Tuesday, July 6, 2004


I always imagine that the way I die will be exactly the way it used to be portrayed on Unsolved Mysteries. (Imagine Robert Stack narrating...)

"Jessica went for a jog around 9:30 am that fateful Tuesday morning. She was never seen alive...again!" (Again should be pronounced [after a long, pretentious pause] uh-GAIN!)

I woke up this morning bright and early to go hand out flyers in front of Dr. Rosenthal's office. I decided to ride up the East River, along FDR Drive, thinking, the West Side Highway bike lanes are so nice, the East Side must be just as lovely. At first, it was very nice. I was making really good time flying up the pathway aside the river, smelling that fresh, salty, gasoline and oil tinged sea air, the new sun shining sweetly on my face. There was a perfect breeze, and I was going to be arriving way early to 30 E. 76th St.

A few times along the way, the path would be blocked by a wall, or a pile of dirt or asphalt, but I'd just find my way around it and keep going. Eventually, I came upon a sign that said, "No Pedestrians" but I thought pedestrians meant people walking on foot. I kept riding a few more feet and all of a sudden realized I was actually riding ON FDR Drive.

Lexuses and Maximas flew by me going upwards of 70 or 80 miles per hour. I cautiously, nervously, slowly pedaled on, wondering, "Fuck?" and "Shit!" and "How am I going to not get killed right now?" The pathway I was on was a three-foot wide ledge alongside a white three-foot high wall, with just inches of air between me and all the cars that were whizzing by. My bike tires clung to the tiny space for dear life and I clung to my bike. I started visualizing horrific and graphic scenes of my death - some dude on his way to work, still drunk from the night before, swerves a little to the right, and WHAMMO! Blood and hair and teeth EVERYWHERE! Bike pieces and bones raining from the sky! There are no fender benders at 70 mph. I looked around for any kind of space or spot for me to pull into and saw one up ahead - across the highway from exit 12, heading towards 61st St. I pulled over into the very small space and waited for a chance to cross over FDR Drive and hopefully ride my bike down exit 12 to safety, but the cars were just flying by way too fast, one after another. There were no pauses. I looked around, waiting for an opportunity to cross, looking for any break in traffic, but there were none. I looked around and saw that back behind me just a few feet was the pedestrian cross-over bridge, but it was really way to treacherous to ride back the way I'd come. The cars were coming too, too fast and there was a corner going back the way I came that cars would fly around, and it looked really too scary to attempt on bike. Looking back at it, I was shocked that I'd made it as far as I had without getting creamed.

There was a sidewalk behind me, behind the three-foot tall white wall, so I pulled my bike up and over it, onto the sidewalk. I'd been riding alongside it, but it would have been too dangerous to stop riding to try to pull my bike over the wall onto the sidewalk with all those cars zipping past, while trying to keep balanced on the three-foot wide ledge, which at that point in the highway had become a two-foot wide ledge. So I had to wait until I got to the little side space out of the direct line of on-coming traffic. I felt relieved to have gotten out from next door to all those cars, but as I walked back towards the pedestrian foot bridge, I noticed I couldn't get to it because in the MIDDLE of the sidewalk was a chain-link fence with a huge closed padlock. On the other side of the fence, a few homeless people had set up a nice little camp and were napping in the sun. There was no way for me to get to the foot bridge, no way for me to ride backwards, no way for me to cross the highway. I was completely stuck.

I used my cellphone to call 311, the city's information line, and asked if there was someone who could come and open the padlock so I could get through. She said no. She told me to call 911. I called 911 and told them I was stuck, and explained the situation. They said it was not a police matter and there was nothing they could do. I called 311 again and asked what I should do? She called 911 and 911 again told us both that it was not a police matter. I got really pissed and said, "If you can rescue a kitten from a tree, you can fucking get me out of here!" They re-confirmed that they couldn't do anything to help. I sat there for a bit, scared and upset, and called Christopher. He told me to ride back the way I'd come. I tried to explain that it was too dangerous, but he said to just do it. I really couldn't do that, so I hung up and looked around for other options. I began to try to flag down every emergency vehicle that passed, thinking maybe one of them could give me a ride or just slow traffic enough for me to cross, but cop car after emergency vehicle just roared past, either noticing and then ignoring my flailing arms or not even noticing me at all.

All of a sudden, there was a miracle break in traffic. After 40 minutes of waiting. I hauled my bike over the wall and ran across the street, just narrowly missing getting hit by a fresh batch of maniacally speeding drivers. Now across the street, I feared riding down the exit ramp, but decided it was my best and really only option. I got on my bike and started furiously pedaling down the ramp. About halfway down, I saw that I was coming into a construction site. The sign holder lady started freaking out on me. She said, "What are you doing? You can't ride your bike through a construction site! You can't ride your bike on the highway!" I said, "I know! I didn't want to ride on the highway! I got stuck!" I flew by her and finally reached York Ave., away from the scariness of the highway. I was just sighing a huge sigh of relief and thinking how lucky I'd been to not get squished and cursing the cops for insisting there was nothing they could do.

Nothing they could do? Well, I have some ideas. For starters, how about a sign at the end of the pathway that says, "DO NOT RIDE YOUR BIKE! HIGHWAY AHEAD! NO SHOULDER!" Or how about not locking the fucking sidewalk with a chain-link fence so that in the event that someone accidentally does ride onto the highway, they can get back to the foot bridge? STUPID!!!

Just as I was starting to relax a little, a cop car pulled up along side of me. The cop yelled, "HEY!" to me and demanded my ID. I tried to explain to him what had happened and asked where the fuck was he when I needed help? He said that he was going to write me a summons for riding my bike on the highway. I started freaking out at that point, crying and screaming at him. "I was stuck on the highway!" I yelled. "Where were you when I needed someone to come and rescue me?" He said he'd responded to my 911 call. I told him that they said it wasn't a police matter. He said to contest it in court if I wanted to. I said, "If I was your daughter, wouldn't you want someone to help me?" That softened him up a bit, but not enough. He told me it's against the law to ride on the highway, and that a summons would teach me in the future to not ride on the highway. I explained that riding my bike on the regular streets of Manhattan is treacherous enough. I said he should go write some tickets for people speeding and not using signals. He said that he writes multiple speeding tickets every day. I said, "Well, it's good that someone is doing their job." He got really pissed when I said that and actually said, "Don't go there." (He was a black cop. It was just like out of a Lethal Weapon movie!) I explained that I almost get run over 7-10 times a day just riding around the city, and that I wouldn't WANT to ride on the highway. I explained that there was no sign. He said that there were two. I told him that the sidewalk was locked. He said that was to keep people from riding onto the highway. "What about getting back?" I asked. He said, "Don't ride on the highway." I explained how poor I am and that the ticket was not only wrong, but that I wouldn't and couldn't pay it. He said, "Contest it in court." After bickering for about ten minutes and me crying, he told me to stop crying because I was too old to cry and gave me my summons. I rode away on my bike PISSED.

I guess the moral of this story, is maybe I should stop enjoying riding my bike on the highway so much, but it's just too fun. The mix of the thrill of almost being smashed by a zooming metal monster and the sweet, sweet smell of gassy river water is just too intoxicating to resist.

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