"Go Slow - Respect Others."
This sign is posted roughly once every hundred yards on the Hudson River Greenway in New York City, the bicycle/pedestrian path that runs down the west side of Manhattan, from Fort Tryon Park to downtown.
On Monday, October 1, 2012, I rode my new bicycle to work – and in the process was exceedingly respectful.
Let’s back up. A few weeks ago, Joanie and I did the math on public transit. If you buy a monthly pass, it’s $100 – if you go per ride, it’s $2.25 one way. At the moment, I’m going per ride, which means I’m spending $4.50 every day. If there are, on average, 22 days in a month, I’m spending $99 each month – and that is WITHOUT going anywhere extra, ever. Just to and from work.
This led us to question whether or not I should procure and proceed to ride a bicycleto work. I biked to work in Wichita almost every day, saving a ton on gas and losing a lot of weight in the process, so we figured it could work here, too! Granted, it’s a ten-mile commute here while it was an “a-mile” commute there, but hey. That much better for me!
So we looked around and ended up purchasing a bicycle on Overstock.com for just over two hundred dollars. It’ll pay for itself in just two months!
Well, the big day came and the bicycle arrived. In several conveniently tiny pieces. There was an assembly instruction manual included in the box; however, this manual was for some other bicycle. I got most of it slapped together, but ended up paying a local bicycle store $45 to put it together. Then paid them another $55 for a helmet and a lock.
It’ll pay for itself in just three months!
The big day came, and I headed out the door. The following is a present-tense account of my first day riding the bicycle to work.
8:00 AM: OK, Google says it should take an hour, and I have to be there by 9:30. I’ll leave by 8:15, give myself a little bit extra time in case I get lost.
8:20 AM: Hey, that took longer than planned. Still, I’m early out the door. Ahead of schedule! Bombs away!
Author’s note: this would be the high-point of my cycling enthusiasm on this particular day.
8:22 AM: On Broadway, let’s get moving!
8:25 AM: Wait, what did my seat just do? Did it – did it just slide down? That’s not good… yep, yep, that seat slid all the way down. I am now hitting myself in the jaw with my knees when I pedal. Hm… Maybe I can … aw, well, how bad can it be? I’ll just adjust it every now and then and keep going. Head down, power through.
8:30 AM: Where’s the Greenway? Google said it was – oh, wait, I have to … wow. That is a very large hill, topped with what appears to be a significant number of stairs. Hm.
8:35 AM: OK, I’m on the Greenway! And am cycling! Kinda! The seat slid back down, and it’s straight uphill, maybe I’ll walk it for a bit. This is going to take longer than I thought.
8:40 AM: Will I ever be going downhill?
8:42 AM: Hallelujah! Downhill! Hooray! Wait, what’s the path – why – oh, ok, apparently we’re going downhill on a path made by a corkscrew. Wow. This feels… safe?
8:50 AM: OK, finally it’s flat. Time to make some tracks! I must be about halfway there, right? Where’s a street si- oh COME ON! 190th? Seriously? I’m going to 42ndand I’m only now to 190th? This is – great, there went the seat again.
9:00 AM: I am being passed by people walking their arthritic 20-year-old dogs because I cannot maintain any velocity, whatsoever, while knocking myself in the mouth with my knees.
9:15 AM: I wonder if there is any chance I will encounter a taxi driver puttering down the Greenway.
9:20 AM: *pant, pant* Author’s note: at this point, I would have paid triple-fare for the metro had a station appeared in front of me. I would possibly have paid an entire limb for the metro, had it been requested.
9:25 AM: OK, water would have been a good idea. Seriously, I can’t believe I didn’t … wait … by the tennis court … is that A FOUNTAIN? OH DEAR GOD IN HEAVEN, YOU EXIST AND YOU LOVE ME. Yes, yes, I can say with authority – the water from this fountain, luke-warm though it may be, is the single best-tasting substance on this beautiful, beautiful globe we call home.
9:35 AM: Half a mile to 92nd street? Awesome! I’m only 50 blocks away!
9:36 AM: Oh right. Half a mile is like five blocks. I’m still 55 blocks away.
9:40 AM: My legs… my arms… I’m fading… I think…
9:45 AM: Hello. My name is Sisyphus. This is my bicycle. I have named it TheBoulder. I have always been riding TheBoulder, and I will always be riding TheBoulder. I am not exactly sure why, but this is my fate. I have achieved acceptance.
9:55 AM: Wait… 48th street? I’m … I’m in the 40s? The end! THE END IS IN SIGHT!
10:05 AM: I’m here! Here at last! My arms may be jello, my legs may be water, my rear may be raw from sitting too low, but holy crap I made it!!!
And tonight I’ll go ba… wait… the way back…
The way back is all uphill.
It’s now been two weeks since I started, and it’s much easier now that I've fixed the seat. Also, knowing about the water fountains in advance makes a huge difference. While I still live in the "slow-lane" part of the path, I no longer get passed by 90-year-old pedestrians. I’ve accepted that it’s a process, and I still can’t take it both-ways every day.
But hey, it’ll pay for itself in another two mo... four... someday!