Thursday, January 6, 2011

Boss Tweed: Changing the Streets One Dandy At A Time

If you're reading this blog, you probably enjoy bicycles--and why not? They're fun, expensive, and often made out of crabon. However, as everybody knows, they're also deadly. Yes, a single bicycle is more of a menace to public safety than a speeding SUV, or a nuclear submarine, or a runaway steamroller being driven by a 14 year-old Yeshiva student drunk out of his mind on kosher wine. Fortunately, the city is finally going to protect us from deadly bicycles by administering a "crack down" on cyclists who commit infractions that are potentially deadly to others, like failing to signal their turns:


Being a cyclists in New York City is a lot like being a child character in a Dickens novel--most of the time, we're neglected and forced to fend for ourselves, but every so often the authority figures remember that we exist and decide to beat the crap out of us. As is always the case when I hear about crackdowns like this, I have mixed feelings. On one foot, I believe in responsible cycling, and if you break the law eventually you're going to get nailed for it. But on the other claw, when you ride a bike in a city that, for all its shiny new bike lanes, is still pretty hostile to you, it can be hard not to flout a rule or two when it's in your own best interest. It's like the hungry orphan nabbing a crust of bread out of desperation--and here comes the head of that cane, ready to smash our greedy little mitts.

Probably the worst thing about crackdowns like this though is that cyclists will start to get all self-righteous about it, as though nobody else ever experiences them. The truth is, if you drive a car in New York City it's exactly the same thing. For example, even though it's illegal, you can drive around all day long with your BlackBerry glued to your ear without a police officer so much as glancing up from his newspaper. But then one day you turn on the news and hear about some cellphone crackdown, and a bunch of people get pulled over, and they all probably feel persecuted because suddenly they're getting punished for something they do all the time. Then the crackdown's over, everybody keeps talking on their phones while driving, and that's it. It's like the old cartoon with the wolf and the sheepdog.

Of course, there is a key difference, which is that cars kill lots of people, whereas bicycles kill pretty much nobody (though occasionally the people riding them do get killed by cars). Sure, it would be nice if the city would recognize this and change the laws accordingly, but I don't expect them to, in the same way I don't expect Naftali Hershtik to suddenly record an album of Christmas carols--I'd only be setting myself up for disappointment. What I do think is a reasonable wish, though, is that the average bike lane hater in Park Slope would recognize this discrepancy and realize a car is much more likely to kill a child than a bike is, but sadly that's not what's going on. Generally speaking, people get the same sense of satisfaction from watching cyclists get punished that they get from watching the fat kid in teen comedies fail to get laid.

So what's the answer? How do we get people to like us? Well, stunningly, some people think the answer is tweed:

Start an annual fashion award for the best-dressed man or woman on a bike. One of the best trends in the city is the high-heeled, flowery-dressed woman or tweed-suited man making their way by bicycle through the city. It’s harder to drive like a maniac when you’re behind one of them.

He started out well enough with the whole "change the legal relationship between pedestrians, cyclists and drivers" thing, but if this guy thinks that tweed is traffic-calming then he's got to be completely insane. Part of the reason people drive like maniacs when they're behind cyclists is that they think the cyclist is holding them up. (Obviously, this is not really the case, but it's what stupid drivers think.) So, they beep, yell, and floor the accelerator to get around them--and that's just when they see a fellow commuter who's just going to work the same as they are. Change that commuter into a "flowery-dressed woman" or a "tweed-suited man" who looks like he's on his way to a croquet match or a 19th century lawn party and that impatience turns to rage. It's only slightly less irritating than being inconvenienced by a mime. As human beings, our ability to cheer up angry people who hate their lives by behaving charmingly and whimsically drops off sharply after about the age of four.

I've long wondered why people consider so-called "tweed rides" a form of bicycle advocacy or how they're supposed to make normal people want to start cycling. Sure, when I see a bunch of white people dressed up like it's the 1800s I think of a lot of things, but none of them are cycling-related and most of them are bad. Just a few things that spring to mind for me are:

--Colonialism
--Segregation
--Child Labor
--Sexual Repression
--Polio

If they're looking to promote a return to Victorian sensibilities, repeal universal sufferage, or even turn Civil War reenacting into a mainstream sport they're doing a great job, but if they want to promote cycling they might want to look for a different approach. I've heard a lot of dumb anti-bike lane arguments too, but to their credit none of them have involved a bunch of people dressing like a young Mr. Burns from "The Simpsons" and taking to the streets in Model Ts.

I shouldn't be surprised that people think that costumes can change the world though, for we live in the age of the transformative wardrobe, and the urban dandy is king:

Brooklyn is positively full of bearded dandies right now, so I was surprised to learn that there's actually a man who is the Bearded Dandy. I wonder if he's like the head vampire, and if someone were to cut off his beard all the other dandies would suddenly disappear--which would be a shame, because I'd really miss this guy and his abdomen:

All You Haters Crop My Mailman Pants.

Also, tweed riding and dandyism go hand in manicured hand with "cycle chic," and a reader informs me this even has devotees in Japan:

That's one flambullient tallis.

In fairness to things like tweed rides and "cycle chic" though I guess I can understand it as a reaction to the prevailing view of cyclists, which can basically be summarized thusly: "Wear your helmet and get the hell out of my way." In fact, sometimes the only place I feel welcome when I'm riding a bike is on the ocean floor, which could explain this ad I saw while reading the above New York Times article:

(Insert Rivendell Atlantis reference here.)

I guess sub-aquatic credit card touring is the new randonneuring.

At any rate, I'm always pleased to receive a photo of a happy person wearing a vibrant orange prayer shawl, in the same way I'm pleased to receive the occasional sympathy e-card, like this one:

But none of these things pleases me as much as receiving a photo of a stranger's chamois:

Apparently, it's made of "crabyon," which I can only assume is related to "crabon." I won't claim to understand the science behind this, but I do know that I wouldn't want anything with "crab" in the name in that area.

106 comments:

Anonymous said...

yes!

Anonymous said...

holy cow I am early hot!

dcdouglas said...

podium again?

Anonymous said...

too bad I am onanomouth!

streepo said...

Top five!!!

Name said...

Top ten is something, isn't it?

I am the sometimes cheery engine said...

"As human beings, our ability to cheer up angry people who hate their lives by behaving charmingly and whimsically drops off sharply after about the age of four."

The most important quote in 2011 (it is a short year)

crosspalms said...

top ten!

but "realize a car is much more likely to a child than a bike is, "

kill? run over?

Kenny Banya said...

top ten?

Anonymous said...

I know when I ride with a cravat, I seem to get more respect.

Anonymous said...

topteneel!

SLAM said...

I'm outside.

Still feels good.

Nogocyclist said...

Posting earlier since returning from the Christmas Break?

Diego said...

"Being a cyclists in New York City is a lot like being a child character in a Dickens novel--most of the time, we're neglected and forced to fend for ourselves, but every so often the authority figures remember that we exist and decide to beat the crap out of us"

That was good!

Anonymous said...

I feel the need..

The need for some tweed.

mikeweb said...

I'd be all in favor of the crackdown if they also wrote tickets for vehicle drivers not signaling. From what I can tell, the amount of drivers in NYC who bother to use their turn signals is definitely south of 50%.

Anonymous said...

TAlk about Dickensian:
have you seen the unveiling of
TEAM Leopard Trek?

ant1 said...

snobby - "..., or even turn Civil War reenacting into a mainstream sport they're doing a great job..."

missing a comma between sport and they're?

crollrider said...

is ALL salmoning really bad? i get "skunk eye" on one road in jamaica plain all the time. i think the "cycling road rules" need a special exemption for basically all of boston...

hillbilly said...

can't they at least give the crackdown a catchy name like bikapocalypse, or velogeddon or something?

CK said...

ALL you HATERS TOUCH MY DANDY!!!

Anonymous said...

..but if they give it a name like velogeddon, all the hipsters'll turn up thinking it's an alleycat.

On the other hand, it'd be a good way of rounding them up......have the "no brakes" tickets ready....

hey nonny mouse

Stafford Niftoisse said...

As a kid we had Barbara Streisand's Christmas Album. Only years later did I realize she was Jewish and therefore didn't have Christmas. In the '90s it would have been called cultural appropriation.
But she's a good singer so I guess it's okay.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Christmas_Album_(Barbra_Streisand_album)

Marcel Da Chump said...

Thought about riding in tweed; it goes well with Reynolds 531c, but what shoes to wear? Bearded Dandy to the rescue!

Anonymous said...

Amusing blog today Eben. Do we really think some lazy underworked and underpaid cop is going to bother to chase down bikers for failing to signal turns? probably not, maybe for blatent offenses like running a red light, and only then if doesn't require the cop putting his donut down, but I doubt that this will really be a "crack down". I agree on all other points of cars versus bikes and that tweed rides are stupid.

ringcycles said...

"It's only slightly less irritating than being inconvenienced by a mime."

Of course tweed rides should work to improve cyclists image. I mean doesn't EVERYONE love mimes? Who would ever want to hurt a mime?

Dressing like fools to ride slowly in traffic is the most mime-like thing cyclists could do.

Lez Bianczik said...

I was inconvenienced by a mime once.

Once.

Astroluc said...

horse hockey... bully!

Mike said...

The Dickens bit and the charming-and-whimsical bit are two gems!

I'll confess to being a tweed rider, but I'm really just in it for the chance to see all the cool old bikes. Not so interested in the outfits.

Oh, and I used to read Playboy for the articles. Honest.

Anonymous Coward said...

Chapeau on the mime line snob, oh and the Dickensian metaphors too. Good stuff.

mike said...

The sheepdog and the wolf is clearly an attempt by a rightwing censored media in the 60's (see "The Front" starring Woody Allen.) to justify the laziness of management, and the near slaving effort of its workers. The cartoon seeks to instill a passive populous tolerant of hard work and little reward while a chosen few get all the profits while putting in relatively little effort. A highly philosophical cartoon, but the philosophy is corrupted by capitalists. The cartoonist does make us think, and what we find out is that the peaceful relationship is not acceptable and certainly fanciful, there is and should be hostility until more just compensation is delivered. Good job snob.

mike said...

I'm sorry, make that Right Wing censored media of the 50's (Wolf and Sheepdog first released in 1953)

krazygl00 said...

Artie, There is a metaphor I've used to describe the disparity of laws that apply to motor vehicles and cyclists. This line from a musical always comes back to me, and I've used it to explain why I long ago gave up "Same Road, Same Rights, Same Rules" in favor of the simple "Share The Road".

My mother is a huge fan of Broadway musicals, and when I was growing up we would listen to them endlessly in the car. One of her favorites was Man of La Mancha, and it had this line:

"Whether the pitcher hits the stone, or the stone hits the pitcher, it's going to be bad for the pitcher. So I've got bruises from here to..."

Marc said...

I wouldn't feel bad about the crackdown if it was universal:
http://simplecycle-marc.blogspot.com/2010/12/if-youve-ever-apologized-for.html

We take example from the cars!

Team RAWR said...

in Luxembourg, them dandies are fast

http://velonews.competitor.com/files/2011/01/LT-2.JPG

Battle said...

The only way I would do a tweed ride is if it was in Limerick with the Rubberbandits.

ken e. said...

thanks snob! i had no idea that it was actually a different wolf! always wondered why he could talk though.

Anonymous said...

In trebuchet distance of the podium!

rob said...

Occasionally we do kill people. It was the victim's fault, but that makes little difference.

http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/news/localnews/stories/DN-katytrail_02met.ART0.State.Edition1.3376eec.html

breakingchainstakinglanes said...

I actually do find that drivers act less aggravated when I'm riding in a skirt. Though, instead of aggressively passing me and swearing at me, they're more likely to slow down & ogle like they're hoping my skirt'll fly up or something, so I end up having to flipp them off anyway.

Marcel Da Chump said...

Do cops tcket cyclist? In my 7 year bike messenger career
in NYC I amassed over a thousand bucks in fines. Some warranted and some not. Some paid and some not. There's one in particular I haven't forgot: was followed by a cop car down B'way on a freezing cold night in midtown,
stopped for every light with the cops in sight, thought I had
established good faith....but no, got pulled over for not waiting for the light to change.

Anonymous said...

Good Dickens reference. Bravo chap

Anonymous said...

A police crackdown doesn't mean shit. They release those headlines to reinforce the tyranny that comes with modern capitalist societies. This is done to exercise the continued domination of the rich. When the police (army of the rich) have no one else to ostracise with their crackdowns they default to the good 'ol standard of "anyone non-white."

brighton velo said...

I've never understood why tweed denotes a tip of the cap to the old days of cycling. In the 1890's wheelmen wore wool sweaters and hose; sort of a "Twiggy" look comes to my mind. Women took to wearing bloomers. I think a "Bloomer and Hose" ride would be more accurate and would probably get me to show up.

CommieCanuck said...

Do we really think some lazy underworked and underpaid cop is going to bother to chase down bikers for failing to signal turns?

In Toronto,they would just take off their badges and beat you in a group. If you complain, not one of the cops would be able to identify each other, even when a video appears on YouTube.

Fixed Carbon said...

Why is there no entry in the Wikipedia for "crabon"? Even when I Google this word, all that comes up is "carbon." Is this part of a larger conspiracy?

db said...

I was into Hershtik before he sold out...

Fritz Lang said...

If we crack down on all the bike salmons we might be able to catch Peter Lorie.

Miss Muff said...

Give them all a quick glimpse of muff and they settle right down.

Hung Ku Masterbator Po said...

The line between IRONIC and MORONIC is as thin as a razors edge.


Just sayin!

Esteemed Commenter DaddoOne said...

I agree a start, then stop "crackdown" is silly and so is a tweed ride to protest or support or whatever it is the tweed ride is supposed to do.

However...particularly when I'm commuting, I obey all traffic laws and lights. If we all did, the only thing drivers would have left to hold against us is their homophobia.

panties said...

And on that razor's edge we find Larry, Curly and Mo-ronic.

sufferist said...

Crabyon = beyond carbon.

dylan said...

Did anyone notice that the Bearded Brooklyn Dandy's photo is ALSO in the same series of photos as the abdomen guy?

see here: http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2011/01/04/fashion/20110105-BKCircus-3.html

Snob, did you notice? This guy is everywhere!

Anonymous said...

@Dylan,

He's black therefore he and this whole dandy thing is street aka legit. All the justification whities need when they steal from him. Kind of like fixed gear bikes, no?

bikesgonewild said...

...the luxo-leopards might look dandy-ish in their 'dressed for presentation' duds but the new kit is totally as meh as it gets...

...sad, really, with a team of this caliber & talent & they saddle 'em in gear derivative of 'team sky'...

le Correcteur said...

Some great lines in the post today, Snob. I particularly like (along with several much earlier posters) this one:

"As human beings, our ability to cheer up angry people who hate their lives by behaving charmingly and whimsically drops off sharply after about the age of four."

But it's also a little unclear: our age of four? Their age of four? I assume you mean that cheering up babies and toddlers with funny faces works only until they get to fourish; but it's not clear.

Good regardless, though.

bikesgonewild said...

take your pick - meh or blah

crosspalms said...

Ten-yard penalty for willful misreading, le Correcteur. Repeat first down.

crosspalms said...

bgw,
you're right, they're pretty boring looking. Nice disembodied hand in the bike shot, though, even if it's not holding up the bike.

ant1 said...

bgw - that's a horrible kit. not ugly, but 90% the same as garvelo and sky. boring. and that team presentation was horrible.

bikesgonewild said...

...speaking of "disembodied hands", sorry to have to point this out crosspalms but i'm passing this on from schmalz-y over at velo-city nation...

brice feillu & linus gerdemann are total prevs

...that is disgusting behavior @ a team presentation...

...just sayin'...

rhetoricdying said...

Any sort of "crackdown" is idiotic. Shouldn't the police be enforcing the law at all times? I've never understood big pushes in law enforcement like this, if you ticket/arrest people who break the law when it is appropriate, chances are that most people will get the message and you won't need to throw a ticket party.

That being said, we as cyclists need to obey traffic laws if we want any chance of vehicle operators taking us seriously on the road.

crosspalms said...

bgw,
disgusting indeed! I give it two thumbs-up...

bikesgonewild said...

...happy new year, ant1...

...you'd think these team directors would communicate a little about this kinda thing...

...try distinguishing between any one of the three teams as they fly by on your tv screen while watching 'le tour'...

...years ago, 'team once' had to alter their yellow kit (they went with pink) when they raced 'le tour de france' so that the "yellow jersey" always stood out for the crowds...

...with a name like 'leopard-trek' they really could a' done something cool...

bikesgonewild said...

...nice touch, crosspalms...

...whoops...damn, this is only getting worse...

crosspalms said...

The team name may be Leopard Trek, but the jerseys are Leopard, Trek, Craft, Mercedes and Whatnot. Maybe it's a corporate clusterdesign product.
Zzzzzz

wishiwasmerckx said...

I was once seriously inconvenienced by a mime.

I was so outraged that I was ready to administer him a beat-down, but I couldn't figure out how to get into that stupid box he was in...

Anonymous said...

Believe it or not, Crabyon actually contains crab!

http://www.crabyon.it/productionflow.html

Web said...

For yachting, keep to folders that are simple, light & easy to fold.

With their aluminum frame, minimalistic design, kevlar drive belt & disc brakes, the 20 lb Strida LT makes a good choice.

Larry
RideTHISbike.com

cnumb53 said...

The next thing you know, they'll be giving tickets for J-walking in NYC. Can you imagine the pedestrian snarl if they actually forced everyone to a crosswalk?

Bobby said...

Crabyon for the pants yabbies!! Get em while they're hot!! I'll have to tell my wife that the latest chamois comes with crabs pre-installed. Just what will they think of next?

Bobby said...

Just a wee footnote, Sir Snob. Have a look at the last line of the "crachdown on errant cyclists" article:

"Police brass said that the public has no reason to fear that the NYPD’s new mission against errant bicyclists will hamper their ability to stop other crimes like murder, rape, muggings, burglar and iPhone thefts."

I am very relieved that the constabulary equate such heinous crimes an iPhone thefts right up there with rape and murder. The lunatics have escaped the asylum, and they're going fixie too?

Captain Hairdo said...

AYHSMBC - All You Haters Sign My Brevet Card! Randonneuring is the new radonneuring!

Anonymous said...

ticket crackdown = added revenue
tweed ride = reenactor envy

Anonymous said...

Are you sure this is not a fashion blog?

Anonymous said...

In Montreal, they built bike lanes downtown but during the summer fat cops on bikes ride them and if you pass them, they give you a ticket for a bogus offence, such as passing a yellow light they claim was red. So now I don't take the bike lanes anymore and ride with the cars.

Anonymous said...

the dickens line was gold. Gold, jerry, gold!

Love your blog. Keep up the good work.

campbell fdy said...

anon 1:40
ive got ticketed twice in the last 2 years for riding on the sidewalk. once in front of my building and the second when i pulled over to make a phone call. assert your rights and share your unhappiness with the cops and you get a 'disco' ticket also. stands for discourteous. they"ll put down their donut to fuck with you. its what they do. they follow orders dont take it personal. they dont give a shit about you. in a good way

campbell fdy said...

ive been ticketed twice...

g-roc said...

It would be hard to see an outstretched tweed sleeved arm against the backdrop of the concrete concrete jungle.

You dandies can use that one to fight your ticket in court.

Anonymous said...

g-roc, did you see it? Did you see the comment I just posted? Like a tweed covered arm signal, my comment just keeps disapearing. The algorerythmns are at it again. ce

ce said...

Snob, I worry for your new city of York, if the police continue their hard line I fear that the Dandypunks will rise up in rebellion and the snow will be soaked red in blood (those foppish lads are an awkward lot and one of them is sure to slip and graze an elbow).

ce said...

But, don't expect the Dandypunks to go the way of the "h-word" crowd, whom it seems we have successfully ridiculed into defunctness. Cycling culture was born in a distant time and no matter how much it seems to adapt and assimilate to the present day, it's loyalties will always lie with the 19th century. As Perform Pain Reliever demonstrates, there is a significant subset that get all caught up in the late 20th century, but obviously I'm generalising here. I know it's not politically correct to say it, and you may want to label me a "timist", but that's just how it is.

Anonymous said...

Who's Shannon Tweed?

ce said...

OK, I see it was the third part of my spiel that went too far and offended the algorerhythms. I gave those mathematical calculations too much credit and thought that they would be able to tell the difference between racism and a parody of racism.

ce said...

Or maybe they did it because I'm Australian. Everyone knows that Australians are racists.

ce said...

Oh great, that gets through

Anonymous said...

Rivendell have upped the ante on disembodied hands - photos of the Atlantis sport a gratuitous brace thereof

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Anonymous said...

98

Anonymous said...

Hooray!

Anonymous said...

Triple digitz yo.

drewoboe said...

Since it's a French term, shouldn't it be: FEEbray Dee CrayBON?

Prawn Cocktail said...

Crabyon seems pretty good, but I'm waiting for Lobyon to place next to my pants yabbies.

And crollrider, look out for swiping bear claws (extended arms) turning your handlebars in JP.

kfg said...

"none of them have involved a bunch of people dressing like a young Mr. Burns from "The Simpsons" and taking to the streets in Model Ts."

You need to get out more:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/London_to_Brighton_Veteran_Car_Run

Rex H said...

What about a crackdown on the real problem: bike salmon and pedestrians standing in bike lanes

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Fixie Bikes said...

They've been cracking down for ages.