I love NYC's bike share program. So far, I've taken nine rides including several up and down the city's west side bike paths but if I had to choose a word to sum up what it's like to hit the pavement on a bike in this city, that word would be "terrifying!"
I grew up in NYC and I've always had a bike but don't often ride on the city streets. But in a ride still famous (to me alone), I rode -- at the age of 12 -- 10 miles from my housing project over the George Washington bridge and down a steep hill in New Jersey, all without a helmet. So it's not like I'm a newcomer to riding these mean streets.
But now that I've begun riding a bike on the streets as an adult, I understand why I intuitively had put it off all these years. For all Mayor Bloomberg has done to make the city a bike friendly place, it's really anything but. With all the cars, other bikes and pedestrians -- is kind of like being in the center of a video game. Something or someone is always coming at you. There are poor roads, construction, dogs, you name it and it's coming close. Relaxing, it ain't. You must pay the utmost attention at all times or splat, it's not going to be pretty. The only prize is getting to your destination in one piece or alive.
Yoga gurus are fond of saying "live in the present" or "be present." Well, let me tell you, nothing will make you quite as present as riding in this town. It is daunting, exhilarating, fun even but more than anything it forces you to live in the present. I wouldn't dare listen to music or talk on the phone -- that, my friends, would be a suicide mission.
Getting off, you kind of feel around and make sure you're in one piece -- it's a fantastic experience and makes you feel fully alive. Try it but be prepared to stay focused.
(By the way, I've caved in and bought a bicycle helmet. I don't like wearing one but I can't really argue that it ruins my hair.)