Riding a bicycle in NYC is a challenging sport. The first time I ever tried, I gave up before I even started. I was at the end of my ride from New Jersey through Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. A week earlier I had ridden 100 miles in steady rain from Springfield through Worcester to Boston without even blinking, but I found Midtown Manhattan at rush hour so intimidating that I walked my bike most of the way from Grand Central to Penn Station before getting on a train back home. Last year I bought a Brompton, a folding bike specifically designed for urban riding, and slowly but surely managed to get used to riding in the city. The women in this video put me to shame.
The woman who did most of the camera work is named “Kelsey Leigh.” She’s the redhead walking towards the beach at the very end. Her YouTube channel is fascinating. She started off on social media as an advocate for veganism and eventually added advocacy for cycling. Not all of its advocacy. She’s a millennial who works shitty gig economy jobs delivering packages for Uber. I doubt she’s the poorest of the poor. She seems to be from a middle-class background. Nevertheless, a shitty gig economy job is a shitty gig economy job. So there’s a built in conflict. On one hand, she manages to stay positive, and enjoy what she’s doing. After all, she gets to ride a bike for a living. On the other and, she’s under no illusions about what “working for an app” really means.
What’s more, as much fun as all that daring urban cycling looks (to me anyway), New York City is not a safe place to ride a bike. One of the women in Huntress was actually killed by a truck after she swerved to avoid someone opening the door of his car into the bike lane. Something quite similar happened to me in New Jersey back in 2013, but I was lucky enough to come away with only a concussion and $60,000 in medial bills. In any event, cycling in New York City could be a lot safer. It’s got an extensive network of bike lanes and a rich cycling culture. But Bill de Blasio and the NYPD don’t enforce the law. The cyclists in Huntress who appear to be taking crazy risks are actually just doing what they have to do to survive. The official bike lanes are almost always blocked by trucks, police cars, and deliver vehicles.
The funny thing about Kelsey Leigh’s channel is that I found out two things I thought were long dead still exist. I had no idea there were still bike messengers in the age of digital signatures, but the profession seems to have been revived by delivery apps. I also had no idea Schwinn Bicycle still existed. Kelsey Leigh rides a Schwinn Carbon road bike, a late Millennial riding a bike that brings back my childhood. For me, as an early Gen Xer, Schwinn means the 1970s/1980s, and the gigantic, heavy Schwinn Varsity, a bike I owned before I finally got the money to buy a Centurion Dave Scott Iron Man, a bike I road well into my 30s until the Seattle rain finally rusted its steel frame. I still miss that bike. Steel rusts but it’s got a much better feel than aluminum. I’ve never ridden a carbon bike. Maybe when I finally figure out their weird sizing, I’ll buy an All City Zig Zag 105.