Previous Page
Urban Velo
Next Page

I shove my bike lock into my belt, and though it’s hot the metal sits cold on my spine. The light is red so I wait, balanced on my bike in the crosswalk. Pedestrians swarm through as I hover, tension building in my legs. A deliveryman pulls up. He hops off his cracked yellow plastic and duct tape scooter and holds it idling. He’s wearing a leather jacket, the back of it embroidered with a cigar-smoking Daffy Duck. I give him a nod, but there is no response.

A full-facemask black helmet in the vein of Darth Vader sits above the jacket. He’s added custom-cut milk jug handlebar guards for maximum hand protection. This guy is clearly not fucking around. Looking back down at the pavement, I ponder my own under-protected dome and reason he may just be on to something. The black orb bobbing in beat to the cranked headphones leaking Notorious B.I.G. Things Done Changed. “Callin’ the city for help because they can’t maintain, damn shit done changed.”

The headphones are cut in half, each earpiece duct taped to a side of the helmet for maximum absorption. He crowds the crosswalk, revving his tiny engine, helmet moving in unison to the popping snare beat escaping the headphones. Clouds reflected off the black sheen of his helmet: white, blue, white.

I’ve found it’s unwise to bite quickly on green lights in NYC. Many of the cabbies routinely charge through a newborn red in hopes of a half second shaved off their fares. The deliveryman is watching the opposing crosswalk signal as his starting gun and throttling his tiny two-stroke. Suddenly he starts to sprint the scooter through the intersection on foot. A yellow cab plows through the green light, missing the deliveryman by inches. Without a glance back, he jumps on the scooter midstride and buzzes off down Eighteenth Street.

I start out slow and pick up speed as I cross Third Avenue. A FedEx truck is blocking half of the street. The opening is too small for another truck carrying steel to squeeze through, so the driver’s just going to town on his air horn—I mean non-stop staccato blasts of rhythm as if he’s enjoying it. Maybe he’s remembering childhood percussion bouts with his favorite rubber-tipped spoon on his highchair tray? He is really wailing on the horn now, dropping all sense of social convention and it’s now just a man and an air horn, creating. The sounds are reverberating up and out off the buildings, reproducing exponentially, a cacophony of frustration for all.

I duck my head under a steel pipe, hoping this guy doesn’t retry the spacing and attempt to drive on through, pinning me against a FedEx truck and preserving me in infamy via a bystander’s phone camera post to a creepy underground death-video website. To live in the minds of Midwestern metal kids as the source of the “Whoa dude, did you see his head twitching?” comment to their friend