Monday, October 5, 2009

Musings: I once thought cycling in NYC was scary

A friend sent me a Youtube link for a video called "Insane Cycling - New York City." I clicked on it and got ready to cringe as I watched bicycle messengers darting through traffic and doing kamikaze sprints through the streets of the Big Apple. I lived in New York 10 years ago and didn’t dare ride there, partly because I was barely breaking even paying rent on an Upper West Side shoebox and couldn’t afford a decent bike at the time. But mostly because the streets seemed to scary.

As I started watching the video clip, I realized my heart rate wasn’t rising. I wasn't perspiring. I wasn’t wincing. Instead of a thrill, I was experiencing disappointment. I thought I would get Mad Max, but I ended up with Sesame Street.

The disappointment started to fade and be replaced by envy. New York seemed like a wonderful place to ride. Sure, there was a lot of traffic. But pedestrians used the crosswalks. Buses lumbered along like gentle whales. Taxis used their turn signals. The streets looked so clean. Where was the insanity?

To be sure, there was some insanity. But it was more in the choice of equipment by the cyclists. Most of them were riding fixies. I didn’t check closely, but it seems that few or none had brakes. This qualifies for insane. I’d never ride such a rig in any city.

But I’d like to see them race their fixies in the streets that I ride daily in Guangzhou, once known as Canton – a sprawling, gritty city of 10 million people in southern China.

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