When I'm biking, I try to reign in my frustration with pedestrians. We have to share the same inadequate spaces, we share similar dangers from cars, and we stand to benefit most from (and ought to be united by) the Liveable Streets Movement. However, it is extremely frustrating navigating jaywalking pedestrians. Yelling "Heads up!" or "Coming through!" will get their attention, but too often, people just freeze, or the step further into my path in a confused attempt to get out of my way.
A fraction of a second to react.
This morning: kaboom. He puts his arms up, I go flying. A drawback to weighing a paltry 135lbs is that my momentum wasn't enough to knock him over instead of crashing.
So, my first crash on the Pogliaghi. The bike is fine and I'm fine - physically - but I am annoyed, peeved, disgruntled. Five months I've been commuting in this city, 20 miles a day, and I've gotten in to two crashes. That's a crash every thousand miles of commuting, which is a little bit too high for my liking. It's not my riding that's doing it - it's the conditions: manifestly unsafe. The sidewalks are narrow, the avenues are highways in disguise; the speed is low, but the speed limit is high, so if there is a yellow light or an open strip of asphalt, then there's weight on the gas pedal, a revving of the engines.
Expecting safety on New York City streets makes about as much sense as expecting your Cheerios not to bump each other in the breakfast bowl. Demanding safety? This is something every New Yorker should be doing. Anybody who has ever frowned at a delivery truck gunning it through a red light, anybody who has ever had a cab come too close as it's rounding a corner, anybody who grips their child's hand tightly when they cross the street, saying, "Always look both ways!" Anybody who has ever gotten on a bike, and, more importantly, anybody who finds too many reasons not to ride. Anybody who has ever dodged an SUV. Anybody who walks on Manhattan's narrow, crowded sidewalks and sighs as cars go roaring by. Anybody who looks at the incredible amount of space taken up by gridlocked cars and wonders if maybe it wouldn't be nicer if some of those were plazas, with outdoor cafes, vendors, exchange students playing guitar for quarters... the sights, sounds, and smells of New Yorkers interacting with each other, instead of muttering as they push by each other, competing for scraps of sidewalk space, forced to the edges by a culture that's willing to go to any extent - even destroying a beautiful city - so that everybody can drive where they please.