I’ve been locking my bike to the same pole for 5 years.
Since I’ve been in New York City, I’ve had a virtual plethora of bikes. I’ve had mountain bikes, ten speeds, cruisers, I think I even had a Huffy at one point. I currently ride a Lemoncello yellow beat up but beloved Schwinn ten speed with the handle bars transplanted from my previous lime green cruiser that had a fatal crack in its’ frame. I guess I’m a sucker for the acidic fruit family / Italian liquor spectrum of colors. But I never really choose my bikes, they always seem to find me.
Around the time my husband gifted me the vintage Schwinn, I was riding old greeney and loving every pedal rotation of it. Old greeney was gifted to me by a friend and before old greeney, I was riding a beautiful vintage french bike that I found in the garbage, or maybe it found me. It was black – the color of a severely rotten and forgotten lime.
I’ve lived in the same apartment for over 5 years, and when I moved here, I was one of the few white people in the ‘hood. My bike sat tethered alone to the signpost in front of my apartment, unbothered by any other bikes. Sure, now and then, a delivery man would lock his hovel craft to the pole for a few minutes, but black Frenchie, old greenie, Lemoncello yellow and those that came before it were free to bask in the city sun with plenty of room to breathe.
Then came glorious magenta.
One morning, I arrived at my wheels to find glorious magenta tied up along side it. Glorious Magenta was a vision. A gently worn vintage bike with basket in tact, not beat and pulverized as mine was rendered from carrying instruments, boxes, groceries, even a human ass that had fallen into it at one point. It’s paint was mostly pristine, and it’s seat had no scratches or dings in it. Who’s bike was this, I asked myself. Surely someone who couldn’t appreciate the rare loveliness of it. What chinese boy has been awarded this specimen of beauty, unaware of it’s charm and detail? And why must they lock it to Lemoncello yellow’s pole, taunting not only my poor beater, but me along side it, day after day?
This morning, I came upon glorious magenta once again. I studied it’s gentle curves, made just for a woman to ride. Lemoncello’s frame was made for a man. As someone who revels at hand me downs, I get lots of nice treats but none of them are ever custom made for me. As I stood wondering, “Who? Who rides the bike I should be riding, and dares lock it to my pole!?”, she sauntered up to it, seemingly stepping out of nowhere. Maybe she rode a cloud straight from heaven in, or perhaps she’d slipped off the back of a Pegasus, because she hadn’t been there just a moment ago. A waif-ish hipster with hair the same chestnut brown stain as mine but shorter, tamer, she wore a jean jacket that clung desperately to her slender frame, covering a delicate Urban Outfitter’s sundress. Wayfarers shaded her eyes. “Hi!” I exclaimed, excited at having solved the puzzle, surprised at the answer and simultaneously riddled with thrill and jealousy. I watched as she struggled to unlock her bike, pushing awkwardly against mine, which I’d just locked into its place. I was gob-smacked at how perfect a pair she and her bike were.
Once not long ago, I saw my perfect bike match in a store window. It was baby pink with ukuleles painted on the bike seat. A large lovely basket hung from its’ handlebars. It was meant to be mine. I asked the clerk, “How much?” She looked into a book to find the answer. “We’re going out of business, so it’s $105,” she said. I practically broke my arm trying to get it into and out of my purse in one swift motion. “I’ll take it,” I stammered, certain she’d made an error. I wanted to purchase the bike and zip away before she realized there was an additional “0″ on the end of the quoted price. “Actually, someone is coming to pick it up laterrrr,” she responded in her college aged white girl accent. “Fuck,” I exclaimed out loud, oblivious to the mothers shopping with their children. Of course someone was coming to pick it up later. I pried and prompted, almost considered turning on some tears to get that bike into my possession, but she stood firm. “I won’t be able to sleep tonight if I sell it to you,” she said, never minding that for years, I’d be haunted by the bike that got away.
“It’s hard to unlock a bike that’s parked next to another bike on a pole,” I sordidly quipped as glorious magenta’s owner struggled to undo her U-lock. “Yeah,” she said, a fake chuckle following. “But as full-time bikers, we’ll figure it out, right?” I said, and flittered away before she had a chance to answer.
When I first started riding a bike around New York City, 11 years ago, it was like the Wild West. There were no “bike lanes”, and to ride across the Williamsburg Bridge, I had to carry my heavy horse up flights and flights of stairs on one side, and down the stairs on the other side. Being “car-doored” was a regular part of riding, and white ghost bikes lined the streets like Christmas banners in December. Cyclists were the pariahs of the transportation-al world. It’s been amazing to see the changes and advancements to the city’s bike system. Even the god awful blue bikes that litter the streets like slim-line taxicabs are in some ways for the benefit of all cyclists.
Does the waif-ish hipster with her glorious magenta vintage Schwinn know? Has she any idea?