A Year In New York

A Daily Bite of the Big Apple

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Day 337: Foiled by Lounge Lizards

May 31st · 1 Comment

img_0333As someone who regularly commutes on a bicycle, I eagerly awaited May 24, the day cars would be banished from Times Square. No more dodging around panicked rental-car tourists or taxis that swerve across three lanes for a fare; now the street would belong to me, the cyclist. At least I thought so until I saw the beach chairs.

All week I stayed off my bike because of the rain. On Friday it cleared, and I pedaled to work on the pleasant green ribbon of bike lane on the east side of Broadway. As I approached 47th Street, I saw a row of orange traffic cones and a sign that commanded to WALK BIKES.

I braked at the cones and tugged at my helmet strap as I mulled the consequences of ignoring this order. During my time in New York I have learned that on a bike one can flout pretty much any traffic law, from running a red light to cutting off a gypsy cab to hopping onto the sidewalk, with no consequences whatsoever, even when a traffic cop is looking right at you. In New York even crimes have a hard time getting noticed.

But the scene ahead gave me pause. It resembled a shot from one of those movies, like “Vanilla Sky” or “I Am Legend,” where the star wanders in a daze around Times Square after it’s been deserted. In place of someone attractive like Tom Cruise or Will Smith, though, the square was occupied by several hundred cigar smokers and Dutch tourists in colorful beach chairs, dazed to be reclining on the traffic lanes where, just a few days earlier, they would have been reduced to mincemeat.

Dodging pedestrians I can do; in fact, threading among the oblivious pedestrians on Broadway is one of the more satisfying parts of my commute. The cellphone talkers and the water-delivery men routinely walk across the bike lane without looking for bikes, despite the lane’s being six feet wide and green with white bike symbols painted everywhere.

Often a cellphone woman will notice me at the last minute. We lock gazes. She sees a figure who is a) high up and fast-moving, being on a bicycle, and b) fit enough to bike through Manhattan and c) crazy enough to bike through Manhattan, which means I might be one of those bike messengers, like Kevin Bacon in “Quicksilver,” and in any case someone who is unafraid even of the taxis, and d) she is currently standing in the center of my lane. For a moment she forgets all about her sister in Connecticut on the other end of the line, who is complaining about how little Teddy spilled grape juice on the carpet again, and steps back with a gaze that communicates both respect and fear. I stand in the pedals and zoom by with something resembling superiority.

img_0336But as I looked at the lounge lizards and the hundreds of other pedestrians wandering about Times Square with children in hand, craning their necks to look at the glowing signage, I knew there were just too many of them, and that no rider, no matter how morally superior, could navigate this terrain without pissing somebody off. So I elected to walk all five blocks. It added about ten minutes to my commute.

I suppose the unpleasant lesson is that, just as every cloud has its silver lining, every step toward a livable city leaves someone in fear of a new class of entitled pedestrians.

Tags: Sights & Scenes · Urban Survival · Why I Hate This Town · Why I Love This Town

1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Bill and Marilyn // Jun 1, 2009 at 12:18 pm

    This was a tough call Dave. Running a slalom through these widely spaced recliners would have a blast if you didn’t mind pissing off a lot of people. If you did this, it would be best to come at them from behind but then that was possibly not in the direction you were traveling. I guess for today the lounge lizards rule.

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