Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Indignity of Commuting By Bicycle: Notes on a Scandal

People in New York love to leave each-other hand-written notes. It’s kind of like living in a giant apartment with a bunch of roommates, only instead of messages like “Lisa’s Cornflakes—do not eat,” “Please flush toilet,” or “Whoever keeps clogging the tub drain with your hair please clean it out (sample attached), ” the notes lean more towards “No dead cats in the trash” and “Please stop urinating on our front door.” I’m often tempted to follow people home and leave them notes when cycling in the city. Here are just a few I’ve drafted in my head recently:

Dear Fixed-Gear Freestyler,

If you’re going to pass me on a moderate incline, please continue traveling at the speed at which you passed me. Do not then sit up and silently congratulate yourself. This forces me to either sit on your wheel or in turn pass you, which will give you the mistaken impression I wish to race. I wish to do neither. I also am not interested in looking at the region where your back transitions into your ass, so please consider either higher pants or a longer shirt if you refuse to remain behind me. Please also consider either a brake or a larger gear so that when you reach the inevitable descent on the other side of the bridge you can travel down it at more than 12MPH. Until I encountered you, I didn’t realize a simple commute could make me feel like Borat being smothered by Azamat Bagatov.

Dear Guy On The Mountain Bike,

We were next to each-other at a red light. I lamely put my foot down like some kind of wuss. You, however, engaged in a violent trackstand during which you rocked the bike back and forth as though you were attempting to carve a furrow in the blacktop with your knobbies. You occasionally glanced at me as if to ask, “You want some of this?” In the process of attempting to stay upright though you dropped your chain. The light then changed and I clicked in and left. I hope you managed to get it on again while the light was still green.


Dear SUV Driver,

As I approached your door flew open and remained agape for what seemed like an eternity. I then passed and witnessed what I can only imagine will be the closest thing I’ll ever see to a live whale birth as you grasped each side of the door opening and attempted to extricate yourself from the vehicle. I thought perhaps you might be with child, however your gender leads me to rule that out. I pray that the vehicle eventually relinquished you from its handsomely-appointed interior and that you were not consigned to a Jonah-esque fate. I also suggest that in future you request a street closure in advance of your arrival so that you can flail and wriggle unmolested by traffic. Or at least consider some flares and cones.


Dear 2nd Ave. Bike Lane Salmon,

There was an entire school of you on old 10-speeds wearing skateboard helmets apparently heading upstream to spawn. I hope that the car-shaped bears did not thin your numbers too drastically as you valiantly fought the current on the way to your favorite mating eddy. However, if a few of you did fall victim, I remain philosophical as it is simply natural selection at work, and many of you seem to be carrying the gene for blithe unawareness. Like a toddler with a soiled diaper, I’d like to see that particular gene kept out of the pool.

72 comments:

mamsterla said...

First - doh!

Steve said...

Dear Driver,

Hang up the cell phone.

Lovingly,

KP said...

Wow. Do they give Pulitzers for blogs?

mark said...

Gee, thanks. Now I'll have the mental image of whales giving birth in my head for the rest of the day.

Gram in PDX said...

My personal favorite fix-mx'er move happened to me on portland's venerable hawthorne bridge. I was on my way home at 2pm at a decent clip when some d-bag fixster with a heavily stickered EAI bareknuckle-dragger barely passes me (out of the saddle, downhill). Said freestyler sits back down, resuming my exact speed, so other than the smell of patchouli and BO I now have to endure, not that big of a deal. Then further up the path (which is about 12' wide) the grade changed back to an uphill so I figure I'll pass since fixman is slowing, but wait...what is up the path but 2 more hipsters (gasp) on foot clogging up 9ft of the right side of the path, and big suprise, d-bag on the fixie knows them!

So what does he do? With barely enough room to safely pass the pedestrians on the left and stay on the path, he F***ING SKID STOPS RIGHT NEXT TO THEM, getting sideways and forcing me (who was 5 ft off his tire and ringing my bell to pass all 3 people) to jump down the 14in curb into vehicle traffic, cursing all the while. I think they might have said something like 'learn to ride' back, but I honestly felt safer with the cars than I did on the path with them.

cheers to the snob

AnnaZed said...

Oh the commuting indignities that I could name, but apropos of comment two; only yesterday evening (!) I was making my leisurely way down a wide tree lined avenue in Southern California when a car seemed to come out of nowhere (it had just whipped/turned into the street) and brushed past me at high speed nearly knocking me off of the bike. By brushed I mean BRUSHED. I am riding a flat bar bike (no, not a fixie! – a Trek FX) and the car (yes, an SUV) – moving fast – brushed my arm. I wobbled and put my right foot down really hard, but did not fall – still.

So, pissed, I began to sprint after the bastard. He was weaving a bit and not going all that fast. I’m not queen fitness, but holy crap, what a bastard. It took me about 20 blocks to catch him, but catch him I did – pulling into a driveway, talking on his cell phone.

I pulled up behind him and shouted - “Asshole if you are drunk you are going to jail.”

No, not drunk but talking on a phone. No apologies for nearly killing me. Police were not interested since after all, I am not dead – yet.

Grrrrrrrr.

pete! said...

there is also a lot to be said for hybrid commuters "racing" you morning after morning, evening after evening. sorry guys, if you wanna get there quicker, get a moped.

Anonymous said...

gram in pdx -

Portland is quickly slipping into the Willamette.

How about this one: riding south on the esplanade towards the h-thorne, fakenger comes towards me (from my right) from the salmon st fountain and turns north onto the path riding on the wrong side. Almost sends me into a lamp post. I guess I should have shoulder-checked him.

There is relief on the horizon from the menace of these super-rushers to nowhere. Not being the savviest riders or mechanics, I predict that in a year or two those chains will have stretched like a yogi from all that freestylin' and skidding. Then we'll start seeing and hearing of an outbreak of dropped and broken chains and their attendant crashes.

Chazu said...

When, oh when, will it get cold outside and thereby remove the majority of fair-weather cyclists from my morning commute?

I'm not sure which is worse: The hipsters sans-helmet, stylin' aboard rigs sporting bars chopped so severely that the dude/dudette's index fingers are up against the stem; or the geezers who pull their Lemond-era flourescent-colored shorts, jerseys and helmets out of the closet when they realize that the outdoor temperature is 70F and rising....

It could be my imagination, but I'm thinking that many of the other riders I encounter on my commute are more dangerous than many of the automobiles I encounter.

(30 miles round-trip; central DC to Falls Church VA and back again)

Wunderkind said...

Riding the paths in DC is like free standup comedy. Yesterday I crossed an intersection where a man of 80+ years of age was sitting on his comfort bike (with front basket). I thought to myself that it was great that he could be out riding at that age. Apparently, however, I passed too closely. Within a minute or so (I'm on a race bike just spinning along - not going fast, but still fast enough that catching me on a comfort bike would be work) grandpa comes huffing up beside me, turns, shoots me with his laser beams, and then swerves directly in front of me content that his world has been restored to order (and slowing back to a comfortable 9 mph).

I give him grace though. The person for whom I do not have tolerance in this story is the pathlete who I had passed about a mile before. Seeing what was unfolding in front of him, he had JUMPED ON GRANDPA'S WHEEL and snagged a free ride back to the breakaway group (composed of myself). When he came by on Grandpa's wheel, he gave me a little "hey bra..". I wanted to punch him in his ovaries, but instead I chose to leave the path.

Anonymous said...

gram in PDx is a cry baby.
get some kleenex shinny hinny

Fritz said...

I'm glad I finished drinking my milk this time. Whale giving birth indeed!

Anonymous said...

Now if a whale could give birth to a super-rusher to nowhere.....

Prolly said...

"car-shaped bears" - classic dude.

Brian said...

Note I left for Bike Snob NYC:

People pass people, and fatties drive cars, nothing new. Get over it, and back to creating your special blend of literary diarrhea that old team-kit wearing fixed gear loathers are so fond of...

-Regards
Brian

dudebra said...

About the passer who can't maintain speed, like one of those dicks on the highway who can't seem to figure out the cruise control, Pinch Flat News wrote about that recently here.

Frickin' irritating! I'd love to follow a few of these guys home and leave a note -- preferably left on their front stoop, written on a burning paper bag full of poop.

sh said...

Bike Lane Salmon

That was good, really good.
5 stars for Original Thought.

6 stars for channeling PDX from the eastern side.

Anonymous said...

Azamat!!!!! That sexy beast

Anonymous said...

Fat Man Extricating Himself from Gasguzzler sounds like the winner of Germany's Most Disturbing Home Videos.

Anonymous said...

One of the several enjoyable aspects of this blog is that it continues to piss people off. I'm looking at you, Brian. What else has BSNYC written that gets you all twitterpated?

BikeSnobNYC said...

Brian,

Ah, I was waiting for a note! Thanks for yours, which I found taped to the windshield of my recumbent. Of course my special blend depends on my not getting over these things, but you knew that already.

--BSNYC

Anonymous said...

Chazu-

Do you ever see the hipster in the touring bike with basket with a litle Toto dog in it.

I went for a 4-5 hour bike ride on the WO&D and I passed here twice (once on the way out, and once on the way back)about three hours apart.

Say what you will, she will never win any crits, but she still won my respect.

-Testify!

leroy said...

Omigawd BSNYC, what a great idea!

Notes to those who flunked the "works and plays well with others" portion of their kindergarten report cards!

But like all things in NY, seemingly simple stuff can get complicated.

This morning, a helmetless fixie hipster passed me climbing the Manhattan Bridge and I got the classic view for the duration of the descent and no opportunity to pass politely.

But -- Lord help me, this is so shameful -- she was kind of cute.

Oh dear God, what perverse sickness has befallen me, causing me to think of a fixie rider in this impure manner?

Fortunately, the cycling Gods delivered cleansing penitence.

After the Bridge, I caught the perfect wave of morning commutes. I made every single traffic light up First Avenue from Houston to 26th Street, cruising between 22-23 mph with no headwind and, for the most part, little traffic.

Then I got a flat.

I will now flail myself with an old chain – a rusty one if available -- and all should be back to normal.

P.S. to Brian above -- you're funnier in Family Guy.

Brian said...

Note I left for Anonymous @ 2:49:

One of the several enjoyable aspects of the comments section of this blog is that it continues to piss people off. I'm looking at you, Anon. What else has BRIAN written that gets you all twitterpated?

bikesgonewild said...

..."just a few i've drafted in my head recently"...hell, bsnyc, you're leading the ride...we're all drafting behind you...

...note to self: keep posting despite 'cinzano'ers out there...

Chazu said...

Anon 3:02,

Once, several years ago, I was eastbound on the W&OD in the early morning. At a point in Herndon (near two deep dips in the path), I saw a car coming toward me (on the W&OD) and I slowed cautiously. The driver edged the car over to make room for me to pass, then she rolled the window down and asked me for directions to Herndon Parkway.

I think my jaw was scraping along the asphalt at that point, and I responded with something like "This isn't a road". I'll never forget that she became indignant, made a loud "smack" sound with her mouth, and said "Well! I KNOW that!"

Ringo said...

ah. another good BSNYC blog to make me chuckle during my lunch.

here is the website with all the notes. funny stuff.
http://www.passiveaggressivenotes.com/

Anonymous said...

Hi from missoula, the backside of the fixie wave, where the first deep v's only just showed up when UM got back in session and I haven't seen an aerospoke yet.

That doesn't mean I haven't been "raced" off the line by a "figure 8's in the crosswalk" hipster who was offended by my work-clothes, commuter nerd, full-fendered converted 10-year old mountain bike, which trackstands just fine even with a freewheel, thanks. They usually jump the light by a few seconds to get a head start, but lose momentum a mere block later where an uphill grade on a bridge strains their handrolled-cigarette addled lungs. Yeah, apparantly smoking Top like a homeless person must have been cool somewhere three years ago because it's cool here now.

Anonymous said...

"As I approached[,] your door flew open and remained agape for what seemed like an eternity."

or maybe

"As I approached your door[, it] few open and remained agape for what seemed like an eternity."

Anonymous said...

*flew

BikeSnobNYC said...

Anonymous,

If I spent time fussing over punctuation I'd never get anything done. I'm sure this blog is riddled with errors. Actually, the "As I approached" doesn't need to be there at all. Just more word-squandering...

--BSNYC

minus the mishka said...

middle aged bitching makes me kinda sick. almost as much as dirty hipsters. screw bikes.

i love this blog and i hate all of you.

Anonymous said...

minus,

"That's the spirit!"
-Batty (Blade Runner, 1982)

BotchedExperiment said...

Chazu, the only time I've been out and out whacked violently by a car was while I was living in Falls Church, Va.

The guy made me go Flying Wallenda all over the place. A bystander came running up to me and said "that's the most amazing thing I've ever seen."

I thought you'd want to know.

Eat Sleep MTB said...

I haven't laughed like that since I was a little girl, thanks for that.

gttim said...

Dear Grammar Nazi,

Get a freakin' life!

Lovingly....

Polygraf said...

Bikesnob you can't possibly have a job and find time to be this entertaining.
I try to be polite while commuting but midway thru my temper and need for self preservation takes over. I need help. I punch cars, gently slap the back of the heads of non co-operative tourist on the Brookyn Bridge, curse at traffic cops who never give me the right of passage, nudge pedestrians with my sharp elbows and yes I have even gotten into full on fights with motorists playing tuff guy and just recently with two knuckle heads on the bridge who were very un- coordinated, some one help me please before I get arrested.

Chazu said...

Wunderkind, I had to come back here one more time today and tell you that I saw the old guy with the handlebar basket on my way home tonight! He was southbound, just south of National Airport on the MV trail.

Botched, thanks for letting me know. Another one of the many reasons why I'd never choose to live there. Falls Church has undoubtedly been in decline since you were there.

Jill said...

Damn. This is such a great blog.

ainsley said...

this is when i'm glad i live in vancouver- it's now the 'pouring out side and quite chilly' season. the only problems i deal with are oblivious drivers on cell phones and die hard hybrid commuters so weighted down by their panniers and rain gear they ride the sidewalk. they however ride in the middle of the pedestrian/ bike route across the many bridges here, causing you to weave worse than a dui motorist on a cell phone.
i get the 'die hard' commuters cause i work so early in the morning and when they try and keep up i feel like slapping a huge sticker to their bright florescent vest's saying:
oh i'm NOT trying to race you, IDIOT, i'm actually really, really late for work!

Anonymous said...

BSNYC

BRAVO

Chuy in Austin

Zoug said...

I don't get it. You cover every lame variation of the pedaling new yorker, but have thus far (to the best of my knowledge) ignored the fearless warriors that bike day and night, all year long through our busy streets, riding the cheapest, ugliest, grease-stained, chopstick-spoked pieces of junk that keeps this city amazing. F*** the hipsters and spandex wannabes.... what about us delivery guys?

Derisory Velo said...

One of the best to date; thanks bikesnob, this was a classic.

reuben said...

all the "speeders-to-nowhere" make me think of napolean dynamite. that kid runs everywhere. maybe it's just another annoying immitation...

flippin' sweet.

GGehrke said...

I find the first 'story' on here, which is essentially echoed in some of the comments, to be interesting because it bears such a resemblance to a recurring anecdote found on car tuning message boards across the internet. The story used to always be "this civic with a giant wing and loud exhaust flew past me on the freeway and then slowed down and must have thought I wanted to race and blah blah blah." Every one of these little stories goes off into some self-righteous tirade about how the author was just minding their own business and being pestered, almost victimized, by some punk kid. There are always overtones of "I was into cars (or bikes) before you were, Mr. Wings-West-Sporting Civic (hipster fixie rider)" and typically ends with a snide "sour grapes" comment. If the post was made by a well respected member of the community their passive aggressive rant was always praised by a dozen quick responding forum trolls who wanted to ride the wave of elitism.

It's interesting to me that the bike community has such a direct parallel. It's probably echoed in a dozen other communities of all sorts as well. The thing is, it always made me sick when it was cars, and it makes me equally sick now that it's bikes.

I have no problem with BSNYC criticizing the 'hipster' cyclists. That's pretty much why this is the only blog I read regularly. I also don't dispute that this "ricer flyby" happens on the freeways or on the bike paths. I know it does and it definitely reflects poorly on the rest of the community. I just wish people wouldn't be so dramatic and self-righteous about it. Especially on a bike, where you can actually interact with another human being more directly than in passing cars, perhaps you should just give the guy a quick "hey, chill out dude" rather than bottling up all your repressed feelings and posting about it on the internet instead. BSNYC gets a free pass on this rule when he can craft his rant into a literary gem. Unfortunately this post falls short, and it sounds to me like just another self-righteous corvette driver telling all his self-righteous corvette driver friends how much of a tool that 17 year old in the civic is. The corvette is faster, the driver is probably legitimately better, the kid in the civic is probably a tool, but I've honestly seen personally where thriving communities were spoiled not by the punk kid in the civic but by the middle-aged corvette driver with a cable modem.

Uncle Bob said...

Dear Plump Young Man On An ATB,

I sincerely applaud your choice to commute by bicycle and the determination with which you mashed your high gears up West St. behind me yesterday afternoon, though your laboured breathing did cause me some concern for your welfare.

An uncharitable critic might suggest however that it was rather gauche to collide with me as I was standing at the traffic lights waiting for them to change, and a pedant might point out that your rear v-brake would make a greater contribution to your cycling enjoyment if both callipers were connected to the cable, but I would merely plead that if you are going to ride through a red light, you should watch the traffic rather than looking back to show me the immaculate manicure on the middle finger of your right hand.

Bob said...

GGehrke is using an automotive analogy to disparage BSNYC and the readers of this blog.

That's like saying Pearl Jam is lame because the song "Life Wasted" reminds him of himself.

Lee said...

Zoug, I would take BSNYC's silence as a compliment.

Anonymous said...

GGehrke:

What? I got lost in your rambling tale of message boards and whatever....

You suck.

Anonymous said...

GGehrke, you just said that you spend a lot of time on message boards where "Fast and Furious" aficionados mix it up with middle-aged men who own (and are proud to own) Corvettes.

Please, say no more.

Polygraf said...

ggerhke aka yoda, I hope you can step back and see the irony in your crunchy lecture. Let us rant with out your scolding, now back to reality.

Anonymous said...

anon 8:32am:

whilst 'U suck' is such a well thought out comment, i have to say GGehrke speaks the truth - the pleasure of reading bikesnob is so often sullied by retarded comments

moocow said...

Bike Lane Salmon.
Perfect.

I was having it out with just such a BLS, at night several weeks ago, he was mad I was forcing him into traffic that he could see, and I could not. Lucky me, he recognized me first, and I was glad I didn't call him the name I usually call wrong way riders.


polygraf, am I you? Are you me? Bulk rate discount help?

dennis said...

anon 9:17am:

whilst 'U suck is such a well thought out comment,... - the pleasure of reading bikesnob is so often sullied by retarded comments"

Trying not to be retarded here, but this blog just cracks me up......BIkesnob, readers comments, it's all a good read!

Wunderkind said...

FYI, I love that this is a self-righteous board. Road cycling must stay elitist. The last thing I want is for this sport to be accessible to the common man.

BikeSnobNYC said...

ggehrke,

Thanks for the thoughtful critique. I do see your point. Those cars are incredibly annoying though.

--BSNYC

leroy said...

Dear Mr. ggerhke --

You're right.

Can't we all just get along?

Well, of course we can, but it wouldn't be half as funny.

From my short time here, I get the feeling that most folks commenting adopt BSNYC's disclaimer about "embracing-cycling-in-all-its-forms-my-opinion-means-nothing-keep-riding."

Now how can I get that on a T-shirt?

Sean Lynch said...

Rain today.

The weatherman said gusts up to 70mph.

Very few bike riders on the way in to work.

I like when Summer ends.

Anonymous said...

Leroy,

You probably can't, considering you can't even get it to appear in your comment.

Har!

-RT

Danimal said...

Dear yellow cab driving on seattle's waterfront bikepath: while I know you were probably just taking a disoriented homeless person "home from the hospital" a la L.A. style, I might ask that you have some sort of plan as to what your point of egress might be. You see, on your right is 700 feet of pure puget sound salt water. So forgive me, while passing you on on the right, for being shocked to find you turning that way. I hope you can still roll up the window.

PS I hope you feel good about dropping that guy off just south of the industrial area, just west of the railroad tracks, and at least a mile away from any halfway decent shelter. Strong work. Hey, it's not your job to care, I know. You gotta get paid.

Jim said...

GGherkin is right. I'm going to quit venting about morons, and just start screaming at them on the road. That should lead to much less drama.

Jennifer said...

Dear San Francisco bicycle death riders that try to take out pedestrians at crosswalks, you will have your comeuppins, your comeuppins!

judi said...

Thanks for a good laugh! I am so glad I found your blog!

Gustavo said...

To the anonymous pole-smoker ripping on Gram: suck it hipster coward.

Gram: I feel your pain, brother.

For some reason, the west-bound approach to the bridge is a mecca for choads of all colors. They especially like to congregate right behind the first turn, where the first bus stop is. Right behind the pillars. So they are especially invisible to approaching bike traffic.

I've seen hipster high teas, middle-aged meth-BMX riders checking in with their cohorts, and gaggles of highschool kids who thought it was the perfect place to smoke. All thoroughly blocking the lane, completely unaware of any inconvenience they may cause.

As much as 80% of the general population deserves a u-lock the the back of the neck, but in this case, I have merely learned to slow to a crawl on that section of the bridge.

Unfortunately politely informing people about their douchery in the bike lane is usually welcomed with a cheery "FUCK YOU".

But the funniest thing is that no one expects the 6'4" 300lbs dude built like a gorilla on a fixed gear to stop, clear the bike lane, get off the bike, walk back, jab a pointy finger into their chest, and say "what was that? fuck me?". Discussions are usually a lot more polite after that. :)

Gustavo said...

...And BSNY,

Best post ever. Whale birth. Bike lane salmon. Coffee ALMOST shot out of nose.

eric "the swede" said...

My new favorite place to kill time

Anonymous said...

Riding home northbbound on fashionable Rush street in downtown Chicago, having recently passed the Gold Coast Lamborghini dealership around 6:30 PM, I was approaching Gibsons as a father and son passed me in a red Ford Yukon or some other massive SUV with windows rolled down, when I noticed they weren't giddy from the Bears' recent win, but rather the father thought it would be oh so funny to show his son how he could spray the cyclist with winshield fluid as he passed him. As they were chuckling, although I wasn't wearing any glasses, only a few drops of alcohol and dye landed on my cheeks and luckly not in my eyes. The whale has given birth and its suckling is learning its bad habits.

Anonymous said...

ZOUG... you can't touch the sacred messengers!

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