March 19, 2013


I was doored this past weekend, for the first time ever, after some 10,000 miles of city riding. It’s not worth getting into the semi-sordid details, but I made it through relatively unscathed despite the fact that I essentially landed on my face). Besides questions of what transpired, whether I had to go to the hospital, etc., many people were perhaps unduly sympathetic, wondering if I confronted the perpetrator with whatever righteous indignation apropos the gratuitous transgression (long story short, I did not).1

In fact, the sheer senselessness of the incident is precisely what I like about riding a bicycle in New York City: an underlying threat of violence necessitates an all-but-prescient ability to anticipate traffic of both the vehicular and pedestrian varieties, viz. an absurd degree of vigilance. A backwards analogy: The autonomous car is more an AI model of a seasoned cyclist than of a driver, and even though LIDAR and algorithms can accurately predict 99.9999% of possible traffic patterns and even account for the frequency of aberrations, there necessarily remains the (un)lucky millionth draw that escapes the range of known data.2

Thus, the diehards—fellow cyclists who have logged similarly untold miles in our fair city—were less concerned with the specifics, acknowledging the inevitability of such an occurrence with the mutual understanding that it’s the rider’s responsibility to anticipate a door in any given situation: It’s part of the game.

Because in retrospect, I should have gone wide and taken the lane instead of attempting to thread the needle, and my mistake is as clear as day to me (incidentally, the weather was absolute shit at the time of dooring). While I accept the responsibility and the consequences of my actions, the accident was neither a lapse of judgment nor an act of hubris but a leap of faith, a canonical case of the cyclist ‘eating the sins’ of the motorist (literal act of eating pavement notwithstanding).

Which is to say that it’s simply too much to expect debarking passengers to heed non-motorized traffic, and frankly no cyclist should expect the courtesy—after all, every last one of us has unknowingly committed the verysame negligence at some point. It’s precisely why people drive (or take taxis) in the first place: so they don’t have to pay attention to every stupid little thing. By forsaking the vicarious superiority of the internal combustion engine, so too do cyclists forfeit the luxury of distraction, of roving the world in a glass bubble… or, as it were, a metal cage.


And at risk of sounding completely deluded, this, for me, is the fundamental appeal of riding fixed: a brakeless bike doesn’t forgive you for making mistakes.

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1.) Then there’s this.

2.) I’ve written about this before.

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