I call it my year of riding dangerously — my first year as a founding member of New York’s bike sharing program.
I was one of the first 5,000 people to sign up, not that I’ve ridden a bike much since I was a kid. But I was curious. It seemed like a good experiment but I had questions — would I use it enough to justify the cost of $100 a year, would I have to lug an ugly bicycle helmet around, and, lastly but most importantly, would I get hurt?
After a year in the program, the results are in. I wound up taking 70 bike rides over the course of the year so I certainly got my money’s worth. A lot were quick commuting jumps that took me from where I work on the far west side to appointments on the east side. It was great for that type of crosstown commuting which is where the subways are sorely lacking.
I also worked biking into my commute home as an alternative form of exercise. On days when the weather was beautiful or when I didn’t have time to get to a yoga class, I would hop on a Citi Bike near 59th Street and 11th Avenue and take the west side bike path all the way down to Chambers Street where I’d catch the subway to Brooklyn.
The rides on the bike path were glorious but the city streets were something else. In a word, they were exhilarating but scary too! You need to be on your game to ride in this burg. Car doors get flung open, pedestrians cross every which way, and cars and trucks can be reckless.
But along the way, I noticed a new awareness of bike riders by pretty much everyone, including me. Because I was pedaling, I was more courteous to bike riders when I was driving. The new bike lanes and the many new riders did raise awareness across the city.
I did not ride every month. The rough, snowy winter did me in though I did ride in January. Not so in February. July was the month I rode the most.
At the start, I often wore a helmet but frankly, I got tired of it and I question the wisdom of it. And I did not get into a single accident and did not fall once until my 70th ride of the year.
It happened last week, nearly the end of my year of riding dangerously. And it was my own clumsy fault. It was wet out but I felt like riding. No sooner had I taken the bike out, I found myself going up a curb cut onto a sidewalk (that’s a no-no but the street was filled with potholes and it was one of those empty west side sidewalks.)
The curb cut had a small pothole and I took it at an angle instead of straight and boom, the bike slid out from under me and I slid along the sidewalk on my left side. I was not wearing a helmet and it didn’t matter. Only my knee and hip hit the pavement.
At least five people asked if I was okay or if they could help me but I popped up and insisted I was okay. And I was. I kept riding all the way downtown and it was only when I was sitting on the subway for awhile that I felt sore. A little ice helped that and I was good as new the next day.
The accident was good. I was getting a wee bit over-confident about my biking ability, thinking myself akin to Kevin Bacon in that old bike messenger flick. In truth, I probably looked more like Louie CK.
The year ended with a bang but when I got home, I knew what I had to do — I re-upped for another year and maybe I’ll wear my helmet a bit more. Maybe….