To my friend, Jeremy, I am sorry to disappoint you… I still have not really learned how to ride a bike. It was not from a lack of desire, or even a bike, since the inaugural Citibike station still stands proudly across the street from my home. The biggest obstacle to my transformation into a cyclist is TRAFFIC.
I tried learning to ride in Prospect Park a few years ago, and ironically, the scariest part of the bike path were the other riders. They were completely unforgiving of the novices, with hollers of frustration and drill instructions to stay out of their way. As I wobbled and wavered just trying to focus on my balance, I quickly had to learn how to steer and veer out of all of their ways, and eventually from trying again.
Living in this city, the street traffic can certainly be so daunting that often new riders pedal on the sidewalks to be safe. Of course, this leads to another kind of traffic…pedestrian. NYC pedestrians are not to be waved off as harmless citizens of the concrete grid. They have their own agenda and their own sense of time which, more often than not, goes against the traffic light count and the street direction.
NYC streets are alive, each block and avenue an artery of vitality to experience. If Manhattan were a body, then the various neighborhoods are its different organs, and moving from one to another would be learning about new systems and functions of this part of the body. Now in Midtown, there is a different concentration of life here. You can see the non-stop ripples and currents of movement down below even from our new office on the 16th Floor.
Traffic is part of the vitality of this city, but when you are in it all the time you can't appreciate its pulse. I avoid it all day long but I have to endure it just to get here. Yet in my three weeks here, just when I am overcome with anxiety trying to cross the school of people like salmon upstream, my spirit is quieted by a sighting of a monk in a yellow robe. A real monk, and a different monk each week. I thought to myself, "He must be bothered!”. Yet I watched him walk calmly amidst the sea of people and let them all pass him like water.
I have a long way to go to ride a bike, since now i am just practicing how to stand in a crowded train headed towards one of the busiest parts of the city, move through the jam-packed streets, and then ride in a crowded elevator. So I start my day a little earlier, breathe a little more and gather my courage to begin the morning with what is now my walking meditation.