In the world of urban cycling, intersections are to riders what watering holes are to animals on the Serengeti, in that they are the place where various species who might not otherwise interact are forced to come together. As such, there is no better place to observe urban cycling behavior than at intersections. This is especially true here in New York City now that cycling weather is optimal and just about every species of cyclist has come out of hibernation.
One species of rider who displays different types of behavior at intersections is the fixed-gear rider. Generally speaking, a fixed-gear rider approaching an intersection with a red light will behave in one of three ways:
If the fixed-gear rider is of the hardened messenger variety (or at least aspires to be), he or she will simply refuse to acknowledge either the red signal or the vehicular traffic and continue through the intersection at full speed. Once in the middle of the intersection, the rider may skip-stop or adjust course slightly if necessary. Almost as soon as you see these riders, they're gone, leaving behind a trail of angry motorists and the scent of unwashed pants in their wake.
The more conservative rider will come to a stop at the intersection, but in no circumstances will he or she put his or her foot down. In fixed-gear circles, allowing your foot to touch pavement is career suicide; it's like when Milli Vanilli got caught lip-synching. Instead, the rider will trackstand, which involves assuming the stance of a pointing bird dog and staring off into the distance until either the intersection is clear or the light turns green. Nothing can break their steely, comical resolve--even the most scantily-clad pedestrian is not enough to draw their eyes away from the distant horizon. So crucial is the trackstand to fixed-gear society that they practice it in their homes.
As fixed-gear bicycles continue to proliferate so do riders who are visibly uncomfortable on them. While these riders have not owned fixed-gears long enough to master the trackstand, they have owned them long enough to know that they're not allowed to put their feet down. As such, many have developed sort of a work-around, which involves riding in circles or figure-eights at the intersection until the light changes--like sharks, only nerdier.
In fact, some of these riders will go so far as to ride circles around you if you happen to be sharing the intersection with them, and it just so happens that I encountered one of these riders today. Here I am in my chicken suit, waiting patiently at a red light and meditating on vital issues of the day:
As I mused, I was approached from behind by a rider of the "mountainger" variety, in that he was wearing the brown hikey SPD-compatible shoes and baggy shorts of a mountain biker, yet was riding the fixed-gear and wearing the bag of a messenger. He then proceeded to circle me, after which he finally came to a stop in front of me in typical sandbar fashion, at which point he attempted to trackstand unsuccesfully, ultimately forcing him to unclip at the last second and do the unthinkable--touch the street with his foot. I believe in fixed-gear freestyle parlance this is what's known as a "360 to trackstand fail." (Note the "mountainger" is represented below by the pair of baggy shorts.)
Now, you'd think once he'd gone though all that effort not to dab a foot yet still wound up doing so that he'd simply stay put and make the best of the situation by taking a little respite and waiting out the light. Not so--instead, he clipped back in and rode through traffic at the first opportunity. Furthermore, he continued to run subequent lights by employing a variation on the tentative light circling technique, which involves turning and riding halfway up the intersecting block until the coast is clear, and then doubling back and riding through.
While I don't care if people run lights or go to absurd lengths to keep their feet on their pedals during their commutes, I must say that I am against actually circling other riders. In most situations, circling is something that prefaces an attack, so when someone starts riding around you slowly like a bird of prey or a drooling dog you can't help feeling that they are trying to dominate you and that danger is imminent. Really, it's only slightly better than urinating on someone.
On the other hand, coasting riders behave differently at red lights. Instead of trackstanding or circling, they will roll as far into the intersection as they can until some approaching vehicle forces them to stop. Here is a rider resuming pedaling after riding right into and stopping in the middle of the intersection:
What you can't see is his handmade filth prophylactic which jutted from his seat tube nearly vertically. It looked like the erect tail of an animal, and his day-glo windbreaker looked like a deflated neon green mating pouch.
I did however manage to get a shot of this diminutive and slender filth prophylactic, which resembles the pubic landing strip left behind after a Brazilian wax:
Of course, now that the sheltered bike lanes of New York have their own bike-specific traffic signals, cyclists get the opportunity to awkwardly disregard two red lights for the price of one:
Note that the rider closer to me is picking his way through the intersection with one foot on the ground like a novice offroad rider trying to make his way through a rock garden. Really, as much as the idea of a network of bike lanes and traffic lights for New York City's cyclists seems like a good idea, in practice it is only serving as a new venue for stupid riding. These bike lanes are also just large enough to fit a garbage truck, but not large enough to let you pass a garbage truck:
The fact is though that refuse will always need to be collected, and as long as it's placed curbside garbage trucks will always have to stop curbside in order to pick it up. So really, you can't blame them for using the bike lane. Actually, in retrospect, we'd have been a lot better off if the city had created dedicated garbage truck lanes instead of new bike lanes. That way, not only could I just keep riding in traffic like I always have, but I also wouldn't have to deal with all the garbage trucks.
Alas, instead the new bike lanes are a place where the lightest and the heaviest vehicular traffic gets to interact exclusively. It's like keeping your keys and your Freshen Up gum in the same pants pocket; something's going to cause the other to explode in a gooey mess, and the victim isn't going to be the keys. And even if you do get around a giant truck, they'll still come around you and turn in front of you while you wait, forcing you to the curb. Here's one making a right on red and revealing a drycleaning-bearing bike salmon in the distance:
Indeed, bike salmon can be almost as dangerous as trucks. Here's the tragic aftermath of one cyclist's salmon encounter:
If you saw the bike on bike accident tonight on Ave A... - m4w (Lower East Side)
Reply to: [deleted]
Date: 2009-06-03, 2:49AM EDT
...and picked up a phone, it's the delivery guy's. Please find out where he works, because they owe me a new fork, and possibly a medical bill. He was going the wrong way.
If you have the phone, you get my undying appreciation and I will gladly trade it for a bottle of vodka. A good bottle, not that $10 per handle garbage. I'm no cheapskate.
Actually, if he's looking for accident witnesses, he should probably ask the drivers of large trucks. Many of them have seen a lot, and they can often recount the details of crashes with stunning accuracy.
Yes, life in the bike lane is ugly, and it would appear that our only hope for beautification lies with students of the Fashion Institute of Technology:
Amazingly, a publicist actually deigned to send me a press release about this contest as well:
Furthermore, it included some of the winning sketches:
I'm really "feeling" this Tech-Chic Envelope Bag, which hopefully will be available in a number of "colorways:"
But while the envelope bag would appear to be suited to little else but toting the change of clothes your fashionable cycling garments should obviate the need for, I suppose I could expect much worse from a LVMH x FIT student "collabo." So I extend a hearty congratulations to the winner and I hope she goes on to design many a poncho. I also hope she can reach the Final Fashion Frontier, which is designing a pair of shoes you can actually stand up in:
I had Many Facial Piercings and Platforms You Vintage Bicycle - w4m - 22 (East Village)
Date: 2009-05-30, 11:30PM EDT
Friday 6pm ,19th on St Marks,I was 5 foot 10 in heels , Skinny and leggy with long dark hair pulled back in a high bun. I had a septum ring in my nose,several facial piercings, big stretched earlobes and ridiculously high platform wedges on with thigh high black stockings I was having trouble keeping my balance while I waited for my friend. you bicycled by on a old school bike and waved, but that was it, didn't bother to stop, barely got a look at you, then you looked back and kept peddling. Liked your little short denim jacket and tight jeans. You also had a fidel castro like hat and old converse . Remember me?
I guess it can be hard to stand up when you've got that much weight above the neck.