Yesterday, I encountered a roadblock about 8 km (5 miles) into my ride.
Just east of LaGuardia Airport, a long line of cyclists streamed down the avenue in the opposite direction from the one I was pedaling. They were riding every kind of bike imaginable, from “stealth” carbon fiber frames that looked like they were designed by Salvador Dali to department-store machines of the kind that drove me and fellow bike shop employees to drink (and other things) when I was in college. Some riders—mostly males==were clad in lycra kit, while others wore what one might see on just about anyone else on a summer day: shorts, T-shirts and the like. One young woman even rode in a glittery dress one might see on a performer in a Broadway musical, with glittery high heels protecting her feet from the pedals she was pushing.
It didn’t look like a club ride; I wasn't sure of whether or not the Tour of Queens had already taken place. So, I guessed, the ride might have been for some cause or another, although I didn’t see any T-shirts, banners or other signs of such a gathering.
I followed the street to the next major intersection, just to the west of Citi Field. The police and marshals held motor traffic, which was backed up for a few blocks. As you can imagine, some drivers were annoyed, but they didn’t honk mainly because there is a regulation (sporadically-enforced) mandating fines for unnecessary horn-honking.
I must admit, I was starting to share their exasperation. I hadn’t started my ride with any particular plan, but once I got on the road, I decided to ride along the World’s Fair Promenade and cross the bridge into eastern Queens and, ultimately, the North Shore of Long Island.
It actually wasn’t such a big deal: I would take a detour that would add about ten kilometers to my ride. Before I made my turn, I watched some cyclists rolling through the intersection and saw there were many more behind them. In fact, I couldn’t see the end of that line.
While deciding what to do, two cyclists beckoned me to join them. I politely declined; I really wasn’t in the mood to ride with such a large crowd. More waved their hands and yelled, “Ride with us!”. I shook my head and thanked them. One of them actually looked upset, even offended.
Aside from my desire not to ride with so many others, I had another rationale for not joining them: If they were riding for a cause, my joining them would do nothing to help with their fundraising. At least, that’s what I figured: I’ve participated in bike rides to raise funds for diabetes research, suicide prevention as well as other causes. In every one of them, I had to enlist people to sponsor me: They would pledge to donate a certain amount of money for each mile I rode, or a lump sum for my having done the ride. I assumed that the ride streaming before me worked in the same way.
This may seem strange to some of you, but I really have no problem--assuming, of course, I’m in the mood for a large-group ride-- in “crashing” (hmm…that’s not such a great word choice, is it?) the Five Boro Bike Tour or other large organized rides that have no purpose but cycling or, perhaps, celebrating cycling or solidarity among cyclists. On the other hand, I really don’t want to join a fundraising ride unless I’m helping to raise funds.
Turns out, they were riding the Tour of Queens. Had I known that, I might've joined them. Just might've.
A police officer saw me turn down the riders’ invitations to join. “Why don’t you ride with them?”
“Maybe another time.”