Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Indignity of Commuting by Bicycle: The Increasing Dignity of Commuting by Bicycle

("No More Corporate Bullshit! Fuk Wall St." That oughta show 'em.)

A voice of the youth one sang that "The Times They Are a-Changin'." That voice was of course the Insane Clown Posse, and the words are as true today as they were when they were first rapped poorly back in 1994. They're especially true for cyclists, as we've seen more than our share of changes over the years. Steel gave way to aluminum, which in turn surrendered to crabon. Eyewear shrank considerably. And the bicycle saddle as we know it has been completely redesigned and as such rendered totally irrelevant.

But cycling technology isn't the only thing that's changing. Cycling is changing the urban landscape as well. A reader was recently kind enough to send me some photos of the new bike racks that have been appearing in downtown Manhattan:



I'm pleased that New York City has been taking these steps towards increasing bike-friendliness. And we're not alone here, either. Other cities, such as Boston, appear to be doing so as well. Still, I can't help but feel that in this case the city is trying a little too hard. If I were to come across this and there were no bicycles locked to it I would honestly have no idea what to do with it. I'd probably just assume some geek had parked his "Star Wars" Landspeeder replica on the sidewalk.

I suppose it's somewhat hypocritical of me to criticize this structure. After all, I constantly complain about the indignities to which I'm subjected as a New York City cyclist. Shouldn't I be pleased that the city is not only adding bike parking, but that they're also incorporating benches where people can sit down while they change from their cycling shoes to their street shoes like Mr. Rogers and neatly stow their locks, helmets and outer garments inside their hand-sewn cycling bags while they make friendly chit-chat with each-other? I don't know. What's wrong with a bunch of these? Being coddled like this makes me feel unsettled. It's the bicycle equivalent of installing coffee machines next to all the car parking spaces.

Also, I worry that maybe all of this bike-friendly stuff is happening a little too late. It was only relatively recently that the city could actually build structures like this, since before "gentrification" people would have just moved into this thing. In the age of the $1,000 Bushwick studio it may seem hard to believe, but trust me--with the simple addition of a tarp that bike rack could easily sleep four adults. ITTET it's only a matter of time before people are once again forced to take to the streets, and we may have finally gotten our luxury bike parking only to have it swiftly commandeered by homeless investment bankers.

Yes, the fact is you can't account for everything. Take these protected bike lanes the city is now building:



I'm a bike lane fan. As I've said before, I'm happy to ride anywhere on the street, but the bike lane is my "comfy chair" and as such I like that they're there. So when the protected bike lanes started appearing, I was pleased to see them. But then I tried them out. First of all, the bike lane itself also incorporates the left-hand turn lane for motor vehicle traffic. This means that, instead of just going around traffic that's waiting to turn left as you would on an old-fashioned street, you've got to wait at your very own bicycle-specific red light. Sure, it's not a big deal if you're not in a hurry, and it's probably a good thing for people who are uncomfortable riding in traffic and need traffic signals to tell them what to do, but it is a bit frustrating nonetheless.

More irritating though are the factors they almost certainly didn't account for when they designed these lanes, such as bike salmon. I have noticed a significant uptick in the number of bike salmon in these lanes, and it's clearly because they feel much more comfortable salmoning without the presence of cars. In that sense, I suppose the cars were bears, and now that the salmon's natural enemy is gone the salmon population is exploding. And I like bikes, but I do not want to live in a world of salmon. Moreover, it's one thing to encounter a salmon on an old-fashioned street; it's quite another when you're trapped with them in a lane that's only about ten feet wide.

The other thing they clearly didn't account for is that non-cyclists would also annex these protected bike lanes. It's like the sidewalk is the 19th century United States, the new bike lane is the western frontier, and suddenly all the pedestrians have been smitten by Manifest Destiny. However, instead of saddling up their horses they're leashing up their dogs. Here's a typical sight along the Trail of Terriers:



So when it comes to bike-friendliness, we're seeing overwrought bike parking and bewildering lanes, but we're not seeing any financial benefits--at least not yet. A reader forwarded me this article, which indicates that we've still got a ways to go in that department:



I suspect that perhaps tax incentives for bike commuters could be something else that sounds good in theory but in practice results in a bunch of unforeseen side-effects. For example, people seem to be complaining that you can only get a rebate of $20 a month for commuting by bike. But let's just say the government reimbursed you for your bike-related costs proportionally to your actual spending, provided you commuted by bike. Sounds great, doesn't it? But what about people like Bart Kaufman, owner of the World's Greatest Madone? That's about $10,000 right there. And once you factor in bike shop labor and clothing and new tubular tires every time he punctures it's not hard to imagine that annual figure ballooning into six figures. It would only take a few Bart Kaufmans to cost the government millions of dollars. And who's going to pay for that loss of revenue? Before you know it we'll all be living in bike racks alongside our Madones. Maybe David Byrne can design us some bike racks with plumbing.

By the way, if you're getting $20 this month for commuting by bicycle, be sure to spend it on some Total Polo Laboratories mallet plugs:




I'm not much of a bike polo fan (I prefer bike lacrosse) but my understanding of the "sport" was that people made their own stuff, used beater bikes, and generally did it on the cheap. Clearly, though, that understanding was wrong, and it is now entering the "purchasing advantages" phase. And it doesn't stop there. Once you've installed your lathe-turned high-density polyethylene mallet plugs, be sure to have your favorite wheelbuilder lace you up a pair of Velocity Chukkers:


While I've been critical of both fixed-gear freestyling and bike polo in the past, I have to admit that they've progressed a great deal in the last couple of years. Of course, I don't mean "progressed" in the sense that they've become more interesting; I mean "progressed" in the sense that you can buy increasing amounts of stuff in order to do them. I wonder if these rims would also be good for bike lacrosse; after all, it's a "Velocity Deep V on steroids," and bike lacrosse is bike polo on steroids. (Though it should not be confused with regular polo, which is like bike polo on steroids and horses.)

Still, it was inevitable that Velocity would introduce a new Deep V. Clearly people are demanding stronger rims, and there's certainly nothing wrong with satisfying that demand. Furthermore, Velocity's urban fixed-gear market supremacy was being challenged by H+Son and their own idiotic deep-section rim:




Be the new kid on the block throwing down the hottest S#@& all year. You may have seen these H Plus Son rims spring up on places like Tokyo fixed the last couple months, but now they're here rocking the states! Unlike anything else out there, the H + Son Formation Face rim has a true V shaped wall and absolutely no provisions for running a brake. The side of the rim has a completely even surface. It looks like a wall. Oh, and it's 42mm deep. Deep V's are a comparatively diminutive 30mm. Lastly, they're substantially lighter than their Velocity counterpart.

Priced individually

Not Compatible with brakes, so man up!

700c and 650c available
32 hole non machined only
black (anodized), silver (anodized), gold (anodized), white (powder coated)

At first, I wasn't convinced, but between their promise that I can be the "new kid on the block throwing down the hottest S#@& all year" and their admonition to "man up" it's clear that I need to get a pair (and grow a pair, apparently)--though I am somewhat reluctant to take "manning up" advice from a website that is afraid to spell out the word "shit."

And while the times may be a-changin', they're also staying the same. The fact is people were wrecking wheels playing bike polo out in the Rockaways way back in 1902:



One can only imagine how differently things might have turned out if the polo players of yesteryear had had access to the Velocity Chukker.



Then again, perhaps it's a good thing they didn't.


85 comments:

Anonymous said...

The anti-Hincapie rides!

Fracturing...

ringcycles said...

Valverde?

Anonymous said...

...

john said...

Stuck in an airport in georgia and all I feel like doing is refreshing BSNYC until I get top. I could spend this time learning how to RSS put I feel it is some form of serial binary signal and I don't want to get that involved.

Ronsonic said...

Missed the pod

mattoidbunko said...

It's a long way to the top if you wanna rock 'n' roll

ThadS said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Surly Bastard said...

Boonalicous!

Anonymous said...

thor hush

mikeweb said...

top 10?

Anonymous said...

top eleven..mechanical reasons.

ant1 said...

ant1st!

Luck E. said...

Ant2nd!


A

Anonymous said...

David Byrne. . . yaaawwwwnnnnn.

Astroluc said...

I am scared of people walking multiple dogs (or children) on multi-use paths, nevermind bike lanes!!

worm irks said...

Hincapie has her own airport now?

innerlighter said...

I'm fine with top 20

sundew said...

Park your lovely bike here on this lovely rack.

Der Blaue Reiter said...

Nice! I was hatin' on those End caps way back in the day, man, check out the first comment on that Urban Velo Post :P

Norman said...

except that in MCMII, "wheel" meant "Hwyppan"

Ronsonic said...

This is one of the things that really pisses me off about "bicycle friendly infrastructure" instead of putting down a dozen simple convenient racks, they deliver giant, obstructive monstrosities.

Some bent pipe anchored in the concrete will do. It costs a couple bucks and will fit anywhere and can take a lot more bikes per square foot of sidewalk space. Hell, I resent such a waste of resources, how much more animosity do we want from drivers whose main parking consideration is a bit of paint and an obligation to feed money into a timer.

Russ said...

The green-painted bike lanes in SoHo may as well be designated parkland considering how many people walk in them. What's next, sunbathers? Ultimate Frisbee?

Anonymous said...

GET THE FUCK OUTTA MY WAY! TOUGH GUY ON 42MM DEEP VEE'S COMIN' THRU!

Anonymous said...

Russ, update your blog.

Russ said...

I did!

Strayhorn said...

Want to see something worse than a bike lane when it comes to unintended consequences? Try a "multi-use path" in any urban area.

The planners always shuck these off on the city admins by touting their use as, among others, bike paths. But like every other public convenience, it's soon taken over by the lowest common denominator.

Wimmens walking two, three, four abreast with their cruiser-class strollers filled with leaky meatloafs? Yep, we got those.

Loathsome teens yapping on their cellies while they wander back and forth across the right-of way? Check.

Clueless Freds who think that hearing "on your left" means you should swerve left? Yep.

Dog walkers who can't believe that their precious little snowflake would jump in front of a cyclist, so they've taken it off the mandatory leash? Yeah, we got lots of those.

People always ask me if I'm a-feared when riding on the roads. Believe me, I'll take my chances with a yuppette in her SUV, barging down a no-shoulder connector road, over a crowd of kids released from some after-school program to wander down the paths.

hillbilly said...

why did you have to pick the bike rack in front of rubyfruit's to shoot? now i'm gonna be thinking about lesbians, dammit.

Anonymous said...

S#@&. Far rockaway, you get around. What is more important riding your bike or this blog and your loyal readers? Your puntuality is lacking as of late. Btw did you place that sticker yourself?

Russ said...

*designs 69mm high deep Vs*

innerlighter said...

The benches are for all the haters to sit on and rest their weary selves while reading increasingly long wheel messages.

It also puts them at a convenient height to take the wheel owner up on his suggestion.

All You Haters Sit A Spell, Rest Up, Then Suck My Balls

red neckerson said...

what pisses me off is that earlier today i was checking to see if i mights win today and snob was sitting on his ass and not updating his blog so i hits the next blog button at the top and gets taken to some blog about some filipino babe who hates her boyfriend but is too damm stupid to tell him to fuck off

then i check another blog and its about some portugese babe who hates her boyfriend but is too damm stupid to tell him to fuck off

then i checks out the next one and its about some chink who hates her boyfriend and is too damm stopid to tell him to fuck off

then i had to sneek out of the pubic libary to drink a keystone or three and by the time i gets back theres 30 people who posted in fronts of me

it pisses me off

Luck E. said...

Freedom Seat?
Daniel Douche's Landspeeder?
Mr. Rogers' homeless shelter?
Dedicated salmon lanes teeming with dog walkers?
Tax credits for bike polo?

DEEPER Vs?!?!


A

ant1 said...

ronsonic - I agree with that wholeheartedly. Most of the time the act of putting in a bike rack (or feeding the hungry, clothing the poor, treating the sick, saving the environment...) is done for the publicity/kudos the person will receive from it rather than the act itself. Some asshole in city hall (greenpeace, peta, WHO...) comes up with a decent idea, like a bike rack, and then turns it into a massive publicity stunt, negating any positive that should have come out of it. If they ever do become aware of the benefits they are wasting, they start calling it an awareness campaign so that they're not called out on it.

Anonymous said...

I'd say that this tattoo is quite a commitment to a fad, but your New York Times article tells me that it could be fashionable for another century.

http://bikepolo.ca/user/redarmyrebel

Bill said...

anybody have a favorite bike shop in houston?

Fred Clydesdale said...

well, cr@p. i ride velocity aeroheads and they just got even MORE embarrassing.

flaco said...

strayhorn - i hear ya that those are all annoying, but unlike the dogwalker in the bike lane, you can't actually blame them, they are using the path how it was intended, stupid as it and they may be

Test Tickle said...

anon 2:58. Bike polo is definitely not a fad. It's been around longer than most of our grandparents and great grandparents. Shit, longer than many popular organized sports. It's actually quite fun and judging by the photos of the "Angelo" link, some damn cute ladies are playing.

Anonymous said...

Speaking on Bike Polo.

It was recently featured in the last episode of CSI New York.

Spoke cards AND Team t-shirts from the "Brooklyn Bruisers" and all... no expense spent.

Anonymous said...

in Amsterdam they ring their bell and if you dont move they run you over.. you need to train your salmon.

curious said...

what angelo link?

bikesgonewild said...

...re: strayhorn n' flaco...

...how those "multi-use" paths are multi-used speaks volumes about the intellect of the users...

..."i can only see in front of me so therefore i'll assume no one is ever going to come up behind me & i'll walk down the middle of the path...
...oh, my, why are those nasty cyclists trying to scare me when they come riding up behind me so fast w/ their bad attitudes...those people race by like criminals"
...

...myopic viewpoint, limited attention span & the three second memory of a fucking goldfish...

vacuumrunamok said...

Strayhorn,

Solution: ride the MUPs in the winter when the cold and rain/sleet/snow/hail keeps the weenies away, and ride the streets in the summer when the weather is nice.

That, or practice your Zen-like patience in the summer by riding MUPs.

B. Obama said...

It's my money and if I want to spend $10,000 on a bike rack capable of uh uh holding only three uh bikes its none of your business. Damn right-wing extremists.

Anonymous said...

Take a fixed gear bike, add riser bars, wider tires and wheels, compact frames...wait till the fixed gear freestylers discover the world of new tricks they can do with 20" wheels and a freewheel.

Luck E. Seven said...

That massive bike rack is clearly an homage to an aircraft carrier.


A

Anonymous said...

Snobby--here's a question you forgot to ask in last Friday's Quiz:
You can use this link to contact the Michigan Department of State (their Motor Vehicle Department), where you can write the Michigan Secretary of State and ask her to revoke Zack Colman's driver's license:
http://www.michigan.gov/sos/0,1607,7-127-13162-25634--,00.html

True
False

Surly Bastard said...

I hear Velocity is soon to release a DEEPER-VEE that's 44 mm of DEEP-VEE tubular NMSW foolishness.

If I were more technically adept I'd love to add a clip of the best Bike Polo film clip of all time from Elephant Walk. Real men, apparently, play Bike Polo on the marble floor of their mansion's ballroom (decorated with lots of Calfee-like Bamboo) while drinking tumblers of gin with their non-mallet hand (NMH).

Wes said...

Snobby, you nailed it again.

But I hate clowns, 'cept of course Palfi, consultant laughologist -
http://homepage.eircom.net/~palfi/introd.html. I thought he was Canadian but apparently he's from Michigan. Shall I send him back to tickle Zack?

And Red,I too was scrolling - everything I hit was from Malaysia - who files these things? Certainly not Dewey.

Shram said...

keee-rhist, I was riding on Sunday on an 'urban bike path' with a stoner friend of a friend, and he passes on the RIGHT this group of people walking along, and at the same time announces, "on your LEFT". Yeah, that helps.

Doug said...

That giant bike rack can hold what, 4 bikes.........couldn't you put something in the same amount of space to hold 10? They put strange stuff her in SacToe CA too, looks neat, but doesn't allow for many bikes.

Team Lugged Nutz said...

hipsters spend 300 plus dollars for h+sons, how do 13 year olds get that kind of money......crazy! Better than spending it on crack.....

TheTye said...

The American River Bike Trail here in Sacramento is plagued with the "three deep walkers" blocking the entire bike trail even though there is 4 to 5 ft of shoulder for them to walk on.
We also get the "Moms with jogging strollers" who love to jog in the wrong lane.
Mixed use=Clusterfuck
It's all good though... there are no signs dictating proper use.
Maybe that's why you get assholes walking three dogs in the bike lanes over there. There aren't any "NO ASSHOLES WALKING THREE DOGS" signs.

mikeweb said...

"bike salmon" -quite descriptive snobbie.

mikeweb said...

When cars in front of me are making a left, bike lane or not, I take a peek and swing out to the right to go around them.

when cars come up behind me - or from like 3 lanes over - to make the left, I just get a foot or 2 from the rear fender and give 'em the 'fender slap'.

Nothing will make a driver stop faster than a resounding 'thunk' reverberating inside their aluminum can. Then I roll by them on the left.

Unfortunately doing the same thing to 'bike salmon' or bladers in the bike lane is considered assault and battery. A pity...

Anonymous said...

there usesd to be a lot of room on b'way between 42nd & 34th. now it feels constricted and a lot more dangerous the bike path is not an option. what happens when those aluminum chairs blow into traffic?

Never Knows Best said...

@ Bill: Houston Bicycle Company. Intersection of Taft and Westheimer. They are on the web.

Anonymous said...

I don't get how the bike lane shown in the picture is protected. All I see is the solid white line between you and the car which in NM would be considered a challenge, not a protection. Why is the bike lane on the left of all the cars?

Anyway, for the walkers in the bike lanes, I would suggest you go all Amsterdam on them. Start yelling at them and ringing your bell for all it's worth.

the anthills mob said...

@ Bill - If you're in West Houston, try Bicycle World at Memorial/Dairy Ashford

fixEd said...

As one who was fortunate to be born and raised in Bklyn, but now living in the SFBay area, I truly appreciate your perspective on riding in New York. I miss it badly. Ride a few laps of Prospect park for me. Ride by Dyker Golf course on 86th street. Head back to Rockaway over the Marine Park Bridge. Dodge the buses on Flatbush Avenue. Visit Larry's Bike shop on Flatbush Avenue. Riding where I live now is the pits after having all of NYC as my domain as a youth.

Ari said...

I know that it's not a new york craigslist post, but i thought you'd have something interesting to say

http://minneapolis.craigslist.org/bik/1122560669.html

Hincapie said...

Shit! Top 50? My fingers were great, for the first hour or so, I was refreshing like a champ, and then bam, computer crash. Tough day for me, but I'm not going out like that. I'll be back next post!!!!!!11one.

R@iRey said...

At least NY is trying. Try living and riding in Utah if you live anywhere other than down town SLC...well your S.O.L but I've become proficient in the art of car dodging but more bike lanes would be great.

Anonymous said...

can anyone say www.legitbikepolo.com ?

Bill said...

thanks never knows best and anthill, and thanks fixEd, for all my bitching i do love it, nice to be reminded

Andy Pandy Esquire said...

Who cares about mundane everyday things like bike racks when you can be distracted all day about

http://www.bikeradar.com/road/news/article/rapha-unveil-their-£3000-cycling-suit-21181

cyclotourist said...

STER OIDS

Anonymous said...

Bike polo was played in the Rockaways a long time ago. You road out to the Rockaways and took a picture of an empty boardwalk. I don't get it. Please explain.

bikesgonewild said...

...sorry, ap esq...rapha's late to the party on this one...

...http://www.dashingtweeds.co.uk/ bespoke clothing has been around for a while & if haberdashery is something you wanna ride, rock or roll they got the "shit"...

...i can't afford their prices & i'd have to piece together another awesome & right "style" of bike to drape myself in their cool rags...

...but hey, i can appreciate what they do...

Anonymous said...

Typical NY. Tax the hell out of people and then only provide two parking spaces.

Maybe the "cheaper" version of the bike parking would be like wearing Payless instead of Dolce & Gabbanas.

BikeSnobNYC said...

Anonymous 11:54pm,

Bike polo was played in the Rockaways a long time ago. I happened to have a picture of the Rockaways and I posted it so people unfamiliar with it could see what it looks like. Hope this helps.

--BSNYC

Anonymous said...

How do I go about winning a trip to Utah to meet Elden Nelson or, at least, a Fat Cyclist t-shirt?

The Brooklyn Fritz said...

The "shielded" lanes on 8th/9th aves are exactly wide enough for Fedex trucks to park. Perfect!

The West Side bikelane is a perfect dragracing strip for motorized Parks department carts.

agent detroit said...

how you gonna fuck wit a wicked clown? southwest down. juggalos unite! watch yo back, bitch boy!

Fred Clydesdale said...

bill: west end bicycles. murph has been in the biz (and on the bike) for 30ish years. knows his stuff and appreciates all things bike.

Anonymous said...

tell the kids to be careful with those h+sons! look what even these skinny japanese dudes did to em.

http://ganrin.blogspot.com/2008/11/its-not-mine-but.html

Anonymous said...

The monster bike racks are not typical NYC issued stuff. They are an experimental MTA raised subway grating. http://www.streetsblog.org/2008/10/01/new-mta-grates-double-as-seating-bike-racks/
The fact they double as bike parking and a bench is a bonus.
http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/09/19/new-subway-grates-add-aesthetics-to-flood-protection/

Scott said...

Just a note... the "Star Wars Land Cruiser" of a bicycle rack you showed was not designed to be bike art. Thats one of the raised subway grates the MTA has been installing to prevent subway flooding. While not a perfect bike rack at least it serves some kind of bicycle friendly function as well as preventing another day like the ones in August of '07

http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2007/08/08/flooding-cripples-subway-system/?hp

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Gerry Lauzon said...

Great article as usual. Took me a few lines to get the "salmon" reference but we only get them on the streets here in Montreal, not the lanes. Somehow none have died yet.

Gerry :)

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