Diary Entry: Ode to Adam

7 Jun

Instead of writing about yet another close call with a sidewalk rogue bicyclist, of which I had more in the last few days, I’ll be writing about a neighbor of mine who once was, but is no more, a sidewalk bicyclist.

When you live in an apartment building, as I do, you don’t often get to know many neighbors, even those on your own floor. Every one is coming and going at different times and, unless your schedule is the same or you meet in the laundry room, there’s often little time to even say a few words. I always try to get to know the people around me, but in a busy city with busy people, that’s not always possible. But it’s a shame nonetheless.

Adam was my neighbor for over two years and we did speak occasionally at the elevator— about the weather or, when he had a broken leg, I commiserated. I also brought up his Sunday New York Times, as I did for others on my floor, since I’m usually the first person out the door on Sundays and I know from past experience how the Sunday Times in particular gets “appropriated” by persons other than the subscriber if left out downstairs too long.

But I never really got to know Adam as a person until two weeks ago when I came back from an evening meeting and found him and a bunch of boxes piled in our hall. He was moving out. I said I was sorry to see him go and asked where he was moving. San Francisco, he said. And since I knew he rode a bicycle (although I did not know if he rode on the sidewalk) and I’d just done research for this blog on sidewalk bike laws there, I said “You know they don’t allow sidewalk bicycling there.” And he responded: “Yeh, I know. That’s fine with me.” I complimented him on that attitude and it was then he learned about my activities on this issue and then I learned how he had broken his leg. Turns out he had been bicycling on the sidewalk when he met an obstacle he hadn’t planned on—a car door. This was not the “dooring” type of incident in the street you hear about occasionally when someone opens a car door into the street side without properly looking for oncoming traffic, including bikes. No, this was on the sidewalk. Car parked properly at curb and person exiting on the sidewalk side. Any person walking on the sidewalk would not have been affected because they would have just walked around. But, for a bicyclist coming at 30 mph, that was not an option. Especially coming around a corner.

I didn’t ask for more details, but I know that in our half block alone we also have two vehicle turnarounds serving the buildings just north and just south of us. So this could have been a factor as well. But, unlike in the street, persons exiting cars onto the sidewalk have no expectation of traffic coming at them at high speeds or reason to look for it, when they exit.To Adam’s credit he knew this. While it was too late to avoid a long painful recovery, he knew he was at fault. And so, he said to me after completing his story: I’ve never biked on the sidewalk since. He’ll be happy in San Francisco.

Two days later I went down to the laundry room and found something Adam had left behind in his move. (We often leave things on the table there that we don’t want to trash and hope someone else will find a use for). Adam had left for takers a portfolio case full of CD’s. And now I wish I’d know him better when he was still here. Any man who listens to Beethoven, Debussy, Gershwin Piano Rolls, Benny Goodman’s 1938 Carnegie Hall concert, as well as Adele, the Dave Matthews Band, and Aretha Franklin, is a man worth knowing. Despite the difference in our ages, Adam being the younger, I’m sure we would have had a lot to talk about musically. But I’ll be playing his music and I wish him well and at least I know he’ll be riding safely as he pedals through life.

And, now I’ll be out of town for a few days and so wish you all a good safe weekend. STAY ALERT. STAY SAFE.

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