Big Smoke

'cause it's hard to see from where I'm standin'


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The debate continues (and continues) on bike lanes and just who owns the road in NYC. Staten Island thinks itself a “car culture,” Chinatown thinks they add congestion and the commentators think bicycling is the only mode of transportation where people disobey the posted rules.

Now instead of going on yet another diatribe about the uselessness of bike lanes for anything other than symbolic gestures by the city to accommodate bicyclists (or the infinitely more satisfactory practice of removing a lane of motorized traffic) or pointing out that while bicyclists run red lights, ignore the bike lanes and zip up the wrong way on one-way streets, motorists frequently speed, shift lanes without signaling, block the box and do all sorts of oddball maneuvers in traffic and pedestrians jaywalk like cars don’t exist and if they did it’s their own damn fault for driving in the city… but that’s just the joy of it.

Everybody crunches down on everybody. The debate will never – ever – subside and nor should it. The fact that people are paying attention is good enough.

Friday I saw a taxi being pulled off the wrought iron barrier by a tow truck after having slammed into the 72nd St 1/2/3 subway station. A woman interviewed said she asked the cabbie, bleeding on the ground, if his brakes failed and when he answered in the affirmative she told the reporter for NY1 she thought he was lying. Tuesday I glided past a block’s worth of apoplectic motorists on Dean St to see a guy parked in the middle of the street, making progress impossible. When told to get the fuck outta the way, he replied that it was alternate side parking and it was a $200 fine to park in the bike lane: Apparently he didn’t worry about being assaulted and battered by the dozen furious motorists behind him. That’s the kind of city this is: Ain’t no law that’s gonna stop people from their opinions.

I’ve had an NYU student purposefully block my path at Lafayette and 8th to slow me down and while my frantic evasive maneuvers had shorn the chain clean off my bike both I and the hapless activist remained whole. I’ve had a suit attempt to elbow me on 51st and 6th when I buzzed his wife as she obliviously wandered into traffic to hail a cab. I’ve been thrown to the sidewalk on 194th and Broadway when a city bus crossed two lanes of traffic in a plunging angle to make a stop. I’ve glided through raging arguments between motorists that lasted as long as they were going the same direction. I’ve had cabbies with two lanes of space slow down to berate me for not being in the bike lane and I’ve had cabbies cut me off when swooping into the bike lane to deposit passengers. I’ve been waved through a red light by a cop at Columbus Circle and 59th while I was waiting and yelled at by a cop at 61st and Broadway for running a red light. I’ve had SUVs squeeze me so tightly I could elbow them both at the same time. I’m personally responsible for the loss of at least three Starbucks beverages and I’m not at all remorseful, for I have encountered pedestrians shocked – shocked! – that bike lanes are not an extension of the sidewalk. I’ve had a cabbie reach over a front seat passenger to wrestle an apology out of me for dinging his rear view mirror on 42nd and Park Ave South and I’ve had a cabbie offer me a hat while biking in the rain on 57th and Madison. I’ve had pedestrians not hesitate to pick me up and dust me off after faceplanting on Washington and 14th and I’ve had a woman in pantsuit deadpan “nice brakes” when I stopped at 42nd and 5th. She was so straight-faced I still don’t know if she was being sarcastic. I’ve had just as weird an experience walking: It’s the city!

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