Erik Tonkin on Social Reality and Zero Sum Science

Humanity

It’s hard to believe how quickly so much ground can be covered by bike. Yes, a mile is a mile here in New York City, just like anywhere. But the social reality of geography is ever changing. I think of it like economics: it’s not zero-sum science. Even though a dollar is a dollar, the concept of money is quite fluid. And so is our experience of space and time…especially on the bike. My bike commute back home in Portland, OR, takes about 10 minutes; it’s a bit more than two miles. I have to go around a golf course and ride over some railroad tracks. It’s nice and easy, and I can go an entirely different way that takes the same amount of time.

Most of the guys who work here at NYC Velo in Manhattan do not live on the island itself. Many, in fact, live in the Brooklyn borough. They say their commute takes 15 minutes and the idea blows my mind. They ride over the Manhattan Bridge. They pass the now empty but once heavily fortified New York Stock Exchange data center. Long Island University. The State of NY Supreme Court. The DUMBO neighborhood. Chinatown. The East Village. There are multiple firehouses and police stations, a secret service office, the Hell’s Angels headquarters. Probably a dozen coffeehouses, at least three of which are quite good. And there’s more…the understatement of the year. That’s right: 15 minutes. Let me tell you, it feels like a lot of space for that amount of time: there’s a hell of a lot of living going on. Again, my commute is 10 minutes, but it’s not two-thirds the humanity.