With all the bicycles and scooters coming at you, from all directions, on city streets and sidewalks, you’d think it’s safer to walk in the park. Think again. It’s apparently the Wild West there, too.
A few days ago, as I was taking a morning walk along the east side of Riverside Drive, adjacent to Riverside Park, I forgot to look behind me when I moved over a few feet to the left to avoid a fallen tree branch. I heard a bicycle bell and and then felt the rush of air of the first bicycle as it whizzed by me, narrowly missing my left side by a few inches. A second bicycle followed, again narrowly missing me. These folks weren’t just leisurely pedaling along. They were going at breakneck speed.
I definitely think there’s a market in New York City for eyeglasses with rear-and-side-view mirrors.
I do worry that pedestrians are losing ground against cyclists here. I heard on the news this morning that Democratic Mayoral candidate Eric Adams is also an avid cyclist. Perhaps we also need full body armor.
It’s pretty remarkable these days how many people are tuned in and zoned out and listening to, or looking at, their phones. I was on the subway recently and counted 6 out of the 8 people on the seats opposite who were looking at, or listening to, their phones. Of the remaining two, one was asleep. The other was reading the print edition of The New York Times. Quaint.
It’s especially interesting on the city’s streets to see how many people are plugged into their phones, seemingly oblivious to the city around them. I’m actually amazed when they seem to magically get out of the way just in the nick of time to avoid walking into someone or something. It’s an instinct that smart phone users seem to share with the city’s pigeons. Fortunately, nobody I know has ever stepped on a pigeon yet.
Look around the sidewalks of the city sometime and it seems as if everyone is carrying a coffee cup. They almost seem like fashion statements. In one hand you hold a go-cup and in the other hand your smartphone.
Actually, I need to revise that ubiquity statement because I think most bearers of the coffee go-cup aren’t yet having their doctor’s visits paid by Medicare. In other words, they’re younger.
I’m not quite sure why that is but maybe it’s because at a certain age all that caffeine keeps you up at night. Or perhaps it’s because we didn’t grow up with Starbucks on every corner and we didn’t form a habit of drinking coffee and walking. Or maybe we just need to juggle handling too much other stuff — bags, a cane, a walker. I certainly haven’t seen anyone pushing a walker holding a go-cup but I’ve seen plenty of people pushing a stroller and handling a cup of hot coffee.
Honestly, the other oddity is the fact that the people who are drinking coffee on-the-go are the same people packing big water bottles to maintain their daily hydration numbers.
But here’s where we have a problem. New York City simply doesn’t have that many readily accessible public toilets. Starbucks is helpful in that respect but then you just go in, use their bathroom and buy another cup of coffee.
Sometimes I feel like Katniss in Hunger Games when I’m trying to get around NYC. One particular challenge is negotiating the city’s streets–especially at night and when they are the city’s major avenues.
Let’s take Broadway, for instance. It’s idiosyncratically off-the-grid and slices through many of the city’s streets, and even an avenue or two, in ways that certainly perplexes tourists and often the occasional New Yorker. It’s quite wide in some sections of the Upper West Side, in particular, but the countdown pedestrian signals were obviously calibrated by an Olympic sprinter working in the Department of Transportation. And I’m not even slowed down by a cane or a walker.
Apart from my concern about whether I’ll reach the safety of the opposite sidewalk before getting mowed down by an 18-wheeler truck careening down the avenue at speeds well above the mandated 25 mph, is my fear whether I’m visible as a pedestrian if I get stuck somewhere in the middle.
So I’m trying to wear as much white as possible, which makes me look as though I’ve joined a cult. Maybe I should start carrying a bow and arrow like Katniss to look more formidable. If nothing else they’d slow down for a good laugh.