Image Credit: Marc Gautier, (CC BY-NC 2.0)
I was biking home from work one evening, coming from Downtown Brooklyn, riding down Fulton street to my place in Clinton Hill. Fulton street doesn’t have a bike lane, but generally is pretty ok for riders traffic-wise and for me is a straight shot from the office to my house.
Just before the intersection at Grand street and Fulton, the biker ahead of me, a fairly young and fit maybe early 30’s Latino guy, had a foot slip from one of his petals and lost control a bit. He managed to just stay on the bike, which wobbled and swerved as he braked, but he didn’t regain his balance in time to prevent himself from whacking into the back of a car that was double parked just ahead of him. He wasn’t going really fast as he collided with the car, maybe about 7 or 8 miles an hour, and he hit with his front tire which bounced up and looked like it absorbed most of the impact. He stumbled and staggered, then flopped over in this rag doll sort of way with his bike between his legs as his final bit of momentum dissipated.
Right behind him as this was unfolding, I had slowed down and immediately went over to make sure he was alright. He said he was fine, but was visibly shaken. It was a little bit of a close call – something could have easily gone much more wrong, all things told.
He was regaining his composure and did seem to be generally ok, but as the drivers side door opened of the car he had back ended, a black SUV, I braced a bit for the expected road rage. The woman that stepped out of the car was probably in her early 60s, african-american, wearing a pea coat and a pillbox hat. She felt immediately grandmotherly. She went over, and in a sort of half concerned, half maybe irked way, glanced at the back of her car, but really briefly – almost immediately she had gone over to the biker, and smiled on seeing that we looked alright. She was sweet – she kept on sort of checking in ever after he signaled that he was just shaken but not injured. “Are you sure? You’re really ok?”, as the biker re-affirmed, amidst also being clearly a bit nervous and assuring her that her car was fine. At a certain point she just turned wholly motherly and affectionate – “You be careful, people drive crazy in the city! Do be careful sweetheart.” He kept saying “Yeah, yeah I know I’ve gotta be careful… I should be more careful”, all the while still a little discombobulated and catching his breath.
“Alright, be safe now…” She half started to turn to go back into her car, but then stopped and said “You know what? C’mere. Lemme give you a hug – can I give you a hug?” The guy was still sort of dazed, but opened his arms and embraced her as she just gave him a little squeeze. “You be safe now!” He smiled, and thanked her. She popped back into her car, and he onto his bike, and they rode off, leaving me sort of scratching my head and wondering what the heck just happened, and marveling at the capacity this city has for small moments of beauty.