My morning commute is something over seven miles: one mile in Queens, another mile across the Queensboro bridge on a separate bike and pedestrian path, two-and-a-half miles across Manhattan on 59th St. to the Hudson river, and then another three miles down a bike/pedestrian path along the river. All this takes about 35-40 minutes, sometimes less if I get lucky with those cross-town lights. While the cross-town traffic is certainly the hairiest by most standards, it’s very thick in the morning, and thick traffic means slow traffic, which means, for a biker like me, safer traffic. My least favorite part is the one mile in Queens. The traffic is lighter, so drivers get to play that fun game of getting to the red light as fast as they can, waiting, then getting to the next light as fast as they can.
This morning, as I’m riding on the left side of a one-way two-lane street to the bridge in Queens, I was buzzed unnecessarily close by one of those mini-SUVs. I caught up at the next red light, gave the guy a “what was that about?” look as I passed. He yelled something at me as I went through the intersection (I wasn’t listening – I was paying attention to traffic), and I continued on my way. The light changed, traffic caught up to me, and again, the guy buzzes me, this time faster and closer. What’s the deal? I didn’t kick his door, I didn’t give him the finger, I just gave him a look, not even an aggressive look, just a confused look. Where’s the hostility coming from?
So, at the next intersection (with him stopped at a red light), I skipped the look, breezed past, raised my cadence and left him in the dust as traffic got thicker on approach to the bridge. Once traffic was thick enough, there was little chance of him catching up to me, and once I was on the bridge, there was no chance at all.
This is a good example of why I feel safer biking in city traffic than I do on rural or suburban streets. There are a lot of obstacles and a lot of cars, yes, but this also means that traffic is slower in general, there are more escape routes, more one-way streets, just more options to avoid someone who’s giving you a hard time. That car might be able to go 100 miles an hour, but not here. There’s a reason a 40 minute bike ride takes over an hour by car.
The jerks of the world are inevitable, and since I’m fortunate enough to live in this huge, noisy, dirty metropolis, our contact is short-lived. While it’s fun to entertain fantasies of revenge on the car (and sometimes the driver), I try to remember that the best revenge is getting there first.