There’s a lot to love about bike commuting. Fresh air, exercise, great views, rarely any traffic, and point-to-point convenience with no parking problem. This morning, though, I had one of those quintessential bike commuter experiences that is otherwise so rare in New York City. I had a friendly chat with a stranger.
I met him early on in my commute, peering into the construction site of the new Dyckman Street ramp. He looked to be mid-30s, and was dressed for a ride with cycling shorts and an appropriate shirt/jersey, but not flashy racing kit. He was riding a road bike with no rack or fenders, but he did have a small backpack. I rolled off just as he finished reading the sign, and he mentioned his excitement for the upcoming completion of the new ramp. I replied that its been a long time coming, and now its finally shaping up. Hopefully it will be done this Fall. He apparently hadn’t seen this because he hasn’t had the chance to bike commute in a while.
We went on together for about a half hour. Turns out he’s from Crestwood, which is remarkably far! He said he got going only about 20 minutes before I did, but judging by the map he is at least 40 minutes further away. His commute, along the Bronx River greenway for a bit, before crossing over to the South County Trailway, is, like mine, almost entirely on off-street bike paths. But it is a long way from there to his office in Rockefeller Center in Midtown (about 20 miles). And since he lives a short walk away from the Crestwood Metro North, I’m not surprised that he does the bike commute once a week at best.
We chatted for a while about family, kids, cycling with kids, the weather, bike commuting, and other casual topics. He had to wait a while to be able to cycle with his 1-year-old son due to his unusually large head (apparently a common Irish genetic anomaly, he says). Now he takes him and his 3-year-old daughter out together in a bike trailer. I’ve yet to take my kids out on my bike, and now with a newborn I’m not sure I’ll get a chance at all this season. Perhaps I’ll go with just my older daughter. After all she has been asking for me to take her on my bike all year. I still haven’t figured out just how I will take her, though.
Riding together, we casually passed the vast majority of other Greenway users, though with a stiff headwind I was definitely struggling to keep up with the relatively brisk pace. I said that I was probably a bit slower at the end of the week, but the truth is he’d probably beat me soundly any day of the week. He made fun of another cyclist ahead of us who matched his helmet, gloves, and socks to the paint job on his bike (yellow and black). Riding side-by-side, we had a number of close calls with both each other and the other cyclists and joggers. As we got further south, around 72nd Street, the crowds got thicker and he said good-bye as he pedaled quickly ahead of me. I saw him one last time stopped at a light crossing 48th Street, and then he was off, probably never to be seen by me again.