Thursday, October 30, 2014

Sorry I'm late, hope you all just started without me.

Wow, so many important things about ME to mention today!

MEMEMEMEME!

Firstly, I wrote a thing for Bicycling magazine that they published on the Internet--that's the mainstream Internet, the one that everybody reads, and not the "deep" Internet with all the arms dealing and the animal porn:


You know when you see Assos Man bearing down to force out an invisible doody that it's gonna be good.

Thirdly, I'm pleased to announce that Walz are now offering the Fred "Woo-Hoo-Hoo-Hoo!" bicycle-capping hat in an alternative blue colo(u)r(way)!


We're very excited about it, and we're calling the hue "Antarctic blue" in honor of the car Clark Griswold ordered but never got in "National Lampoon's Vacation."


(Not the Antarctic blue super sports wagon with the CB and the optional rally fun pack.)

Actually, I'm calling it "Antarctic blue," because I just came up with it.  I have no idea what Walz is calling it, though I'm guessing it's something like "That pain-in-the-ass's blue hat."

And of course you can still get the original "La Cabeza en el Fuego" style as well:


One thing's for sure, which is that there's never been a better time in human history to be in the market for a hat.

And secondly, on Novembers 8th and 9th, there's going to be a Philly Bike Expo somewhere in Pennsylvania, I'm guessing either Philadelphia or maybe Wilkes-Barre:


(Undead Christopher Hitchens riding a cargo bike in an unnamed city.)

At which, on Sunday November 9th, I'll be giving...a seminar!


Yeah, okay, whatever, right?

But did I mention I'll also be giving away...SOME HATS!?!

Perked up there, didn'tcha, you bloodsuckers?

So, to recap:

1) Bicycling thing;
3) Blue hats;
2) Philly appearance with hats.

Who said bike blogging isn't hard work!?!

(Well, whoever it was, they were absolutely right.)

Moving on, we put up with a lot of shit here in New York City when it comes to cycling, but there are two things that make it worth it: spring, and fall.  Both of these seasons are positively glorious times during which to ride, especially in contrast to summer and winter, both of which can suck balls for totally different reasons.

As for which of these two seasons is the best, you can make a pretty strong case for both, but in my opinion the winner is the fall.  This is because 1) The off-road trails are often still soft and muddy in the spring; and 2) Spring is full of wobbly-legged newbies, but by fall they've either given up cycling or been killed.

Also, there's cyclocross, but as a hard-working bike blogger (see above) with seventeen (17) children I no longer have time to spend driving all up and down the eastern seaboard just to ride my bike for 45 minutes (or until pulled from the course for getting lapped).

Anyway, yesterday I had a luncheon appointment downtown, and because it was a lovely autumn day I opted to ride the Son of Scat:


Which rides easily as nicely as a Budnitz:


In fact, it rides more nicely because it doesn't creak like the steps in an old Victorian and I don't feel like a total metrodouche while riding it.

Once downtown, I did encounter the usual array of bike lane blockage, which is sometimes so elaborate as to seem choreographed:


And which often stings like a shot of bottom-shelf hooch--which appears to be what's blocking this bike lane:


Though all my frustrations melted away on my return, the greenway blissfully bereft of both trucks and Freds as the Hudson tempted me to follow it to its very source:


I'm not actually sure what the source of the Hudson River is, but I think it comes from a leaky sewage pipe in Yonkers.

Before long I passed the George Washington Bridge, where I admired the changing colo(u)r(way) of the foliage along the Palisades:


"Palisades" is an old Indian word meaning "Land of A Thousand Strava Segments."

Yes, for about an hour I didn't have a care in the world, and though most have returned since there's one thing I still don't worry about, which is Ebola:


If there are two things that horrify Americans, it's contagious diseases and bicycles, so this has "National Panic" written all over it.  (Though oddly we're not bothered by civil rights violations such as forced quarantines of healthy people.)  Of course, this is total non-news inasmuch as by the time someone was sick enough to spread Ebola they'd be way too ill to even think about riding a bicycle, but at least the idiots of America will be relieved to know she was wearing a helment:


Let me know if she starts manifesting Ebola symptoms and then goes riding around town flinging her own feces at people.

Then I'll worry--at which point I'll get one of these:




You need a dedicated zombie bike.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Wednesday spelled backwards is Wednesday spelled backwards.

So yesterday I was on the subway, because this is New York City that that's what you do, and as we rumbled along I noticed that the gentleman standing next to me was drawing something:


At first I thought maybe he was surreptitiously sketching his fellow riders.  "Who says this is no longer a town for artists!," I thought to myself.  Clearly David Byrne, Patti Smith, and every other rich, aging artist who has taken to the pages of the Times and the Guardian to denounce New York City as a materialistic cultural wasteland were wrong.  But then I glanced over at the paper, at which point I realized he was basically drawing porn.

Unfortunately I was unable to obtain a photo of the porn, because even in 21st century New York City it's generally unwise to take obvious pictures of the sorts of people who draw pornography on the subway.  Instead, I was forced to pretend that I was reading my phone while surreptitiously shooting photos, but I was unable to get the right angle while maintaining the ruse.  Even inverting the photo and zooming it in doesn't reveal the image, thanks the the artist's surprisingly delicate line work:


I can, however, report that it appeared to be a representation of a woman with her hands tied behind her back squatting over a man's face, but whether she was receiving cunnilingus or administering urine or feces I cannot say.  I also suspect that the artist is not under the impression he is drawing porn, and is probably a devotee of "manga" or some other dark facet of extreme nerdism.  Still, call me old-fashioned, but when I see a picture of a woman squatting over a man's face, I says it's porn.

Speaking of material with little in the way of redeeming cultural value, I found myself reading an inverview with Levi Leipheimer this morning:


In which the interviewer makes this observation:

VN: They probably appreciate it, too. I mean, I doubt parents are saying, “you better not listen to Levi because he made bad decisions so many years ago.”

This is patently untrue.  In fact, I said just this to my seventeen (17) children the other day.  There we were, playing with our USADA Reasoned Decision flash cards, and I said to them all, "See this guy?  Don't listen to him!"


Believe me, it's not specific to Levi.  I just don't want my children listening to pro cyclists, or indeed any pro athlete.  What life experience does an athlete have that is in any way relevant or useful to the rest of us?  Dedication?  Determination?  Please.  If anything, life is the art of knowing exactly when to quit, which is pretty much the antithesis of professional sports.

Other people I tell my children not to listen to are Ralph Kramden, because his harebrained schemes always backfire:


And of course Jesus:


It's not like Jesus didn't have some nice things to say, it's just that nothing good has come from any of it.  If my children are going to learn from fictional characters I'd much rather them watch TV.  For example, "Sesame Street" teaches children pretty much exactly the same values Jesus does, with the added benefit that nobody has ever used some shit Elmo said as the pretext for invading another country.

Actually, that's not entirely true:


("'O' is for 'Oil,' and 'A' is for 'Airstrike!'")

I guess what I'm saying is that the sooner you teach your kids they're living in an Orwellian dystopia the better, which is why when they behave mine get to watch the move version of "1984:"


It's just like the Pixar movie "Ratatouille," except instead of being lovable and charming the rat just chews through is face.



Mercatone Uno president Romano Cenni has hired a lawyer in a bid to have victory at the 1999 Giro d’Italia assigned to the late Marco Pantani. Cenni’s legal action follows claims – 15 years old but recently re-aired extensively in the Italian press – of irregularities in the testing procedures when Pantani returned a high haematocrit on the penultimate day of that Giro and was forced out of the race while leading the overall standings.

So wait a minute: Lance Armstrong dopes and then loses his seven Tours years after the fact, while Pantani dopes, doesn't even finish the Giro, and might win it anyway?  I can't believe this sport's not more popular!  I mean, the arguments are so consistent!

Naturally, it's all a conspiracy:

“I can’t say if it was a conspiracy, an error or something else, but what I am certain of is that new elements are emerging which show that the decision taken against Marco Pantani and the Mercatone Uno team should be modified and revised,” lawyer Marco Baroncini told mediaset.it.

“Mercatone Uno and, in particular, its president Romano Cenni, just want for Pantani to be given what was taken unjustly from him and the team.”

What the hell is it with Marco Pantani and conspiracy theories?  He's like the Italian Tupac:


(Both bald, both fond of bandanas, both probably still alive somewhere.)

For his part, current 1999 Giro winner Ivan Gotti is okay with it:

In Pantani’s absence, Ivan Gotti overcame Paolo Savoldelli on the Mortirolo to move into the pink jersey and he went on to claim final overall victory in Milan the following day. It was Gotti’s second Giro victory following his 1997 triumph, but it was wholly overshadowed by the furore that surrounded Pantani’s exclusion.

Speaking to Gazzetta dello Sport on Wednesday, Gotti said that he would have no objections if the 1999 Giro was taken from his palmares and posthumously awarded to Pantani, who died in 2004.

“Re-writing history isn’t a problem relative to what happened to poor Marco,” Gotti said. “If they were to award him that Giro, I wouldn’t feel deprived of something. I’m prepared to give it up.”

Yeah, of course he's okay with it.  Nobody remembers who he is now, much less that he won the Giro that year, so giving the win to a famous dead guy is a great way to get some bonus publicity.  By the way, remember Paulo Savoldelli, a.k.a. "Il Falco," the guy whose whole schtick was that he was good at descending?


(Salvoldelli going down like Cipollini on date night.)

In retrospect, it's pretty hilarious that in those days everyone was so doped they couldn't even out-climb each other anymore, so the only way left to get an edge was to be really good at going down the mountains.

This whole goddamn sport is a race to the bottm.

And of course let's not forget that Pantani was supposedly "murdered" for some reason:

In recent months, magistrates in Italy have announced that they will re-examine both the circumstances surrounding Pantani’s haematocrit test in 1999 and his untimely death in Rimini in 2004. In August, a lawyer acting on behalf of Pantani’s parents submitted a dossier to magistrates in Rimini claiming that he had been murdered by being forced to drink a solution of water and cocaine.

Forced to drink a solution of water and cocaine?  I'm so sure.  Just like when they put a gun to your head at TGI Friday's and force you to order the Death By Chocolate:


("Eat that goddamn sundae, you mudder fucker!")

That looks uncannily like the TGI Friday's in Penn Station, by the way.

Lastly, if you really want to get depressed, here's the "most dangerous junction in the Netherlands," which would just as easily be the safest intersection in New York:



Fuck it, I'm leasing a Hyundai.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Bicycle Development Index: A City Is Only As Good As Its Bike Parking

Ever wanted your city to be more bike-friendly?  Well, be careful what you wish for!  Firstly, New York City is supposed to be the best cycling city in America, and look at us for chrissake.  You want this?  [Indicates clusterfuck all around self with sweeping gesticulation.]  Secondly Copenhagen is like the most bike-friendly city in the world (careful, you can be arrested in Amsterdam for saying that), but thanks to a bicycle parking shortage life there has devolved into a sort of living hell:


Outside Copenhagen's central train station, where people often leave their bike for the weekend, plenty of cyclists are fed up."There just isn't enough space," says Kirsten Hoeholt, a ceramic artist. "It's not just here that it's a problem, it's all over town. We need better parking facilities."

Yes, life is hard in Copenhagen, where evidently it is possible to live as a ceramic artist, and where adversity means a lack of bike parking when you want to leave town for the weekend after a hard week of crafting.  In fact, the problem is so great it's even forcing people to think occasionally:

Another cyclist told me she had struggled to find a place for her bike. Equally, it can be tricky to find your machine amid the clusters, unless you remember exactly where you left it.

Uh, it can be tricky to find anything unless you remember exactly where you left it.  That's how leaving stuff behind works.  These people must be terrible with keys--which is to say nothing of parenting, since remembering where you left the little fuckers is basically 90% of the job.

Anyway, it's not really all that hard to remember where you parked your bike.  For example, this one time I went to the mall on Black Friday and a bunch of people parked their bikes all around mine, but I made a mental note of its location so finding it again really wasn't a big deal:



Sure, here in America we have a similar problem losing our cars in parking garages like in that "Seinfeld" episode, but our government compensates us by letting us run over anybody we like without any legal consequences.  It really helps us blow off steam and channel aggression that we might otherwise use to shoot people.  Actually, maybe a license to kill with their bikes would make the cyclists of Copenhagen as happy as American drivers are--though Mikael Colville-Andersen would probably disagree:

According to Mikael Colville-Andersen, of the Copenhagenize Design Company, cycle parking is the "last great bastion" that cycling-friendly cities have yet to overcome.

"No city has cracked it," he says. But he adds: "It's a challenge that other cities should beg for."

So basically, bike parking is the Fermat's Last Theorem of urban bicycle planning:


("I have a truly marvelous solution to this pile of shit which this caption is too narrow to contain."--Pierre de Fermat)


Really, though?  No city has cracked the bike parking conundrum?  I refuse to believe that.  Perhaps he just doesn't want to acknowledge his hated enemies to the southwest:



Just look at the smug smile on this guy's face as he loads his bicycle onto a well-designed rack and then prepares to embark upon a convenient and efficient rail journey in a country that outranks the United States on the Human Development Index:


We woulda beaten 'em too if it wasn't for stupid Florida.

And it should go without saying that the Japanese are solving the problem with robots.  Check out this automated underground bike parking system in Tokyo:



This would never work in any American city, where I'd give it maybe two hours before some moron got himself stuck in there.

It's also worth noting that the biggest threats to bicycles in Japan are apparently 1) Weather and 2) Pranksters:


This seems like a long way to go just to thwart some pranksters.  What kind of pranks are we talking about here, anyway?  Are we talking squirting-flower-on-the-handlebar level japery, or are we talking really involved turn-someone's-bike-into-a-tall-bike-while-he's-getting-coffee kinda stuff?



Either way, there's something to be said for the "Out of sight, out of mind" approach:


Burying stuff I don't want to deal with is exactly what I do with my feelings.

But while Colville-Andersen claims no city has found the solution to bike parking, once city councilperson is doing the unthinkable and collaborating with the enemy:

"We try to steal as many good ideas as we can, and we have a very good working relationship with [city planners in] Holland", says Andreas Roehl from Copenhagen city council, noncommittally.

The bit about stealing ideas may be true, but the relationship between these two tiny cycling nations is anything but "good," and just last month a drowned Danish cycle spy was found handcuffed to a Dutch bike in a canal in The Hague.  Consequently, the Copenhagen city council has been forced to wait until things cool down before resuming their espionage, and in the meantime they've been trying to come up with their own ideas--though this is the best one they've had so far:

A few years ago "bike-butlers" were introduced in some areas. The butlers pick up bicycles that have been knocked over, pump air into flat tyres and give the bike-chains a bit of oil, to thank people for parking properly.

Lunatics.

Meanwhile, here in New York City, the Citi Bike fleet is set to double thanks to a buyout:


In fact, you can already see the results:


(Citi Bike?  Doubled.)

There are also rumors of expansion, presumably pending a feasability study confirming that the neighborhoods in question have in fact been thoroughly gentrified:

Rubinstein reported that REQX plans to double the size of the Citi Bike fleet to 12,000 bikes. In July, the expansion was rumored to reach up to 145th Street in Manhattan and into western Queens and another ring of Brooklyn neighborhoods adjacent to the current service area. Annual membership prices are expected to increase about 50 percent.

This makes sense because, looking at the current Citi Bike station map, there are still a lot of areas you can't even remotely afford to live in anymore that are not yet served by the program:


Surely this will change soon.  Every time a bell rings an angel gets its wings, and every time a rent stabilized tenant is ousted from an apartment building a street gets one of these little Citi Bike push pins of gentrification.  It is our Manifest Gentry that, one day, everything from the East River to the Cross Island Parkway will be a sea blue.



The call for a women's Tour de France continues to gain momentum, with Tour organisers ASO holding the first edition of La Course on the final day of this year's men's race. Race director Christian Prudhomme has already told Cyclingnews that it wouldn't be possible to have the events run at the same time.

I'm torn.  On one hand, it's ridiculous the women don't have their own race.  On the other, I wouldn't wish that drug-addled shitshow on anybody.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Thar, She Blows!

Air.



(Air.)

It powers our ships:


It delivers our messages:





Remember Shimano Airlines?


The revolutionary mountain bike shifting system that literally blew?


Well, now the winds of change are blowing right up your bottom bracket:


Yep, you can forget all about e-bikes, because air power is where it's at:


According to the inventor of the pneumatic assist bicycle, the key advantage of this system is its portability:


Which he illustrates by showing somebody carrying an ordinary, non-pneumatic fixie up a flight of steps:


Presumably another advantage is that the pneumatic bike has a "blowoff valve" that can be used to cool the rider's crotch on a hot day.

Either way, it sure gives new meaning to the term "frame pump:"


Or, if you prefer a cleaner bottom bracket junction, you can opt for this tidy bolt-on, which appears to be powered by a fire extinguisher:


The real irony here is that, even if by some miracle this system did actually catch on, the people using it would still ask to borrow your pump when they get stuck with a flat.

And if nothing else, this pneumatic bicycle would be right at home at "Bike Kill," which appears to have taken place this past weekend:



I know this is supposed to be all about anarchic fun, but I get incredibly depressed when I watch people who are physically adults behaving like a bunch of toddlers who have had too many juice boxes:



Also, there appears to be very little difference between Bike Kill and Kickstarter, inasmuch as both are basically just a bunch of amateur inventors floundering around on ill-conceived bicycles--though in Bike Kill's defense they don't ask anybody for money, and there's more jousting:



Also, Bike Kill happens only once a year, but in New York City pretty much every day is Car Kill:


An 8-year-old girl was killed and five other pedestrians were injured this afternoon after a driver jumped a curb outside a Bronx school, according to police.

According to the FDNY, the collision occurred at around 2:46 p.m. today outside P.S. 307 at 124 Eames Place in the Kingsbridge section of The Bronx. The NYPD says a 55-year-old female driver operating a blue Honda Accord was reversing westbound on the eastbound side of Eames Place when she mounted a curb, striking 6 female pedestrians on the sidewalk.

One tiny glimmer of hope in all of this is that in 25 days the New York City speed limit will officially be lowered to 25mph:

Which has inspired this New Yorker "think piece" ("think piece" = "writer basking in his own flatulence") that exhibits the sort of stodgy cultural tone-deafness we've come to expect from this hoary periodical:


Basically, the writer starts off by showing that he's in touch with the common man, because he thinks it sucks when children get killed:

A week after Halloween, a new speed limit of twenty-five miles per hour will go into effect on every surface road in the five boroughs of New York City, except where stated otherwise. The idea is to make the streets safer for cyclists and pedestrians, a particular aim of Mayor Bill de Blasio. Fourteen children were killed by drivers last year. You won’t find a citizen who didn’t wish that this number were zero.

Wow, way to lay it all on the line, Nick.

As for the 170+ adults who were killed by drivers last year, he doesn't mention them, so presumably he doesn't give a fuck.

Next, having established his humanity, he explains how rare it is to be able to speed in New York City when you're driving a car:

Since 1964, the speed limit has been thirty m.p.h., but for a large segment of the driving population it hasn’t really ever been anything at all; amid lax enforcement and vestigial lawlessness (a last gasp of that pre-Giuliani era of indifferently consumed sidewalk joints and forty-ouncers), drivers have often gone as fast as they can. Usually, that isn’t very fast at all, thanks to congestion or the degraded condition of the pavement. But now and then the traffic clears up. Smooth open road is so rare, at least in the denser parts of the city, that a lead foot can hardly resist the urge to hit the gas. In a city of lost time—there’s never enough, never enough—any chance to regain some is sweet.

This is absolutely true--when you're a New Yorker writer who spends all of your time in a small gridlocked portion of Manhattan.  I'm sure Nick finds it very frustrating when he has to sit in traffic during his taxi ride home, or during one of his rare trips through the more unseemly and tragically unfashionable precincts of the city when he must go to the airport.  However, the fact is there's a big city out there, and much of it is a drag strip.  Consider Queens Boulevard, for example:


Boulevard of Death

The combination of Queens Boulevard's immense width, heavy automobile traffic, and thriving commercial scene made it by the 1990s the most dangerous thoroughfare in New York City and has earned it city-wide notoriety and morbid nicknames such as "The Boulevard of Death"[9] and "The Boulevard of Broken Bones", similar to McGuinness Boulevard, Brooklyn's equivalent with the highest number of fatalities boroughwide. From 1993 to 2000, 72 pedestrians, were killed trying to cross the street, an average of 10 per year, with countless more injuries. Since 2000, at least partially in response to major news coverage of the dangerous road, the city government has taken measures to cut down on such incidents, including posting police along parts of the boulevard and doing spot-ticketing stings of jay-walkers against traffic, posting large signs proclaiming that "A Pedestrian Was Killed Crossing Here" at intersections where fatal accidents have occurred and installing more road-rule enforcement cameras. Its width is comparable to that of Ocean Parkway and Linden Boulevard in Brooklyn; the Grand Concourse and Bruckner Boulevard in the Bronx; Richmond Avenue in Staten Island; and Park Avenue and Delancey Street in Manhattan.

But why would the way most people live be of any interest to a Manhattan-centric New Yorker writer, who would rather feign urbane wit by rattling off a bunch of dumb statistics about vermin and casually dropping the fact that he is friends with someone who keeps pigeons?

Manhattan is 13.4 miles in length. At twenty-five m.p.h., plus a grace tick or two, that’s a half hour, end to end. This seems about right, considering that to the Manhattanite the default timespan of a trip from any part of the borough to another, be it by car, bus, bike, long board, or train, is presumed (often incorrectly) to be thirty minutes. So maybe the new speed limit was devised with that in mind, the same way that the standard capacity of both the vinyl LP and the compact disk suited the length of Beethoven symphonies. Twenty-five m.p.h. is also about three times the sprinting speed of a Norway rat. Cockroaches, darting for darkness, look awfully fast, at fifty body lengths per second, but get them out on the track and that’s just around three miles per hour. As for the airways, a pigeon-keeper friend writes, “Street pigeons are usually much healthier than the public thinks, but they’re not exactly athletes.” Their cruising speed, he said, is “probably around thirty, thirty-five m.p.h. when they’re really heading somewhere.”

Finally, he concludes his piece by finding the biggest lunkhead in New York City, who says "it's time to give the city back to the cars:"

The most persistent objections come from the people for whom driving is part of the job. Delivery, plumbing, construction. You’re not going to use bicycles to build the Hudson Yards. “Nobody drives around the city more than me,” a master rigger (cranes) said on Monday. “It’s got worse with the people. It’s not the cars. The cars have been going the same friggin’ speed. We have this diesel pickup, and it’s good to have a car with a big engine in the city, because when you come to a light the thing roars, and the people look up. And then they start to scatter.” He went on, “This guy thinks speed’s the problem? I think the people being clueless with their heads in their devices is the problem. People are getting hit by bikes. They’re walking into job sites, they’re falling in holes, they’re tripping on curbs. I’d say it’s time to give the city back to the cars.”

This is incredibly savvy, because it gives the typical New Yorker a genuine thrill when they discover they share a sentiment with a member of the working class.  "Hey, he hates pedestrians and cyclists just like me!  I'm so genuine!"  It's the same delightful sensation they experience when they cast a vote for Obama.

Lastly, L'Eroica has finally arrived, because the New York Times now acknowledges its existence:


L’Eroica is a celebration of Italy’s rich cycling and cultural heritage. This year’s event was dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the birth of Gino Bartali, who won the Tour de France in 1938 and 1948 and helped rescue Jews in Italy during World War II by hiding falsified documents in the saddle of his bike.

Wow, I was there myself and I had no idea we were celebrating Gino Bartali.

I guess I was too busy stuffing my face with salami.