Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

21 July 2013

From Wheels To Feet

Nearly every cyclist has had the experience of cycling, for the first time, some street, road, lane or landscape over which he or she had previously walked or driven.

Today I had the inverse of that experience:  Walking, for the first time, a lane I had cycled many, many times before.

Marley had a medical emergency.  To my knowledge, the only place where I could take him on a Sunday morning is the Humane Society, just a block away from the Manhattan side of the Queensborough (59th Street) Bridge.  The subway neaerest to me (two blocks) stops only a block from the Humane Society.  I reasoned (correctly) that it probably be a quicker trip in a car (assuming I could get someone to drive me on such short notice) or even a taxi, if I could find one.  

Riding my bike might have been even quicker, but rigging a secure way to carry him would have taken even more time, probably, than the ride.  Also, I wasn't sure of how he'd take to being on a bike and, because he was sick, I didn't want to the anxiety he was already feeling.

So I took the "N" train to the Lexington Avenue and 59th Street station. Marley will remain at the Humane Society's treatment center for two, possibly three nights.  That meant, of course, that today I returned home without him.

If I were to ride from the Humane Society to my apartment, I would cover about three and a half miles, which would probably take me anywhere between ten and fourteen minutes, depending on which bike I rode, how I rode and what conditions I encountered en route.  Walking, as it turns out, is slightly shorter, distance-wise, as I can walk up a couple of one-way streets (including the one on which I live) around which I would have to detour were I using wheels.  However, the walk took nearly an hour, or five to six times the time I would need to cycle it.

Those facts of time and distance came as no surprise to me.   However, I was not prepared for a sensation I had while walking across the bridge's bike/pedestrian lane:  I felt nearly naked, and a bit vulnerable.  The heat and humidity that smothered us for the past week finally broke today, so even more cyclists crossed the bridge, in both directions, than would normally transverse it on a Sunday.  The lane is just wide enough for about three cyclists travelling abreast of each other in either direction, and even though the lane is divided (with paint) between cyclists and pedestrians, it's all but impossible to remain in one way or another.  If you're cycling in one direction, you're going to dodge cyclists (and, sometimes, skateboarders and scooter-riders) in the opposite direction, as well as tourists taking in the panorama.

Back in the day, not nearly as many cyclists used the bridge as use it today, and there were no skateboarders, rollerbladers or scooters.  If I recall correctly, those of us who cycled, walked or ran used a lane on the north side of the bridge.  (I didn't use the Queensborough regularly in those days, as I lived in Manhattan, then Brooklyn.)  The current lane rims the south side.  If there is/was indeed a lane on the north side, I wonder why it's no longer open.  Did it fall into disrepair?  I think the number of cyclists who use the bridge (and walk) will continue to grow, not only because more people are commuting or going into Manhattan to shop, dine and such, but also becuase--in a phenomenon all but unheard-of two decades ago--tourists are actually coming to Queens. 

Therefore, if there is a north lane, it should be repaired and opened.  If there isn't, one should be built.  Then, those of us who ride, walk, run, skateboard or otherwise travel motor-free between Queens and Manhattan will have the same choice as those who take the Manhattan Bridge, which has bike/pedestrian lanes on both its north and south sides.

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