25 June 2018

Doing Unto Others

Some good deeds can be performed only while you're riding your bicycle. 

You might be thinking of the time you gave directions to a pedestrian or motorist.  Or the time you retrieved something someone dropped.  And, of course, there are those times you've helped another cyclist on the side of the road.

I am thinking of those, too.  But then there are other problems or emergencies we can deal with but motorists or even pedestrians can't.  I'm thinking now, in pre-cell phone days, of times I summoned police or made a call from a pay phone when a motorist or someone else was stranded far from either. ( I've done this in France--when I was cycling the Pyrenees en route to Spain--as well as locally.)  Then there was the day I saw an elderly woman take a fall while crossing a street (in Florida) and, more recently, the time I saw a homeless man passed out on a sidewalk in the Bronx, on my way to work.  

My favorite, though, was the time a woman called, "You, on the bike!"  I turned.  "Can you help me?"  Of course, I pulled over.  She explained, between sobs, that she'd left her purse on a bus making its run along the Union Turnpike in Queens.  "Do you remember the number on the side of the bus?"  She did.  "Give me a few minutes."

It actually didn't take that long:  I found that bus a couple of lights away.  I knocked on the door and explained the situation to the driver.  He actually walked the down the aisle and--voila!--found a red leather clutch on a seat.  

When I brought it back to the woman, she, of course, thanked me profusely and wanted to give me the money in that purse--which I, of course, refused--while laughing out of sheer giddiness.  "Then I'll pray for good things to happen for you." I'm not religious, but I hope she didn't think I was laughing at her offer of blessings!

I laughed in that same giddy way yesterday.  As I approached the stairs on the Randall's Island side of the RFK Memorial Bridge, I saw a young man who looked ready to faint.  "Are you OK?" He stammered something.  I offered him my water bottle; he sipped from it.  But I knew he wasn't suffering from heat exhaustion, even though the day was warm and humid.  "Are you diabetic?"  He nodded. "L-low blood sugar!"   

I searched my bag:  no bananas, energy bars, chocolate or any of the other sweet things I might bring on a ride!  The only available food was on the island--or back on the Queens side.  "I'll get you something!  I'll be back in a minute."

So I pedaled at a pace that might've won me a race or two back in the day to the concession stand near one of the ballfields.  Much to my surprise--and, at that moment, horror--it was closed.  There was a "roach coach" (a food truck) nearby, a long line of customers snaked from its windows.  And it wasn't going to move quickly:  people were ordering hot sandwiches, plates and french fries.

Sighing, I caught sight of a nearby tennis club.  I'm not a member, but I figured there would be a cafe--or at least a snack bar--where I could buy something.  That hunch proved correct, and I bought two fresh-baked cookies--one chocolate chip, the other fudge with s'mores.  

When I got back to the stairway on the bridge, the young man was still there, and another young man was talking to him.  That other young man didn't have any food or water, but at least he encouraged the young man with diabetes. Both thank me profusely; the fellow with diabetes hugged me. 

Anyway, I mention these stories, not to boast of my magnanimity, but to point out that they never would have happened if I hadn't been on my bicycle.  That young man who was  about to faint, or worse, from his low blood sugar never would have been seen by the motorists streaming across the bridge.  And the pedestrians wouldn't have been able to get him a snack as quickly as I did.

What are some of the good deeds you performed while riding your bike--and that you could have performed only while riding your bike?


  1. First off, as the sig other of a type 1 diabetic, thank you very much for going above and beyond to help that young man. My SO and I never set out for a ride without a couple of apples and a couple of tubes of glucose tabs for this very reason. Not everyone would have even understood what he was going through at the time.

    I recall one time a couple of years ago on my local bike path when I came across a pile cash in the middle of the trail. It was in large-denomination bills, and there were quite a few of them. I looked around: there was a woman pushing a stroller towards me, but not in any hurry, so the cash probably wasn't hers. I thought back to the older couple on foot that I had passed going the other way maybe a few minutes prior. It probably was theirs. I gathered up all of the bills and chased them down. I inquired if they were missing any cash, and how much. The amount matched up, so I handed it over to them, and refused their offer of a reward. I only asked that they zip up their pockets :) I rode home on a cloud. I suppose I could have done this if I were walking, but the bike made it a lot easier.

    Another time I stopped to offer help to a cyclist on the path who had a flat tire. They had a spare (or had patched it, I don't remember) but needed a pump. I gladly handed mine over, they pumped it up, and we parted ways.

  2. Morlamweb--Thank you for returning that wad of cash to the elderly couple. I hope the next person who's in trouble chances upon someone like you!

  3. I have lent pumps and various bike tools to stranded cyclists, and have been known to change flats or fiddle with brakes or shifters. Hardly heroic, but it's fun knowing that you've helped somebody out.

  4. MT--I have done things like that, too. I've even trued wheels. As you say, it's simply fun to know we've helped!