Back in August, 2006, we had a mini No Impact experiment for a week to help us decided if we could do it for a year. I pulled out my bike—the one I use now to get around—and dusted it off. This is my journal entry about my first real ride (the picture, by the way, comes from Transportation Alternatives, NYC's bike advocacy group):
Everything I’ve read says that bicycles move faster in
As it happens, my best friend Tanner is visiting our apartment so he can play with Isabella, but the plan is to eventually meet our friend Bill uptown. We’re going to have a race. He’s going to walk to the subway and take the train. I’m going to ride my bike. We’ll see which is faster.
So I zig my way over to
Around 50th Street I veer out of the nearside lane to move around a parked car. As I pull back in I hear a loud screech from behind me, then I have the surreal sensation of speeding up, then I’m flying through the air and…whack!
I’m on the asphalt and the first thing I’m thinking is Michelle is going to kill me for hurting myself again—I broke my ankle earlier in the year—and this hugely tall man gets out of the maroon BMW that just hit me and I am on my feet shouting my head off. It’s pure vitriol coming out of my mouth and I have no control over it. What kind of an idiot are you? What the hell is so important that it’s worth risking my life for?
Now, he is shouting that it is me who is the jerk and then a lady on a bike with a basket with plastic flowers rides up and starts shouting at the driver for shouting at me. “Can’t you see he’s bleeding,” she says. I haven’t noticed. The guy pulls out his cell phone to dial 911 and I start shouting “you were talking on your freaking cell phone when you hit me” and I’m just beside myself with nuttiness. The blood drips from my right knee and the palm of my right hand, which looks like hamburger. It hurts when I bend my left thumb.
BMW man is calling an ambulance and I’m thinking I don’t need an ambulance and suddenly I’m so very lonely. The ambulance siren screams from about four blocks away and I can see the lights flashing above the cars and there is something beautiful about that. I think: imagine if there were no cars then how would we all get to the hospital and surely Michelle will never let me ride my bike again so how will we do this no impact experiment?
I’m in the back of the ambulance and the paramedic is wrapping gauze around my hand and the police officer is explaining that I could get arrested for riding my bike without carrying ID and I’m just eying the cell phones hanging from everyone’s belts. I didn’t bring mine. I need to call Michelle.
Anyway, I’m thinking how do I first get to borrow a phone and second get out of earshot to begin a conversation that I know is going to begin with me saying, “Honey, please don’t be mad at me but…” Who wants to say such a girly-man thing in front a cop with a shaved head and an ambulance man wearing those fingerless black leather gloves and a backwards baseball cap?
I go up to the guy who hit me and reassure him that I am not going to sue him. Later, I realize that it is because I needed to connect with someone, because I didn’t want to think that the experience of nearly getting killed was one I had entirely alone. I wanted to pretend he was in it with me.
He doesn’t offer me and my broken bike a ride home. He wasn’t in it with me at all. Then, I’m sitting for a moment on the back of the ambulance, and my heart breaks for the world. I understand how we all want to protect ourselves by being inside these big, tank-like SUVs.
Then I wish I had an SUV and that I had run this guy over instead of the other way around. Then I chastise myself for having such a thought. Then I realize how trying to protect ourselves with the SUVs is the whole problem. That’s how we pump out the poison.
And nothing can really
protect you, after all. Sitting on the bumper on the back of the ambulance,
bleeding, I feel the insecurity of life with all my being. There is no escaping
it. You never know when you’re going to be hit. So I’m thinking there is no
pointing wrecking the world trying to protect myself with an SUV. It can’t be done.