Tag Archives: bicycles

I’m a New Yorker, and your rules do not apply to me

One thing that you have to say about New Yorkers is that they don’t lack self-confidence. I have never met a phalanx of people that are so certain of their right to existence. Or indeed, so convinced that the city in which they live is the greatest on Earth. Suggest to a New Yorker that you might consider living somewhere else at some point in your life, and you’ll see them snort derisively before surreptitiously adding you to the list that they always carry with them entitled ‘People To Cross The Road Away From When You Spot Them On The Street’. (Newcomers to this site will be interested to know that New Yorkers aren’t legally allowed onto the streets of the city until they have at least 87 names on their personal list.)

There is not a single argument you could use with probably 90% of born-and-raised New Yorkers that will convince them that there could possibly be anywhere else that is more worth living than here. And plenty of the people who have made New York their adopted home would agree, their systems finally conquered by a city which steamrollers all before it.

Of course, one of the problems with such swaggering self-belief is that some New Yorkers can have an occasional tendency to take themselves too seriously. Beware the person who tries to make an (admittedly weak) joke at the expense of New York, or criticises anything from the weather to the transport system. Responses can vary from the blank look that says “I don’t like this, but for your sake I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that this is the legendary ‘British wit’ we hear so much about” to the thirty minute diatribe about exactly which of your orifices the offended person will use to ensure your opinions never see sunlight again.

The other issue is that there are some New Yorkers who seem to believe that rules or common courtesies do not apply to them, and that they are an optional part of life or merely apply to tourists/foreigners/anyone but them. Whether it’s parking in places they’re not supposed to or, you know, not saying thank you when somebody holds the door open for them, some New Yorkers simply don’t like doing what they’re told to or what’s expected of them.

Take, for instance, my Saturday afternoon. Heading towards Battery Park City, we walked through a walled-off pedestrian path created by a construction company to allow people to pass through their site unheeded. Repeated giant neon orange signs told cyclists that they could NOT ride their bikes through the path, and that they had to DISMOUNT. In the three minutes it took us to walk the length of the path, we must have been passed by at least eight cyclists who were firmly in the saddle. One of whom had the temerity to “beep beep” us out of the way.

Not with a horn or bell, I hasten to add. No no, he just used the words “beep beep”.

As the fifth cyclist went past, I’d had enough, and using my best passive-aggressive posture, pondered aloud to The Youngest about the inability of New Yorkers to read. The Special One rolled her eyes, I remembered that some Americans carry guns, and The Youngest rued the day her mum had ever met that strange man from Britain. 

Meanwhile the cyclist rode off into the sunset. I’d like to think he had a sheepish look on his face, but he’d probably just realiszed that he’d left the iron on when he left the house that morning.

PS If I don’t get a comment from a New Yorker saying “yeah, but why should you have to get off your bike in that situation” I am going to be sorely disappointed.

Don’t stop me now

It’s good to be back in New York, although the sweltering heat and humid atmosphere means that I have as much desire to be outside as an agoraphobic slug who has been told that the only way for him to get back inside his garden shed is to slither through an industrial-size outdoor salt store.

The heat does nothing for people’s temper as they make their way around the city. Simple missions such as walking up the stairs from the subway to the exit are turned into Indiana Jones-style fights to the finish, as sweat-soaked crazies kick and punch their way to the top. And that’s just the women.

Earlier today, I saw a cyclist who had clearly determined that the worst possible thing that he could do in this weather would be to stand still. Of course, given the number of pedestrians and traffic lights in the city, that’s pretty much an impossible task. Not unless you take your life into your own hands.

Or in this case, take a whistle into your mouth.

Paying no particular heed for traffic lights, and a healthy disregard for the public, this cyclist simply put a small silver whistle between his lips, blasted out as shrill a note as he could possibly manage, and trusted in his ability to put the pedal to the metal to do the rest. I watched him for about a block and a half as he peeped and parped his way across the city at high speed to avoid slowing down, unsuspecting pedestrians scattering in his path as he frightened the living bejeesus out of anyone within a twenty yard radius.

And you wonder why some people accuse New Yorkers of impatience?

Unless I’m doing him a disservice. Perhaps he had a medical emergency, or he’d realised that he’d left the oven on? Or maybe he had Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves in his panniers, and he was having to keep up a constant 50mph for fear of untold damage to his spokes and handlebars?

With New York, you just never know.