Dan and I went to Berlin shortly after we graduated college in 2009. It was in every way a wonderful experience – we’d only been dating for 2 years at the time (just stop doing the math, I’m old) and it was our first big trip together, not to mention Dan’s first time to Europe and both of our first times in Berlin. I got to impress him with my German (which I’d just acquired a minor in) and we spent hours strolling through the urban and suburban streets, popping into cafes, visiting museums, and going on boat rides and bike tours which now we’d probably sniff at as too tourist-y. There was unseasonable heat but the nights were chilly enough for a jacket.
One of our most remembered moments was when we found ourselves in a main square having just gotten off of the subway. We were standing still, in awe of a big open blue sky and a dazzling array of tall buildings. All of a sudden a man wearing the archetypal spandex and aerodynamic helmet of a true
asshole athlete whizzed by us, close enough that I could feel the breeze rush through my the hairs on my arm. “This lane is for bikes!” he screeched, although it sounded more like “ZEES LANE IS FOR BAIKES!” and the phrase remained as we turned toward his figure speeding away, dodging pedestrians left and right. “ZEES LANE IS FOR BAIKES” we’d laugh later, chalking up his stridency to being German, fed up with tourists meandering into his bike lanes which maximize the efficiency of his trip from work to home, and so on. We’d get into a fight about something petty but then dissolve into giggles when one of us exclaimed “I know…but…ZEES LANE IS FOR BAIKES!” That guy was the worst, but made for so many funny reenactments. I mean, take it easy, that guy!
I recently purchased a bike here in New York, as my lovely Trek is at my parents’ house outside of DC and I just couldn’t wait any longer to shave more than half the time off of my commute to work and feel the wind in my face. The single-speed cost me next to nothing, and the very nice individual who sold it to me threw in a lock and three tickets to the Museum of Natural History, where she works – so who says New Yorkers aren’t nice? I rode my new fuchsia Murray home in a wave of ecstasy, hopping onto the sidewalk when traffic became too heavy.
Since I’ve had it – exactly a week today! – I’ve ridden my bike roughly 60 miles – to and from work, grocery shopping at the fancy store which is now accessible without two annoying transfers on the train, over the Williamsburg bridge to visit Dan at work in the East Village, and pretty much anywhere else I need to go. I glow with the realization that I don’t have to spend over $100 this month on a metro card, and my benevolence is visible to all who witness me glide by, a beatific smile glued to my lips.
That is, most of the time. I was pleasantly surprised at the number of bike lanes found all over the city, affording you your very own space to ride along with traffic safely. Although I have a helmet (something I shirked the years I rode my bike in Richmond until I found myself concussed…twice) I’m still nervous riding in the thick of cars, trucks, taxis, and the general mayhem they incur. What I didn’t account for was the other people who find themselves in the bike lanes. Sometimes it’s a nice pedestrian, slowly stepping out into the lane to check on traffic, not realizing that I, hurtling down at 20 mph, also count as traffic. Sometimes it’s a vehicle, casually pulling over to pick up a friend, or unload the trunk. Sometimes the vehicle is moving, and has some sort of strange body dysmorphia where it sees itself as a bike, and therefore believes the giant white painted cyclist on the pavement reflects its image. Construction, litter, flora and fauna, somehow things find a way to my special little lane.
Every once in a while there is a close call, where I have to swerve around a person or open car door. As I catch my breath and the mini heart attack subsides, I find myself, on a sharp inhale of air, gasping, “ZEES.. LANE..IS… FOR… BAAIIIKKEESS!!!” Sometimes we’re all that guy, I guess.