to see, crane neck, nothing to see, then ambulettes in the bike lane. Not even sure what ambulettes are, but they’re always blocking the bike lane here. Stop at lights.
. Robert Moses built the park, yes
Robert Moses built this park the year he built lots of parks. He wouldn’t like
that I can ride a bike Chrystie-Forsyth Park
|Allen and Rivington: left and crosstown.|
Not really Italian any more of course. No Robert de Niros shouting at their
wives about the steak’s being overdone. Nice, though. Like this area but don’t
like its drivers. Don’t veer into the bike lane, driver, don’t come too close
because the bike lane’s closed here and I need to pull left; don’t walk in front
of me, pedestrians. Ah, sorry. Light’s changed. On you go.
Final push now. Lafayette, Broadway, crosstown. Feel like I’m making progress. Posh shops. Taxis stopping suddenly, manholes in the bike lane, gratings, feels like cyclocross some days, stand up on the pedals, hands on the brake levers and ready to steer fast round trouble.
But now at
avenue, swing round the taxis blocking the bike
lane, Charlton St
now, zip up the block. Signal left. No, Mr Taxi, you don’t just drive at me
like that. Stop at the lights. Left onto Varick, downtown a block, then wait at
Someone from the office.
Doesn't hear me.
Doesn't hear me.
Then right, down Vandam, pull over to the right and stop, get off, take off the bike computer. Bike onto the sidewalk, walk to the bike entrance, security pass and in. How many other bikes today?
Lock up the bike, grab the panniers, stride out the door.
Eight bikes today? That’s some – but not many.
Never understand it.
Best bit of the day, my bike ride. Best bit of the day.
The post is an edited and abridged transcript of the things the author says to himself and other people during a typical, 40-minute cycle commute from
Gardens, Brooklyn, over the Manhattan Bridge
to SoHo, . Manhattan