As a runner, I despised cyclists. I assumed they had it easy, zooming loops around Central Park in 20 minutes while I slogged around in more than double the amount of time by foot. Wheels = easier than feet, right?
Now, as I pass runners in the park, I envy them. As I struggle up Harlem Hill on the lowest gear, I dream of running up it instead. Bikers and runners sharing Central Park can lead to some tense moments, but runners who think the bike lane is their personal HOV lane aren't the only thing that cyclist's need to be aware of while they're out for a spin.
Here are just a few of the unanticipated potential roadblocks I've encountered in the saddle.
Bugs in your eyes. Bugs in your ears. Bugs in your mouth. Bugs splattered on your face. Bugs splattered on your arms. Lots of bugs.
There's even a BUG MOUTHGUARD.
I am terrified of birds, especially pigeons - the gluttonous, fat, flying rats of New York City. There are a shockingly large number of slow-moving pigeons that I have encountered in the park and they have come nauseatingly close to my head.
Birds of the smaller variety also love to dart out, flying low to the ground, and passing inches from your tires.
This video gives me a panic attack.
If I were more dexterous, it would have been awesome to reach up and grab the frisbee before throwing it back to the kids playing - all while riding my bike.
Instead, I held on for dear life and kept pedaling as it whizzed past my face so closely that I felt the breeze.
If you see someone on a Citi Bike doing loops of Central Park - beware. They likely have no idea what's going on around them. They will weave. They will come to a dead stop out of nowhere to wait for their friend.
For now, cyclists still have to share the park with horse & carriages.
Dodge that ish if at all possible.
People tend to think they're capable of crossing Central Park without looking up from their phones.
I once encountered a teenager who thought it was hysterical to stand in the middle of the bike lane and play chicken with cyclists.
SQUIRRELS AND CHIPMUNKS
They like to dart out into the path and then just stop in sheer terror.
I once almost hit a small child who squirmed out of his parents hand-hold and went sprinting across the street.
Whoever said NYC was a concrete jungle with a lack of nature and wildlife has never gone for a bike ride in Central Park. Bugs, birds, squirrels, likely-rabid-raccoons and dogs have all come incredibly close to taking me out. People, I get that you want your dog to run free but we live in a world where small children are put on leashes - use one for your dog, please?
*Side note: Once saw a man cycling with a dog sticking out of his backpack.
A lot harder to avoid as a cyclist when you're moving at 16+ miles per hour!
DISTRACTING CHALK ART
Runners, I feel ya, I do. Bikers go zooming by as you trudge along and you kind of want to punch them. But cyclists are people too - and we've got a lot to contend with out there.
Let's take solace in the fact that we have the same mortal enemy - slow moving tourists.
If you're wondering how cycling is going for me these days - it's been a little better. I don't panic as much and I had my cleats loosened so that clipping out doesn't require wrenching my foot as aggressively.
My roommate got a bike too, and we went out for a fun little ride with some friends last weekend which was awesome. Most importantly, we have our eyes on some tris (poet) in August which is giving me the extra motivation to get in the saddle.
It's still not easy and I still feel disappointed by my pace, but I'm enjoying it a lot more and getting (slightly) more comfortable.
I'm still no pro though - after 18 miles today my legs felt like jelly and when I went to dismount I forgot to lean to my unclipped side - spilling onto the cement while still attached to my bike. The man next to me panicked and started asking if I was OK - luckily I had been at a complete stop and was only bleeding a little bit. I assured him I was fine and that, "this happens all the time." He must have thought I was a moron!
I told my friend the other day that, "It's better to fail at something hard than to not try at all."
I'm taking my own advice and pedaling through the pessimism!