A car plowed through the Boston Critical Mass ride tonight. Thankfully, no one was seriously injured. It was disregarded by the police and blamed on the cyclists. We were told that we weren’t in the bike lane and there was nothing they could do. I couldn’t believe their cold and defensive response. I feel failed by my own city, both by the people in it and those who are supposed to protect it. Believe me, if I see a guy in a Honda civic with plate numbers 53WE31 he’ll be hearing from me about how I had to jump off my bike to avoid getting run over. Ride safe everyone.
Whistleblower? No, no. I didn’t blab to the press about some conspiracy or some wizened old Aussie tapping phones. But I did my duty and acted as a race marshall in Central Park this past weekend. When you join the CRCA, you have to pick two dates to do this. It becomes your divine right to wear a bright orange jersey, lay out some cones, and blow your precious air into a small black whistle when you pay your membership dues.
It’s pretty simple. This is what you gotta do:
TURN UP - This is important. Central Park is 6.1 (or 6.2, I can never remember) miles long for the full loop. That means a lot of volunteers are needed, and if you don’t turn up, the safety becomes thinner than soup in a Gulag. (FYeah, Solzhenitsyn! Yeah, I read stuff)
GET YOUR POWER - Power includes an orange mesh vest. Mmm, sexy time. But you also get your own whistle. Toot toot!
GET YOUR POST - I learned something I never knew before. Every lamp post in Central Park has a number on it. I was assigned E8303. That means 83rd street, 3rd lamppost and it’s the East side of the park. Never ask a stranger what street you’re closest to ever again! This position was behind the Met at the crosswalk. Sure to be busy. Since this was an official cross walk, there was a secondary sign on the edge of the path saying “Bike race in progress”, so that helped a bit.
CONE TIME - After signing your waiver, you pedal off with this stuff, plus a minimum of four bright orange cones to put on the double white lines between the rec lane and the road proper. I arrived and did so. It was super early. Like 5:30am. Totally. The race starts at 5:45am. Thumb twiddle. Twitter reading. Noting the heel of my cycling shoe leaves a mark like a sheep footprint. How do I know this? Daughter of a sheep farmer, you ninnies!
LISTEN & BLOW - When you hear the whistle of the person in the marshall chain in front of you (I couldn’t see them as there was a rise), OR the moto that’s in front of the field, blow. Short whistle bursts until they have passed. There are four fields, and watch for breakaways as the second group won’t have moto.
AMBASSADOR TIME - You have to keep an eye out for unleashed dogs (of which there are many), people crossing, cyclists not the race (wave them into rec lane while field passes), and people who for no apparent reason hate what you represent.
That last part was unexpected.
Race marshaling was a real eye opener in terms of human psychology. Strange, the sense of entitlement people seem have when a tiny few seconds of their day are interrupted for their own safety. Seriously, I was polite when I asked people to hold their dogs because a peloton was coming.
I’d say “Can you hear the whistle?” and they’d ignore me and cross anyway. I wanted to add, “See that small rise? You can’t see them because they’re on the other side of it. How do I know? Because I can hear the whistle. And once they’re over that rise, they’ll be ON YOU! But I have no time for that, because I have to blow my whistle and scare the shit out of you.”
Some of the ones who didn’t ignore me would wait, then cross over say some passive aggressive shit about how irritating it was to have bike races in the park. Really? Once a week (if that)? Starting at 5.45am? Really? For about an hour or so, and even then, you only have to pay real attention when the whistle is blowing and perhaps wait at the side of the road for a few seconds until the field passes. That’s irritating to you? But I would bite my tongue and remain civil. Smile in understanding.
"Thank you, have a nice day". Hope your dog doesn’t realize how little you care about his/her life.
I stopped one guy with a dog, then the leader of A field passed (he had a break of maybe 10 seconds), and I’m still blowing the whistle and looking down at the approach of the rest of the field and waving some cyclists into the rec lane - and behind me, the guy decided to cross! I’m still blowing the damn whistle, dude! It was so dangerous and if not for some yelling (by the chase pack leader no less), he and his mutt would’ve caused a wreck. The field is moving faster than you think, you dumbass. That was my scariest moment and I felt pretty bad that I’d somehow failed in my duty. And I had. But I’d made him stop, and he had. And I was still blowing my whistle. I don’t understand why he thought he’d just ‘duck across’ with his stupid-ass poodle.
Someone told me my whistle was annoying, and another that the race was too long, and why do they have 4 fields “that’s TOO MANY!” and blah blah blah blah. I smiled. Nodded politely. Blew my whistle regardless.
Central Park is for everyone. That’s what makes it great. Softball on the great lawn mixes with frisbees and shirtless dudes chucking footballs to each other. People walking their dogs and laying about on picnic blankets. Runners, cyclists, NYRR footraces on the weekends. Bird watchers with their binoculars… at least I hope they’re bird watchers. 830 odd acres in the middle of a massive metropolis for all to enjoy. So it was a bit disappointing to have this experience with so many people about the sport I love. Also, strange to think that given the choice between chillin’ and bein’ a dick, so many people go right for dick. Wait, that didn’t sound right. Ah, you know what I mean.
Not to say I didn’t have any positive experiences. A few runners stop and ask me what the whistle meant and what they should do when they heard it and I happily explained and told them the rec lane was where it’s at for them. The more people who understand it’s well run and safe and what it all means the better. I also gave directions to tourists and told people about the lamp post thing (seriously, everyone needs to know that!)
On a strictly racing note, the women’s field looked good. Kind of wished I raced, but I forced myself to take the last 6 days off altogether (been a bit fatigued in the legs and mind), and felt good because of that. Not saying I would have done anything special in the race, but I think I could have held on for a bit. I think the pace was subdued with the heat and wicked-ass humidity, although the 6 person breakaway was drilling it like they were trying to strike oil!
Not sure when my next race will be. Still haven’t fixed my wheel. Reality bites, and there’s some kind of infection in its mouth.
Ride on and blow that whistle till it hurts an idiots ears! :)