|Photo by Jim Henderson|
You’d think given all the huge potholes and lumps in the streets of New York and the mad driving habits, especially the vans for the handicapped who didn’t hesitate to pull quickly in front of me and slam on their brakes, that I’d have had a bike accident in the street. But no, I never did. I did meet a fellow who rode 20 miles to work and back and 60 miles on weekends who said he was hit by a car at least once a year. Probably made some extra income that way. I have only been hit by a car once on the bike and that was in Los Angeles.
My first, and worst ever bike accident happened one weekend when my landlord and I took the bikes out to Rockaway Beach on the A-train. Rockaway is a long, skinny peninsula that juts out from Queens down toward Brighton Beach. There’s a lot of carrying the bike up and down stairs for the subway and you’re supposed to have a license of some kind. I didn’t know how to get one and I figure that might be the least of the worries of a Transit Cop on a Sunday morning.
The train doesn’t go very far onto Rockaway, so you have to ride the bike down Rockaway Beach Blvd. and then choose one of the numbered Beach Streets to get to the shore. The beach at that part of Rockaway is undeveloped – lots of dunes and beach grass – and has a low population of swimmers and sunbathers, but it’s the only place in New York for surfing.
After wandering the beach looking for shells and sea treasure for an hour or so, I was ready to move on and I convinced my landlord it was time to go. We rode down to the Gil Hodges Bridge (aka Marine Parkway Bridge) which connects Rockaway with Brooklyn near Floyd Bennett Field. I got on the pedestrian/bicycle section of the bridge and that’s when things started to go wrong.
I got caught behind a group of lollygagging people. My landlord zoomed over to Brooklyn and was long out of sight when I finally got past the group. The pedestrian/bike bridge has horizontal steel bars on the side and while I was pedaling hard to catch up to my landlord, I must have veered a little and the handlebars of the bike entered between two of those bars slamming the bike to a stop, and I flew off. But not totally. My right hand caught between the handlebars and the brake and when I went off the bike my hand carried the bike around so that it slammed into me as lay sitting against the bars. The crash of the bike caused a few hotspots down my right leg that would show up later as 5” bruises. And, along with that, I felt a massive sprain from my wrist to the shoulder. Yeah. That was a painful twisting fall. .
Okay, so I’m out in the middle of the bridge and I had to get up and get home. I suppose someone might have called an ambulance and gotten me carted off for x-rays and drugs, but I had to find my landlord. Some folks helped me up and I got on my way, my right arm dangling because moving it made me want to scream
My landlord was not waiting at the end of the bridge, so I followed a pathway at the side of Flatbush Avenue (that’s where it ends, or maybe where it begins) until it came close to the beach. And that’s where my landlord was parked. I told him about the bike accident, but he didn’t take it seriously maybe because his mind was elsewhere.
I followed his line of sight and saw that he was watching two people having sex about fifteen feet away. They weren’t nude, but all the strings of their bathing wear were untied and they were … never mind… it was all very clear. The beach wasn’t jammed but it was definitely populated with kids and adults. The couple looked to be in their 30s. They surely had other choices of locale for their activities, but I assumed this was a stimulus, a bit of rebellion, some exhibitionism for a relationship that had gone stale.
At any rate, my arm was draining me and I said I was heading home. I carried my bike in my left arm up the subway stairs one at a time and was more than happy when I finally got home and got some ice on my wounds.
It was a week before I could take stairs in a regular manner or use my right hand to type. And I never went out to Rockaway again.