Tag Archives: bike

Stroller rage

I was riding my bike to school today. There’s a good stretch of my route along 34th Ave. in Queens, a dedicated bike lane, but one with a traffic light at every single intersection. I’m not a reckless cyclist. Whenever I come to a red light, I at least slow down to make sure no cars or pedestrians are in the way before going through. I know, technically cyclists have to obey all of the rules that a car does. But that doesn’t make any sense. It takes a lot more for a bike to get going after a full stop than a car.


So I’m approaching this one red light, very slowly. It wasn’t even an intersection. Here was a traffic light that served no purpose other than to keep a spacing continuity with all of the other traffic lights. And this isn’t a busy street. It’s a single lane both ways. It’s not Queens Blvd.

The pedestrian crossing signs were white, for walk, on both sides. On one side of the street there was a dad holding one of those exercising strollers, but there wasn’t any child inside. At his side were three little kids of various ages, the oldest couldn’t have been more than five or six. Do you know why I had a chance to notice all of this? Because I was coming at the light really, really slowly. I wasn’t even pedaling, I was just rolling through.

Like I said, the dad and his kids were on one side, and I had a clear path across, and so I just went for it. But it wasn’t going to be so easy. As I made my way through, the dad ran across the street, leaving his kids back on the corner, and pushed the stroller right in my way. So I stopped, I got off the bike, and I kind of made a confused and annoyed face at the guy. “Come on man, we both had the light.”

“What?” he screamed at me. “You didn’t have the light! You had a red light!”

And yeah, whatever, if he was a cop, I guess he could’ve given me a ticket. But he wasn’t a cop. And there was no harm being done. This was just some vigilante super dad taking the laws of traffic into his own hands.

Then things escalated. I didn’t say anything back to him, but he started yelling. “You almost hit my kids!” and he took his stroller and started pushing me, hard. Like my whole bike was moving. And I looked at him and his jaw was clenched, he was physically shaking with rage.

Now I was getting angry too, call it fight or flight or whatever, but this guy was pushing me and all my body was doing was telling me to push back. What would have happened? I don’t know. This guy was about the same size as me, maybe a little shorter, but he had the whole really, really angry thing going for him. Thankfully, it only took about a second or two for me to realize that, no, I probably shouldn’t get into a physical fight with some random dude on the street, even if he did push me with his giant red sporty cool dad exercise stroller.

“Listen man, I apologize, OK?” I said it as sincerely as I could. My goal was simple, to defuse the situation and get out.

“OK!” he screamed at me, and I could tell that I’d gotten through to him somehow. That in the basest part of his animal brain, I’d submitted to his power, and even though he probably still wanted to punch, there was really nothing he could have done now short of straight out attacked me.

I used the moment to push free of his stroller and take a couple of steps forward. But now that I was sure he couldn’t get me, I called back, “Hey kids,” and I said this in one of those parenting voices that super annoying moms and dads use to talk to their kids like babies, “Daddy needs anger management classes.”

And he started coming at me and screaming something unintelligible, but I’d already pushed my bike ahead and started pedaling away. When I was positive that I’d made an escape, I yelled back, really loudly, “Hey asshole, I’m not really sorry, I just didn’t feel like getting beat up!” and they I just gunned it, not looking back.

Because, I’m serious, there’s no way I was even close to hitting his kids, absolutely zero percent. And I’m happy with how I handled the situation, not getting into a fight, speaking my mind once I was free of immediate danger. I probably shouldn’t have said asshole in front of his kids. That was my bad. But at least I didn’t do what I really wanted to do, to fight back. Because come on man, don’t fucking push me around. You want to yell at me on the street? Fine. I can take getting screamed at by some random d-bag. But don’t start pushing people. Maybe next time whoever you start pushing around is going to be a real whack-job. And what are you going to do when they start throwing lefts to your face? You want your kids to see you get your ass kicked?

My bike

Something like three or four years ago, I had a bike stolen in the city. I was always really good about chaining it up to wherever I chained it up to, I had a U shaped lock that went around the frame, and then I wrapped a flexible chord lock around the two wheels. Other than this one time where I came outside one day to find my seat missing, I never really had any sort of theft problems.


But then one day I rode my bike to work. By the time I left the building at around  six in the afternoon, it was pouring rain. And I mean, I’ll ride in a little rain, I live close to work, I have rain pants, it’s doable. But this day wasn’t doable. It was really coming down. I thought about it, I thought, should I take the bike down on the subway with me? I’ve done that before. It’s not that easy, but you’re allowed to, like, there’s no rules against it like there is on the PATH train or the Long Island Railroad.

But it’s a huge pain in the ass. You’ve got to carry your bicycle down a flight of stairs, and then you’ve got to put it down somewhere while you get your Metrocard out. After that it’s more stairs, and then you’re waiting on the platform, you and a giant bike, all while everybody else in the city is just trying to get home, just them and a bag, usually, not a lot of other bikes.

And think about it, it’s pouring rain, so everybody’s making a rush to the subway, there aren’t any cabs available, the system’s running a lot slower because of water leaking into the tunnels, because of people crowding the cars. That’s another thing, I’ll be waiting with my bike and a full train will roll into the station. If I were by myself, sure, I could push myself in there. But with a bike? It’s not happening. And everybody’s just getting more and more pissed at me, throwing a wrench into the system, making it hard for people just to walk around me.

I thought about it, I said, you know what? I’ll just leave it outside for the night. I’ll just pick it up in the morning. And you know, in retrospect, I can look at the whole situation and tell myself that even back then I had a bad feeling about it. But did I really have a bad feeling? I’m not so sure. That’s how I remember it now though, like I reluctantly left my bike to the fates, to fend for itself for the night. And this version of the story drives me crazy, because I always think, Rob, if you had a bad feeling about it, why would you go through with it? Why roll the dice?

Yeah, so you can imagine where this story’s going, right? I showed up in the morning and the bike was gone. And I just stood there for a while, I couldn’t believe someone had stolen my bike. I wanted answers, I wanted some sort of an outlet for my anger and disbelief. But there was nothing to be done, nobody to complain to, I just kind of stood there with my hands out, like I was pantomiming to the world, “Are you kidding me? Someone really stole my bike?”

And that bike was awesome. I mean, you wouldn’t know it just by looking at it. This thing wasn’t any sort of nice bike. I bought it on craigslist for seventy-five bucks, and right away I had to replace one of the tires, some brake pads, over the course of the next few months I probably dropped like another hundred, a hundred and fifty.

But it was more than just money. I bonded with this bicycle. As I made small hardware upgrades here and there, it came to feel like a part of me. Over an especially adventurous winter, I took the whole thing apart, sanded the frame, and gave it a brand new paint job. After two years or so, a lot of my identity was wrapped up in this piece of junk I kind of just happened upon on the Internet.

So when it got stolen, it was just this cold slap in the face, the world giving me a harsh reminder that I’m nothing, that the things that I care about aren’t necessarily important in the greater scheme of things. I tried to spin it into a whole life lesson, but no, part of me hardened that day. I’d eventually buy another bike, but a lot of the joy I got out of pedaling around town just wasn’t accessible to me anymore.

Which was why, a few months ago, I couldn’t believe it, I was in the passenger seat of my brother’s car when we stopped at a light. I looked to my right and, there it was, my bike. Sure, it looked a little more beat up, I mean, three or four years of city riding will do that to a bike. But aside from what looked like a new set of reflectors and maybe some new handlebars, that was my paint job, nobody could have done that exactly like I had, it was totally my bike.

So I just jumped out of the car and pushed this guy over, hard. And yeah, that was totally an overreaction, I get it. I mean, I didn’t think about it right away, but there was almost no chance that this guy was the dude who stole my bike. Whoever did it probably took it, cleaned it up a bit, and maybe sold it on craigslist. (Although, right after the original theft, I had spent hours for weeks, combing through the thousands of bikes available for sale online, hoping that my bike might have shown up, somewhere.)

And now here I was and this guy was on the ground, it looked like he was a delivery guy, and there were all of these take-out trays of rice and noodles spilling on the street next to him. The better part of me wanted to help him up and try my best to explain the situation, but a different part of me knew that, if I pursued that course of action, there would have been a good chance that I’d have to let him keep the bike.

So I just started pedaling. I didn’t even look back to tell my brother. I picked up the bike while that delivery guy lay there kind of stunned on the ground and I just took off. And this was kind of far away from my house, I was looking at like a two, two and a half hour ride back to my house.

The ride wasn’t the same as I had remembered it. In my mind, I had glorified this thing as some sort of a miracle machine. But after twenty minutes or so heading back to my house, I had to admit that, my newer bikes rode a lot better than this thing. I tried desperately to at least get some of that sentimental mojo going through my head, but again, aside from a really base lingering admiration of my paint job, there was nothing there, nothing that was strong enough to overcome the intense feelings of guilt that were starting to get even stronger as I really thought about what I did to that poor delivery guy.

I turned around and rode back to where I stole my bike back, hoping even though I knew that it was beyond unlikely, that he’d still be there, that I’d find him, apologize, pay for all of the food I ruined, give him the bike back. I didn’t really need it anymore, I had two more bikes back at my place.

But yeah, he was long gone, and I waited around for a few more minutes, but there was nothing I could do, my act of malice had seeped into the earth, it was like a deep stain on a white carpet that I knew would never really come out.

And all of this time, all of these years, I always thought about that bike, me and my misfortune, how I wished that I still had it, that I can’t believe I got robbed. And now I have it back and I never even ride it, it’s just lying in my garage, collecting cobwebs, unused, I’m too ashamed to even look at it.

I’m doing great

My life is going great. So great, you have no idea. Seriously, however great you think your life is going right now, it’s nowhere near as great as mine is. And I’m not trying to brag. I just want to be grateful, to the universe, for how great my life is. Dear universe, thank you for making my life so awesome. For real, I look around at everyone else and I’m like, sure, I have no idea what’s going on in anyone’s life, but just from a superficial snap-judgment point of view, it looks like I’m doing exponentially much better than everyone I see.


One of my coworkers had his bike stolen last week. But not me. Nobody stole my bike. And that guy had these two really strong locks. He always used to give me lectures like, “Rob, you’ve got to get two locks.” He’d tell me stuff like, “No lock is one hundred percent effective. They’re only deterrents. You should get two.” And I would get so pissed, this guy hardly rides his bike at all, don’t tell me what to do, I hate being told what to do. I remember maybe like two or three weeks ago, he was giving me the rundown on why, “You just have to buy a Kryptonite lock. There’s really no alternative.”

And I just smiled politely, I think, I hope I wasn’t telegraphing how pissed off I was, because in my head I was screaming out loud, man, I hope this guy’s bike gets stolen. And it did. I can’t believe it happened. I said to him, “Man, I can’t believe your bike got stolen. Because don’t you always use two locks?” And he tried to play it off all cool, even attempting to own it, kind of, he was like, “You see? This just goes to show that no bike lock is effective!” But I just cut him off, I told him, “Yeah, I actually read this article on the Internet about how unreliable those Kryptonite locks are.”

I made that up, but whatever, it ended the conversation. Not that I needed to end it. My bike is fine. It’s great. I should have just basked in how awesome it was that I still had my bike while my smug know-it-all coworker, not only does he have to buy a new one, but he has to shell out money for even more locks. And they’re not cheap.

Nope, nothing going wrong over here on my end. Things couldn’t be better. I mean, maybe they could, I guess things could always be better. But I can’t imagine how they’d go about being any better than they are. I went to Subway with one of my other coworkers last week. I never get the fountain soda, but for whatever reason I did, they handed me the cup. On the side there was this peel-off promotion, something about winning a chance to star in a Subway commercial with Eli Manning.

And no, unfortunately I didn’t win the commercial. Although, that would have been really cool. I think I just figured out how I could have possibly made my life a little better. But it was OK, because the peel-off said, “Your next lunch is on us! One free foot-long combo!” And I was like, “Yes!” I brought it up to the cashier and asked him, “Hey man, can I just get my money back for this meal that already bought?” and he was like, “No, that actually wasn’t a meal, it was just a sandwich and a soda.”

“So what am I missing for a meal?” and he told me, “Either chips or cookies.” So we got into a little, in my view, I should have at least been offered the opportunity to add chips or cookies to make it a meal. And he was all like, “It’s only good for your next purchase.” But eventually the people behind me started making all of these noises, like they were audibly impatient with how slow this guy was taking to not accommodate my winning ticket. Finally he was like, “OK, sure, here’s your money back.”

And I was like, “Yes!” And I got the free cookies too. But my coworker? Not only did he not win anything, but there was this big piece of plastic in his sandwich. I was like, “Gross! Dude, you’ve got to get a new sandwich. And ask for your money back. And see if you can get some free cookies out of it.” But he was like, “Eh … well … I don’t know,” just totally too afraid of “making a scene,” whatever that means. He said it was cool, he just pushed the plastic to the side, but I could tell lunch was ruined.

For him anyway, but not for me. My lunch was awesome. And I kept telling him, “Man, this free lunch is the best!” because why not? I’ve got to maintain this positive attitude. I go like three, four years without ever winning anything, and all of the sudden it’s this, in the same week, my bike is fine and I get a free lunch. It’s just awesome. Go ahead and tell me that I don’t have to announce it, but you’re just jealous. And that’s not great. I’m great. I’m doing great, man, just terrific.

I’m very fast

I can run really fast, faster than that guy over there, but I don’t want to get into it with him, like, I can’t just start racing him, there’d be a question of a fixed start, of me having had that advantage of knowing that we were racing. Whatever, I’m not going to go over and challenge him to a race. But I want to. Because I see him running his laps, I know, he’s probably not giving it his all, but just based on his form, I can get a good mental picture of what this guy looks like when he’s at a full sprint, and I’m pretty sure I can take him.


I could take most runners in a race. I could take most cyclists, too. Me on foot and anybody else on a bike. And yeah, there’s a lot more that goes into it than just speed, there’s the question of, for example, is the cyclist riding on a flat surface? Because if it’s going downhill, I can’t really compete with gravity. Also, how long is the race? Because if you’re looking long haul, big picture, again, I’d have to give it to the bike. But just like a quarter of a mile? A really flat one hundred meters? I think I could do it.

Not like professional bikers, mind you. I’m just talking regular bikers. What does that mean? Like no specialized biking gear, like matching shorts and biking shirts or anything like that. Also, if you have one of those five thousand dollar bikes, take it man, you could probably beat me on foot. But put me on that bike, even the scores a little, and I’d totally win.

I think that, under the right circumstances, I could beat a car. Very limited circumstances. I’m thinking specifically of the on-ramp to the Queensboro Bridge. It’s really steep, very short, and there’s a pedestrian lane right alongside. If I could somehow get my muscles to just start pounding out one hundred percent efficiency, yes, it would only be for the briefest amount of time, but I’m convinced that I could do it.

Again, no performance cars, OK. It has to be a model ideally from the mid to late 1990s, something with good but not great fuel efficiency. And I’m not looking for bumper-to-bumper traffic, but just some regular traffic, just so the driver has to do a little more than simply gun it up that ramp, just a few other drivers, some very mild obstacles. I’d totally do it. I could totally run faster than that car. I’m really a very fast runner.

Self-appointed bike lane enforcement guy

It’s not my job to tell people what to do, I get it. I keep telling it to myself over and over again every time I ride my bike across the Queensboro Bridge. I’ve written about this before, but there’s a shared lane fenced off from traffic on the North side of the bridge. It’s about the width of a single lane of normal car traffic.

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Only, this lane is divided by a white line down the center. The inside side is clearly labeled every twenty feet or so with these stick-figure graphics of a guy on a bicycle, while directly opposite, there are images of pedestrians. It’s easy enough, biking on one side, walking on the other.

But I don’t understand why people can’t just follow this very simple system. If you’re on a bike, why do you have to bike in the pedestrian lane? If you’re walking or running, what are trying to accomplish by taking up space in the bike lane? Why can’t we just respect the system?

But like I said, I’m not in charge, OK, I get that. It’s not my job to tell people to follow the rules. I’m not a cop. People aren’t obligated to listen to me. And so I try to just bite my tongue. I really do make an effort to not let myself get angry just because other people make decisions that I wouldn’t make.

It seriously drives me crazy though. I’ll be biking on the bike side of the lane when I see a runner coming right at me. What do I do? Isn’t it easy enough to just swerve out of the way? Yeah, I guess in theory there might come a time where there could potentially be a traffic issue, multiple bikers trying to pass each other at the same time at the same spot, a situation that could be neatly avoided if the runner would just stay in his designated running lane.

But most of the time it’s not an issue. It’s certainly not my issue. The guy’s in the bike lane, it doesn’t matter. It shouldn’t matter. I should just ignore it, bike around him. Why do I have to let the actions of a complete stranger dictate the state of emotions inside my head?

But I’m not always thinking the same way every time I cross the bridge. Sometimes I might be in a really good mood. I’ll see that runner, I’ll say to myself, hey Rob, just focus on your own life. Don’t worry about what other people are doing. It doesn’t matter.

Sometimes it works. Other times I might be running late, I might have just gotten into an argument with someone. Maybe I’m just pissed off for no reason at all. That happens, I can wake up on the wrong side of the bed. And look, now I’ve got some idiot running right at me from the wrong side of the lane. Well you know what? I don’t feel like getting pushed around, not today, not by these people just blatantly disregarding the bike lane and the pedestrian lane.

And I just want to put it out there, when I get bent out shape, I know that I’m in the wrong. Every time that I take this shit personally, every time I choose to react to something like this, I get it, I’m the idiot here. Yet sometimes there’s nothing I can do. Something about it just drives me off the wall. Like why do I have to get out of your way? Why don’t you just stay on your side and then nobody will have to get out of anybody else’s way?

There are several ways of me going about being a self-righteous bridge asshole. If the runner is running all the way to the side of the bridge, I might meet him head on, a classic game of chicken. Eventually we get to the same spot, and I kind of put my hands in the air, like what the hell man? And he does the same thing, like come on dude! And that’s it.

Other times I might get verbal, like, “Come on man! Bike lane!” and then I’ve basically lost, because now I’m the crazy person yelling at random strangers on the bridge. It’s all nonsense. I don’t want it to bother me anymore. I just want to ride my bike across without feeling like I’m being one-upped by anyone. Maybe I should start commuting blindfolded. When I get in someone’s face, it’s pointless. There’s going to be another pedestrian in the bike lane like thirty seconds later. What am I going to do, yell at every single person? Is that going to be my thing, like self-appointed bike lane enforcement guy?

I hope not. I hope that eventually it won’t bother me, like I’ll learn to not let it piss me off. But I’m still far away from that day. Because even if I do restrain myself, even if I politely get out of everyone else’s way, it still pisses me off. Just stay in your lane, all right, it’s really not difficult at all.