Nina In New York: Pedicabs Are For Lunatics
A young professional’s take on the trials and tribulations of everyday life in New York City.
By Nina Pajak
Last week, I watched a woman nearly get run over by a pedicab. She was crossing the street at a crosswalk with the walk sign, and he came tearing around the corner to make a right turn. He screamed at her to get out of the way and nearly took off a few toes as he flew past. There was much tsking and head shaking in his wake.
“Psycho,” I mumbled.
A woman nearby turned to me wide-eyed. “They’re all psychotic!” she said.
This is mostly not an exaggeration, from my observation. And it makes total sense: pedicab driving is the perfect marriage of the recklessness of taxi driving and the insouciant, anti-establishment attitude of professional urban cyclists. Which all amounts to a driver, ferrying human beings in a half-covered bench on wheels, with an underdeveloped sense of vulnerability and fear and an overdeveloped feeling of being above the rules. The rules, in this case, being traffic laws.
I see these guys (literally all guys, come to think of it), weaving in and out of Midtown traffic with total impunity, towing a couple of oblivious tourists gazing starry-eyed around them as though they are on a ride at Epcot and not in a metal shell on the back of an erratic bicycle surrounded by actual cars. And that’s the other thing! While the pedicab drivers are enough to give me a heart attack, they’re not exactly they only maniacs on the road. They’re up against equally if not more insane cab drivers, who add to this battle a serious rage problem and a high rate of vehicular assault. Not to mention all the SUVs driven by clueless, suburban visitors or overly aggressive chauffeurs speeding to get their demanding charges to make tee time. And yet, in the accident reports I found online involving pedicabs, the fault invariably lies with the guy on the bike. There was a call in 2009 for the NYPD to crack down on dangerous pedicab driving, but I’ve got a feeling that didn’t go very far. I’m not sure how unmanageable my desperation would need to be before I’d take one of the drivers’ many solicitations to hop on.
Actually, I do know. Because I rode in one once. I was with a friend one summer night last year. We’d gone out for a coworker happy hour and had too much wine and zero food. Our bladders were full to bursting, our stomachs were dangerously empty, and there wasn’t a taxi in sight. And I still wouldn’t have accepted the pedicab ride had she not made the decision for me. And even in my pathetic state, I was completely terrified and spent the entire ride attempting to gather my wits enough to backseat drive and say things like “oy!” and “eek!” and “look out!” It was productive.
But never again. I take my life in my hands quite often enough living here, thank you kindly. Just ask the local evening news. Everything in our lives poses imminent danger. Like my dog, my air conditioner, my elevator, my neighbor, certain kinds of paint, the subway, my corner deli, sushi, el Niño, my shoes, unfiltered tap water, non-organic fruit, going to the gym, going to the hospital, and vampires.
You can’t underestimate the vampires.
Dear Readers: While I am rarely at a loss for words, I’m always grateful for column ideas. Please feel free to e-mail me your suggestions.
Nina Pajak is a writer and publishing professional living with her husband on the Upper West Side.
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