As many of you undoubtedly heard by now, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, co-host of the daytime talk show "The View," was struck by a cyclist in New York City yesterday. You can read all about it on her Twitter:
Not only was Hasselbeck apparently on the sidewalk when she was hit, but she's also pregnant, which made the incident doubly distressing. Frankly, this news hit me harder than a New York City sidewalk cyclist hits a pregnant daytime TV talk show host. Not only am I a firm believer of cycling in the street, but I'm also a tremendous fan of "The View" and never miss an episode. Scoff if you will, but the chemistry among Hasselbeck, Whoopi Goldberg, Joy Behar, Sherri Shepherd, and Barbara Walters is both heady and addictive--in fact, it's enough to make you lactate in your Rapha jersey.
So naturally, when I heard the news about Hasselbeck, I was highly distraught. "How could this happen?," I demanded of the Universe. "And why did he have to hit the pregnant one? Why couldn't it have least been one of the menopausal ones, like Joy Behar or Barbara Walters?" I knew then that I could not rest until I either brought the scofflaw to justice, or I got tired, whichever came first. Then it hit me. Who is the foremost advocate of sidewalk cycling in New York City?
That's right--it's that "schluffing" guy.
I knew I was on to something, so I high-tailed it over to the Schluffmeister's blog. While he hadn't admitted to the crime, I had already decided that he was the guy who had plowed into Hasselbeck and her unborn child on the sidewalk, and so I scoured the blog for clues. You'll note that the Schluffer's blog is called "The Thoreau You Don't Know," and sure enough I found this: a post about a "Thoreau" Twitter page that I suspect is authored by Schluffleupagus himself. I then visited the "Thoreau" Twitter page, where I read this:
But while I may have brought one rolling fetus-seeking missile to justice, unfortunately it appears that things are only going to get worse before they get better. A number of people have forwarded me this article from the New York Times (a publication which has written enough cycling-related fluff in the past few weeks to stuff a protective suit for Elisabeth Hasselbeck) which indicates that Dutch city bikes may be the next big thing. This means that next time you get hit while you're standing on the sidewalk, it will probably be by somebody schluffing a bike that weighs like 50 pounds:
Some might argue that these bikes, with their fenders, chain guards, and generator lights, are practical. Furthermore, they might also argue that a bicycle which allows a person to ride comfortably in street clothes is a good thing for cycling and for New York City. On the surface this may appear to be true, but if you dig deeper you realize there's something insidious about the whole thing. As the article does point out, the unwieldiness of an Amsterdam houseboat anchor like this literally outweighs its practicality. It's a lot like those giant bloated fanboat-like bike racks they're suddenly installing downtown. In fact, it's becoming increasingly obvious to me that New York City cycling is now being co-opted by special interests. Just look at the clues:
1) City installs giant bloated fanboat-like bike racks that are way too big for normal bikes;
2) Some opportunists are going to start selling unwieldy Dutch city bikes;
3) The New York Times publishes an article about how Dutch city bikes are the next big thing, and that you don't need "kamikaze messenger-wear" (whatever the hell that means) to ride one.
Clearly some evil Dutch city bike cabal is using its twin lackeys, the New York City Department Of Transportation and the New York Times, to clear the way for them. The DOT will provide the giant racks, and the New York Times will provide the free publicity. However, I for one refuse to have these glorified boneshakers foisted upon me, and I vow to stand against this twisted scheme to turn New York City back into New Amsterdam--that is, unless this twisted scheme also involves opening legal brothels and marijuana "coffee houses" all over the city. In that case, I'll welcome them met plezier.
The other explanation is that the Dutch city bike invasion is yet another example of fashion disguised as practicality. More accurately, it's fashion backlash disguised as practicality. What happens when people start wearing baggier and baggier pants? Tight pants make a sudden comeback. What happens when ratty trucker caps become all the rage? Clean, flat-brim fitted caps supplant them. What happens when microbrews take over the country? There's a renewed interest in PBR. And so forth. So what happens when impractically minimalist bikes become fashionable? Impractically practical bikes suddenly seem a lot more attractive.
Obviously, the fixie backlash has been going on for a long time now, but the sheer bulk and weight of these Dutch city bikes nicely embodies just how much mass this backlash movement has gained. And the whip has yet to crack--after all, there's still a lot to get annoyed about. Just take this recent Craigslist posting:
Brand New 2008 Continuum Aluminum Track bike Frame and fork - $550 (East Village)
Reply to: [deleted]
Date: 2009-04-15, 1:48PM EDT
NOS 2008 Aluminum Continuum track frame with steel trackend inserts designed in NYC
Dont be another asshole with a chromed bianchi pista this year. Get something designed in NYC for New Yorkers
54cmST 55.5cm TT. No dents or dings or anything!
Stripped to bare aluminum and decaled by Jeff (designer). Two chips in decals pictured. It has never been built up, wheels havent even been put on. Brand new Straight blade drilled fork inc. Perfect for your first Fixie
Email me with any questions and we can arrange to meet up. I have a set of wheels so you can check the stand over height if need be. Serious offers only.
Right, don't be "another asshole with a chromed Bianchi Pista this year." Be another asshole on a slightly different frame instead. People who buy Bianchi Pistas to ride around the city are not assholes. At worst, they're people who are attracted to quick and simple bikes but haven't yet realized there are better city bikes out there. However, someone who buys a Bianchi Pista to ride around the city, then buys a slightly more expensive yet equally limited frame to ride around the city, and then has contempt for other people who ride Bianchi Pistas, is most definitely an asshole. Then again, this frame was "designed in NYC for New Yorkers." Yes, clearly when they ordered a bunch of track frames from Taiwan and put their own decals on them like everyone else does they had the unique needs of New York City cyclists in mind in a way Bianchi never could.
And that's what's so annoying about the fixed-gear fad and the fixed-gear backlash. They both seem to subscribe to a notion that there's no middle ground, and they only define themselves in terms of the other. Hate track bikes? Ride a tank! Don't like sluggish bikes? Ride a track bike! Of course, the truth is there are plenty of bikes that are reasonably quick, reasonably light, reasonably cheap, and reasonably practical all at the same time. Here's just one example:
Again, this is just one example. Plenty of other companies also offer bikes on this theme. The problem is that it's more fun to pretend bikes like this don't exist. It's much more special to either do what all the hip people are doing, or to do the exact opposite of what all the hip people are doing. There's nothing special about simultaneously passing the dandies on the Dutch city bikes and getting where you're going just as quickly as the people on track bikes, only with dry pants.
In the meantime, the backlash continues:
The author sure hates those fixies! So what does he have? You guessed it! A Dutch city bike:
A-ha! The quintessential backlash ride! A wiser man than me once said, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." (That man, of course, was Little Richard.) And a wiser man than him once said, "All You Haters Suck My Balls." (Actually, he stuck it on his rim.)
I guess until that whip cracks it's just going to be one big daisy chain of ball-sucking.