Let me get something off my chest.
I love riding my bike to work. I ride pretty fast (many are faster) and I ride assertively. Not being a jerk, but if you are walking in the bike lane with your back to me, I’m hollering “watch out, watch your back” so that you and I can be safe and I don’t have to slow down or stop.
I also ride with reflectors and blinky lights and sometimes a speaker blaring. I want you to not be surprised by me. I’m pre-emptively defending myself and excusing my existence because lots of people are angry at people who ride bikes for reasons I don’t entirely understand. Sometimes people shout at me, but mostly not. I’ll just go ahead with telling the story so I don’t lose anything – this is still rattling around in my mind.
Last night I was heading from work to a Positive Discipline parenting workshop because I want to be a better parent. My route goes down Broadway through Herald Square, which is a nightmare. Let me show you.
There are many spots where people are walking in bike lanes, which are unclear and poorly maintained. People are headed to Penn station, which would make anyone angry.
I was almost through this meatgrinder of an intersection when I saw a man step out into the bike lane nearly in front of another biker, react as if he was threatened and throw an elbow at the biker. We had the green, but in NY lights are a negotiation between walkers and riders. Walkers gonna walk, and it’s ok. I thought this guy seemed nuts and angry and thought, I’ll go ride through behind him.
As I biked behind him, he reached out with his elbow to hit me. I stopped and asked him that perfect question, “What the fuck?” This was dumb as it was clearly intentional. He started shouting at me that I was crossing against a red light. I wasn’t. I shouted back which was useless and there was a lot of yelling where I’m saying you know that you intentionally hit me and then he yells “What are you going to do about it?”
I thought and said, I’m going to go ride home to my family and forget about you. We yelled at each other some more.
Then he punched me in the chest. Poorly, because he was a dumbass, but the thought counts.
Let me tell you who punched me. A standard older banker/business white guy. Late 40s/mid 50s. Flat top haircut. Wearing a long black wool overcoat.
I was straddling a bike, so I got off the bike. Didn’t want to be easy to knock over. He stepped back, fished in his coat pocket and pulled out a stun gun.
There was more yelling, and I realized this guy was intentionally trying to get someone to fight him. I didn’t want to. I also didn’t want him to get into Penn Station and try this on someone more vulnerable than me. I don’t think you should call the police for most problems, but this seemed like a pretty reasonable thing. I couldn’t see any cops, of course. The guy backed up and left. I don’t know why.
I keep thinking about this and replaying the incident in my mind and going over what I should have done. But really, this is just the random brutal real world. I didn’t save the day or get control of this danger, I didn’t make things better, but I did get to go home, go learn how to be a better parent and that’s something.