I started biking to and from work on Monday--from Astoria to South Williamsburg. Already the novelty has worn off....okay, not really. But biking quickly becomes just work when you are commuting--one can't read a book and bike, not in this town. However, I'm noticing how different the movement is from anything I've experienced in the city in the last 12 years. This is perhaps something that other people would have considered before riding their bike inter-borough, but not me. It didn't occur to me until it was happening.
The scale is different. I like to walk everywhere, if possible, and I'm used to driving the huge syrup van around town for Greenmarket and other random syrup deliveries. Walking, of course, is slow. It becomes about the pavement, about the storefronts and the other people on the street, weaving in and out. Driving is this other beast, about the other cars on the road, about braking, about using force of will to make lights and other drivers do what you want them to. Biking is some kind of hybrid of the two. You're moving much faster than walking, but your scale is generally the same. So the disconnect is new for me. A new speed, at a new scale.
Where you look is different. I find myself looking--aside from the road and the cars and the people--in this middle distance, just about the second and third floors of buildings. That, and the open space above smaller buildings. Somehow, for me, biking gives New York City a new kind of spaciousness. Or, perhaps by traveling through it in a new way, it gives you a new response. The city is alive like that.
Plus, you arrive at work stoned on endorphins. I sit at my desk sort of mesmerized by all the things around me--stapler, pencils, paper clips, scissors--looking at the objects as if they are alien, as if I could never figure out their intended use. Scarfing down breakfast, gulping water and Gatorade, staring out the window at the subway train rumbling over the Williamsburg Bridge--so small, tiny people reading and checking their voice mail.