Of course, there's something absurd about pining for blight, and the truth is that there are still plenty of rough neighborhoods here to which these resentful New Yorkers are more than welcome to move and act out their Velvet Underground-era fantasies and/or sell themselves with the aid of a pimp who's slowly dying of consumption. At the same time though, as the "Livable Streets" trend continues the streets are increasingly only "livable" to those who can afford to pay like $2,000 for a one-bedroom apartment. Still, I suppose that even if you're broke you can still enjoy the "Livable Streets" by sitting down in those new public plazas, and this seems like a good thing. Here's one near Columbus Circle:
As you can see, where once there was simply traffic, there are now happy pedestrians enjoying the vehicular exhaust and awaiting an out-of-control taxi like so many bowling pins. Furthermore, the city is committed to creating more of these public plazas, and the Department of Transportation is now accepting proposals. I've been working on my own proposal, and it focuses not on an individual neighborhood, but on the city as a whole. Behold the "Portland Plaza:"
Outdoor living, traffic-calming, bicycle-friendly streets--all of these are hallmarks of both "Livable Streets" and of Portland, Oregon. Furthermore, New York City appears to want to become Portland anyway. So why not simply install a giant Portland right in the middle of New York? Not only does it include an excellent cycling and public transit infrastructure already in situ, but it also comes with a bunch of breweries as well as like half a million smug yet amiable residents who require little beyond ready access to fair trade coffee and whimisical trinkets to weave into their blond dreadlocks. Indeed, installing a Portland in New York will be no more difficult than sliding a 10-speed cassette onto a freehub or assembling a piece of Ikea furniture. Not only are the rivers compatible:
But the people in Williamsburg, Brooklyn won't even notice the difference. In fact, the state of Oregon would be wise to consider licensing Portland, because once we get one everyone else will want one too. Soon, every city in America will know the joys of owning its very own Portland--a little place where you can go to enjoy your lunch break, ride your bicycle unmolested, and generally savor the laid-back vibe that is the by-product of relatively mild weather and a 25-hour work week. Best of all, though, you can easily leave when the smugness becomes too cloying.
Then, when he emerges into the sunlight, his Transitions Optical lenses become dark to protect his eyes from the deadly rays of the post-"Inconvenient Truth" sun:
Of course, because he's Tyler Farrar, by the time he reaches the end of the driveway he's already brought his flat-bar city bike up to a speed of 45mph:
But this isn't the only benefit of wearing Transitions Optical--they also have a lesser-known but equally important "pick-up" function. As Farrar rides, he sees an attractive woman walking with a young girl:
Naturally, Farrar wants to introduce himself, but if the girl is her daughter that could mean she's married. (Of course, if Farrar was Italian he would hit on her regardless of her marital status, but this is not the case.) Then again, if she's not married, or if the girl is not her daughter, Farrar will have squandered an opportunity. So, he catches her attention:
At which point her glasses turn demurely dark, implying that she is indeed unavailable:
Farrar's glasses in turn allow her to see just enough of his eyes to convey that he apologizes for the mistake:
Had the woman been available, her glasses would have remained clear, or even displayed a pair of hearts. Likewise, if Farrar were less of a gentleman and had opted instead to follow her down the street while lasciviously staring at her posterior, the glasses would have turned completely opaque to allow him to continue leering undetected. Apparently, Transitions are already at work on a line of underpants with "adaptive crotch" properties based on a similar principle.
In other Flanders news, while browsing a VeloNews Flanders team bike gallery I noticed an interesting variation on the "disembodied hand:"
Clearly, instead of leaving his hand on the bike in traditional "disembodied hand" fashion, he instead tried to remove it for a split second, hoping that the photographer could time the shot properly and make it seem as though the bike were standing up on its own. Unfortunately, though, they didn't quite pull it off:
Still, you've got to admit that Pengo is pretty quick on the draw, and I suggest that you watch your wallet around him. I also bet that he could pinch a married woman's posterior on the streets of Roma in less time than it takes for her Transitions glasses to go from "available" to "sexual assault."
Of course, you don't need costly Transitions glasses to make eyes at somebody. Sometimes, even a pair of "Bar Mitzvah sunglasses" is sufficient:
ran into you (literally) on my bike the bk bridge - m4w - 20 (bk bridge, bk side)
Date: 2010-04-05, 8:34AM EDT
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you: cute hipster girl. white, mid-20s.
me: 25 y/o white male. riding my black bike over the bk bridge toward manhattan.
black shirt. black/white striped shorts. gray helmet. camo messenger bag. bar mitzvah sunglasses.
yesterday - sunday. roughly 3pm. on the bk bridge, closer to bk than manhattan.
bridge was a fucking nightmare.
you might have been with your family.
you walked into the bike path and i couldn't avert you.
you made sure i didn't run you over.
our eyes met.
i rode off.
let's collide again.
The poster is obviously a model Nü-Fred, but I had never heard of "Bar Mitzvah sunglasses" so I plugged the term into a popular search engine. Here's what I learned:
I too attended Bar Mitzvahs "back in the day," but I do not recall ever receiving a pair of sunglasses as a party favor. I do remember overindulgent parents providing t-shirts, caricatures, and in one extravagant case even having Z100 DJ Scott Shannon on hand to sign autographs (I did not get on that line, opting instead to use the distraction as an opportunity to forage for alcohol at the empty tables). Maybe I passed out before sunglasses time.
Really, the problem with Bar Mitzvah sunglasses is that they're big and clunky novelties, which is something they share in common with the Blockhead stem I mentioned yesterday. As it happens, I was catching up on my emails yesterday when I noticed that I had also received an email direct from the designers over the weekend, and so I found myself pondering its potentially knee-and-crotch-wrecking stupidity yet again:
The more I think about it, the more certain I am that the only thing this stem is useful for is "elephant trunk skid" aversion therapy. Nevertheless, not only are they selling this thing, but they're also allowing people to share the design through a Creative Commons license. Yes, thank you Blockhead designers, for sharing with the world the concept of a rectangle with an integrated nail clipper:
It's the perfect solution for the "hipster" who likes to groom while on the go.
As poor a design as this is, perhaps the most absurd aspect of this stem is the website copy, which claims that "brake levers tend to be massive, take up a lot of handlebar space, and have levers that are much longer than they need to be." I suppose this may be true when you ride no faster than 12mph and your handlebars are no wider than a Tofu Pup, but I think the rest of us would probably agree that the current selection of brake levers is more or less appropriately sized given their function. However, I will acknowledge that some levers do not go well with some bars. Here's one example, which was forwarded to me by a reader who saw it on Jeremy Powers's Twitter:
I could be wrong, but to my knowledge this "epic" hydraulic cockpit setup is the first recorded instance of a pair of master cylinders that double as aero bars. Furthermore, it may very well be the missing link between offroad riding and triathlon. It's the "Aerosquatch."