Friday, March 9, 2012

Spring Fever

(Photo:  Chrissy at Harlem Meer last night.  Was she a victim of warm weather assault?)
"What the fuck?"
"This is a pedestrian crossing, you jerk!  You don't own the park!"
The unpleasant exchange quoted above was between a cyclist and myself the other night.
It occurred when I attempted to walk across the pedestrian crossway at 96th Street and the Park Drive North with my two dogs who were both on leash.
Suddenly, the cyclist zoomed around the curve like Lance Armstrong in the Tour de France. 
I had to jump in order to avoid getting hit.
Apparently, with the sudden warm weather over the past couple of days, walking pedestrians are expected to sprout wings in order to cross the Central Park drives. This in order not to "interfere" with posses of runners and the Manhattan version of the famous french bike marathon.
Earlier last night, I witnessed a woman with a baby in a stroller literally running across the same crossway in between hoards of runners and cyclists.
It is truly not a question of "if" but "when" for a serious injury to occur between a cyclist and pedestrian on one of Central Park drives as cyclists do not adhere to normal traffic rules.  This, despite the fact that the newer bikes are capable of going at speeds that would put a Harley Davidson to shame.
It should probably surprise no one that I feel about cyclists and joggers, the same way some people feel about geese:
There are just too many of them. 
As soon as the thermometer hits above 50 degrees in New York City, thousands of runners and cyclists descend on Central Park like teenagers swarming into a Justin Bieber concert.
The joggers are everywhere.  The Reservoir, the Bridal Path, the Park Drives and most of the pedestrian paths.
I was not surprised when the Clairemont stable that used to rent horses for riding in Central Park closed a couple of years ago. Certainly, it couldn't have been much "fun" for equestrians trying to navigate horses among the thousands of runners who took over the Bridal Path during the past ten years or so.  Once again, it wasn't a question of "if" but when.
I miss seeing the horses and riders in Central Park. But, as matters were, it couldn't have been fun for the horses any more than the riders. Horse back riding simply became an impossibility in Central Park.
But, will simply walking with a baby in a stroller or dogs on leashes eventually become an impossibility in Central Park?   Or, at least during the warmer months and/or when one is attempting to walk across a park drive?
I personally believe speed rules will eventually have to be established for cyclists during the warmer months in Central Park and during the most heavily used hours.    With the kinds of numbers and speed we are seeing now, a severe accident is just waiting to happen.
Although millions of New Yorkers welcomed the past couple of days when temperatures soared into very spring-like 60's and 70's, I didn't,  for all the reasons described.
My favorite season in Central Park is the winter due to the quiet, sparse crowds and sense of being able to "get away from it all."  One can really imagine over the winter actually being in the country as one can particularly walk in the evenings and hardly see a soul in Central Park.  There is  something very nice, comforting and solitary about that.
And although winter can be very challenging for the wildlife in our city parks, in other ways it is far more peaceful than the other three seasons.
No USDA goose roundups to worry about.  No fishing to stress the fish and sometimes injure the waterfowl.  No kids throwing rocks and sticks at the birds (a suspected source of the injury to Chrissy, the back-injured mallard at Harlem Meer). No goose harassment (at least in Central Park this winter).  And, presumably few or no people to bitch about the raccoons.
People do indeed, "bitch" about the raccoons when the animals are careless enough to allow themselves to be seen (or can't avoid being seen due to large crowds).
Several times, runners have stopped to "warn" me about a raccoon that was spotted somewhere along a trail.
"Miss, you don't want to go there.  I just saw a raccoon!"
Usually, I thank the runner for the "warning," but assure him or her that the raccoons are far more frightened of us, than we are them.
So now in addition to the geese, I find myself worrying over the raccoons of Central Park. With the coming of spring, there will be so many more thousands of people to needlessly fear and likely complain about them.
Speaking of geese, they have apparently moved on from Central Park -- or at least from Harlem Meer as of last night.
For the first time since late fall, I did not see any geese on the water -- not even Buster and his gaggle last night.
At first, I wondered if Goosebusters had been sent to harass and chase the geese away?
That is of course, possible, but most of the mallards were still there. Usually when harassment is employed, the ducks leave with the geese.
But, as noted in recent weeks, migratory and even resident geese are on the move.   The unusually warm weather has apparently prompted most of the birds to seek and return to birthing and breeding locations sooner than normal.
Since geese do not normally nest at Harlem Meer, I did expect Buster and his gaggle (and any other Harlem Meer geese) to leave.  But, I was hoping it would not be this soon.
Its possible that during these unusually balmy couple of days, the geese were merely "pond hopping" and may return in a day or two.   Certainly, I see a number of the mallards pairing off and wandering around the grasses of Harlem Meer. Perhaps (and hopeffully) the geese are simply off on some romantic strolls or ventures too.
Disappointed last night in not seeing "my geese" and not seeking another unpleasant exchange with a Lance Armstrong wannabe, I decided last night to return home via Manhattan streets, rather than Central Park.
The streets of Madison and Park Avenues were actually far less crowded and "threatening"  than the Central Park roadways.
Perhaps now I understand why the geese may have left. 
That only one of the geese would have lent me some wings with which to fly across Central Park pedestrian crossways when bikes are burring down like rockets.  -- PCA

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