Bring on the Cold and Put the Sign Holders In Storage

Leave Me Alone, I’m Not a Tourist, I Haven’t Ridden a Bike in Years and He is NOT My Boyfriend


Those who have experienced these and other street salespeople know the dangers of stopping in their vicinity. (Luke Cusumano/The Observer)

Published: October 5, 2010

At some point, I’m sure many of you have had jobs or internships that weren’t exactly glamorous, and believe me, I’ve been there myself. I still shudder at the thought of unsuccessfully soliciting signatures for a campaign for hours in the rain, carrying 10 pairs of boots through Times Square during rush hour and handing out fliers to people who threw them out as soon as they reached the street corner. This is probably why I end up taking many of the cards and papers handed to me during my many adventures in Manhattan. I sympathize with many of the people performing the “dirty work” of their bosses or companies, those who are trying to work their way up or are simply trying to make ends meet. It’s not an easy task to solicit donations, signatures or even just hand out a discount card to harried and impatient New Yorkers, though I have noticed that people will take almost anything if there’s candy attached to it.

That being said, the sign-holding bike rental people around here have crossed a line. Give me a flier, a discount card, even ask me to donate money to help you build a spaceship to fly back to your mother planet, just don’t stand in front of me and wave a bike rental sign in my face as I’m trying to walk down the street in heels carrying 10 shopping bags of groceries. On my first day of petitioning, I was told to avoid people who looked busy, were struggling with heavy packages, seemed uninterested or were on the phone. It appears that the people working for these rental companies have been told the exact opposite. And it’s not like this has happened once; these bike rental people come at me like insects drawn to a light bulb. My aunt and I were approached as we were attempting to carry a television set down the street to my dorm room. I was double-teamed in 100 degree weather by two high schoolers with bright yellow signs. I was once suddenly and quite rudely interrupted during a phone interview. I was even followed by one man who demanded I rent a bike because he was the reincarnation of Jesus.

This is worse than the comedy show people in Times Square. At least they prey mostly on tourists and tend to back off, albeit angrily, when they’re clearly unwanted. It seems that an army of bike rental people has descended upon Columbus Circle, and its numbers have been increasing as more and more are added to the ranks. I don’t understand why we’re constantly bombarded by them. Does anyone actually rent these bikes? I almost want to make myself a “not interested” T-shirt or poster of my own, but I already know it wouldn’t work. It would probably draw more bike rental people to me, with my luck and their sick sense of humor, because I can’t see how their blocking my exit from the subway station (when I’m obviously trying to avoid them) is purely accidental.

The slew of bike rental people coupled with psychics/petitioners/donation solicitors, clueless tourists, food cart lines and pushy urbanites looks to me like a recipe for a giant migraine. Isn’t it enough to have to guide clueless tourists to the nearest subway station, wait in lunch lines that wrap around corners and avoid being trampled by people crossing the street while dodging taxi cabs, because we all know they don’t stop even when we have the light? There is simply nowhere to put the bike rental people, yet they seem to be taking up the most space. Of course, this is Manhattan and living here comes with a price, and at this point, I’m willing to buy off the rental people for my own sanity.