Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The Indignity of Commuting by Bicycle: Soul Erosion

Most Americans are familiar with the famous painting, "Washington Crossing the Delaware:"

In it, the man who would become our nation's first President looks ahead with determination and resolve as he fords an icy river and leads his men into battle:

The event depicted in this painting took place in the year 1776, and the painting itself was rendered by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze in 1851. For most of us, this seems an impossibly long time ago. Nevertheless, even today, we can still see similar bravery in the face of uncertainty all around us. Consider this guy:

Like George Washington, he wears the expression of a man undaunted. Also like George Washington, he has funny hair. But it is here that the similarities end. For while Washington was crossing the Delaware in order to confront enemy forces in Trenton, New Jersey as well as carrying the very fate of our nation on his shoulders, this guy was salmoning through a red light across Lafayette Street:

The fact that the street he's crossing is named after a hero of the Revolutionary War only serves to underscore the irony.

Nevertheless, commuting in New York City can indeed feel like a war: cars vs. bikes, pedestrians vs. pedicabs, hang gliders vs. roller skis... However, it turns out that when you divorce yourself from your own vehicle of choice and take a pigeon's-eye view we're not really at war at all. Instead, we're just a bunch of idiots who don't look out for each other, as this video forwarded to me by a number of readers shows:

3-Way Street from ronconcocacola on Vimeo.

I've long suspected it, but this proves conclusively that New Yorkers are the most mobility-challenged people in The United States of Canada's Undercarriage. If you've ever wondered why most of us are so annoying, it's because each time we need to leave our homes and go someplace else we lose little pieces of our souls. Our humanity is like a little hunk of bread floating in a bowl full of hungry goldfish--after awhile there's just nothing left.

Yes, commuting takes its toll on us both physically and psychically. In fact, sometimes it takes both tolls at the same time--like if you were to get hit behind by a truck while avoiding a health care advertisement parked strategically in the bike lane:

Sometimes irony hurts the most.

Speaking of irony, it would appear that here in New York we're in the midst of actual, literal salmon season:

Similarly, bike salmon season is also in swing, and at this time of year you're liable to see entire schools of the creatures:

And, obviously, this prize fish:

Often when I encounter such a specimen, I fantasize about hooking him, reeling him in, and placing him on the cargo deck of my Big Dummy smugness flotilla. Sadly, I was not riding my Big Dummy yesterday when I saw the aforementioned salmon and his regal hairway, though that did not stop me from ogling another one I saw locked to a bike rack:


As I stood there admiring my fellow smugmonger's smugness upgrades (which included a centerstand, stoker bars, and evidently hand-curated guardrail) I came to a sudden yet oddly comforting realization:

I have become a gigantic dork.

Another realization I had a few blocks later was that something like three-fifths of New York City bike lane traffic consists of non-bicycles. Consider the following photo, which depicts two cyclists (I'm counting myself), a guy pushing an empty hand truck, a pair of guys towing a household appliance, and an older gentleman in a motorized wheelchair:

First I passed empty hand truck guy, then I totally "wheelchairsucked" for awhile:

Once the guy in the wheelchair passed the appliance haulers, I then launched my own attack off his wheel, dropping the entire sad peloton at the green light ahead.

Though I did meet my match a little while later, when I got stuck behind a balloon "portager:"

I would have given almost anything for a samurai sword at that moment, for I could have punctured his entire payload with one flick of my blade.

Meanwhile, I haven't heard very much about the bicycle crackdown in New York City lately. This could be because it's finally easing up a bit. Or, more likely, it could be because this is the time of year when the sorts of self-important people who would ordinarily write impassioned screeds about how the ticket they got on their bicycle is a gross miscarriage of justice are instead preoccupied with fair-weather activities such as hosting artisanal "ethical meat" barbecues.

However, a reader tells me that the city of Chicago is now experiencing its own crackdown, though it's of a far kinder and gentler nature:



Giving out warnings instead of tickets? Explaining to people what they're doing wrong? Cooperating with the Department of Transportation?!? That would never work in New York City, precisely because it's the sort of thing that might actually work. Plus, the police doing the down-cracking are actually riding bikes themselves:

Silly Chicago police. Now that's just crazy. How are they supposed to arrest the cyclists after dooring them?

Lastly, in a bit of exciting Fred news, one Fred has embraced the art of hillbombing "edit" curation, and the results are spectacular:



I'm not sure why this Fred is using two computers, though it could be that he's jury-rigged some sort of kludgy flux capacitor-type device and wants to travel through time like his patron saint. I'm not sure he was successful, though at 53 seconds we do learn that 46mph is the exact speed at which a Fred goes, "Wooo-hoo-hoo-hoo!"


That's what you call a Primal scream.

101 comments:

Anonymous said...

first

Tina said...

2nd?

Marc said...

Podium???

Marcel Da Chump said...

phew... gasp.

thegock said...

TOPP TENN

Matt said...

Wow, I read it (though haven't watched videos yet, being at work and all) and still made top ten?

Anonymous said...

meow

Tad said...

top ten?

Anonymous said...

BRRRRRRIIIINNNGGGGGGG!

Tad said...

top ten?

Anonymous said...

ALL HAIL CATBIKE

Reggie said...

Love the intro to the post today. Very riveting, a dramatic 'reveal' of the highest order! Great stuff today (and most days)

Anonymous said...

Peaking nicely for the Tour.

Anonymous said...

Not to defend the group of salmon you depict, but they're travelling the hipster silk road south of Clymer St. On that section, one is supposed to ride on the sidewalk when going north, as there is no northbound bike lane on the other side of Kent. Given the circumstances and poor signage, most people choose the lesser of 2 evils and salmon their way on up toward hipster Mecca.

A. Wiener said...

Top 15? This thing is so big I couldn't get up to the front for the sprint!

Anonymous said...

Do salmon speak English?
Most salmon I talk to continue in the direction they were heading.
(Maybe the call to spawn is greater than their self-preservation instinct.)

mikeweb said...

That there is some stunning Salmon plumage.

Anonymous said...

not much of a hill. Here's my local drop. With skaters though, and they're going faster than the fred.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A4vUa_ndqUA

The Real Greg Lemond said...

What retard thinks 46 mph is fast?

ringcycles said...

I have a solution for NYC salmon season; You could get the clueless dancing cuties from TimesUp! to enact a Grizzly Feed.

I imagine dressing as a great brown bear, wading into the bikelane, and snatching the unsuspecting salmon right out of the stream. Lox anyone?

Indy Falconheads said...

We are all big dorks Snobby.
It usually comes to us later in life, so consider yourself ahead of the pack. "Gifted" even.

Peace.

crosspalms said...

That 3-way street video is amazing. A lot of people can say "and I didn't die," not just hill-bomber guy. You'd think the street would be littered with bodies.

Marcel Da Chump said...

The 3-way street: Park Ave south & 28th st.
The shaggy salmon is on Lafayette & Bleecker.
When I lived a couple of blocks from there on Mott st, I salmoned Mott and Bleecker to get to Lafayette but I did so with the utmost caution. Still, I grew some fins.

Lanterne Rouge said...

The video is proof that NYC is making the successful transition into a 3rd world country. Excepting the recent bike crackdown, traffic enforcement officials have given up on this chaos.

Chris said...

gigantic dork? I was thinking you've become a giant SH*T head.

samh said...

Embrace the smug, Snob. Haul mattresses with that flotilla. Portage children atop its airy heights. Move cargo with pride. Embrace your inner dork and let it shine through.

mikeweb said...

In regard to the 'Great Cycling Crackdown of 2011' that has abated, I want to say "The war's over. Common sense won".

Unfortunately what really happened is that instead of ticketing everyone, including those who really shouldn't have been, they're back to ticketing nobody, including those who really need to be.

Funny how us demented diehards who ride 24x7x365 were most of the ones to get $200+ tickets, not the fair weather, salmoning, crosswalk bombing morons who are out there now.

BTW, @ anon 12:14, that is some craaazy shit. Especially when you consider that they're doing it at the same time as working their own video camera to film it.

I am the "Dont taze me bro" engine said...

Two computers make you go twice as fast, you must know this.

Having once lived in Chicago, let me assure you getting gentle reminders from the chicago police on bikes is like getting gang raped in the bronx.

My favorite was a friend on a bike getting a 2,000.00 dollar ticket for not having proof of vehicle insurance. Sometimes they make up better rules than New Yorks finest could even imagine.

Just because it is on video, does not make it true. Wait 30 seconds, and I bet there is a tazer incident not on video.

ant1 said...

ant1st!

hillbilly said...

+1 to what mikeweb said

Anonymous said...

Computer on the left is a Garmin Forerunner 305 GPS. The advantage of this watch is that it can down load the route, speed, elevation, heart rate, etc to keep forever in your Dell Laptop. But the other computer is a Shimano computer and tells you what gear you are in. See, so they are really doing different things. Ultimate Fredness.

neighbourtease said...

A fireman told me that he heard the new crackdown is against food trucks. Seriously.

BikeSnobNYC said...

Chris,

I like to think I was always a shithead.

--RTMS

Anonymous said...

46mph? Did he just buy the bike or something? We roll 44mph on gravel rollers here in flyover country.

Anonymous said...

"I have become a gigantic dork."

"Normal" people are boring Snobby. If you don't have a quirk, WTF would you live in NYC? Sorry, make that a gigantic quirk.

People here in Dallas are exceedingly "normal" and only get excited about the new "M Class" sedans. Ugh.

BikeSnobNYC said...

Neighbourtease,

If that's true they're at least continuing in the same spirit, which is cracking down on stuff hipsters get way too excited about.

--BSNYC

Anonymous said...

most new yorkers are morons. there are ways to fix that, but they all fall into "cruel and unusual punishment" category...
I ride my bike to work every day, but still, I think the anti-bike crackdown isn't hard and extensive enough.

Anonymous said...

"Our humanity is like a little hunk of bread floating in a bowl full of hungry goldfish--after a while there's just nothing left."

Very well said. my daily bike commute is an emotional rollercoaster. one minute I'm feeling great enjoying the weather and the wind in my face and the next I'm viciously cursing out some clueless pedestrian or motorist, which is followed by a moment of somber introspection as I ponder "why do i get so angry, can't we all just get along?"

after watching that video, you can't help but notice that there are indeed a lot of asshole bikers here, who are definitely propagating the view that there are a lot of asshole bikers here. It’s a vicious circle, don't be a tool.

Anonymous said...

I was expecting a different kind of 3-way. Oh, well...


balls.

Twistyface said...

What they said.

liz said...

as I currently live in Chicago, the bike cops are just as guilty as the people they're "warning". Just the other day on my way home, I saw a school of them salmoning down a residential street. Do as I say, not as I do apparently.

Chazu said...

Your existential awareness of the physical reality around you (bike lanes, intersections, other people) is going to lead to madness if you don't fire up the Cognitive Dissonance Engine soon.

Repeat after me: salmon and mobile health care billboards in bike lanes are "normal".... salmon and mobile health care billboards in bike lanes are "normal"....

3G said...

Good to see Carrboro NC making it onto the blog yesterday (back alley bikes). Althought, now, the mason jar has now made its way into the Carrboro Elite Smugness ranks as a beverage delivery device. Still, our bike infrastructure is garbage, so we're a long way off from being Portland wanna be's.

LK said...

"I have become a gigantic dork."

Become? Have you been changing light bulbs?

I'm moving to Chicago.

Udder said...

GW was not "fording" the Delaware in that painting, he was crossing it in a boat at what looks like a deep, rough section.

Fording refers to crossing a river at a shallow point, on foot, or maybe on a "Big Dummy" bicycle.

ken e. said...

only one minute into the intersection of shennanigans video...

AWESOME!

Anonymous said...

while on tour i once got up 68 kph but on $100 wheels (including tires)and a semi-rusted freewheel. to say the least, it took some steep hills.

Crappity Crap Crap said...

Both Preformance and Smashbar sites are down at the same time. Where else can I buy crappy bike crap?

Crap.

Anonymous said...

46 mph is not even that fast

db said...

Meanwhile, back in Mumbai...

Anonymous said...

I apologize in advance for my inquisitive mood.

a) Is "ethical meat" the moral antithesis of Weiner meat?

b) Do American Freds have a metric bias, or what?

Pontius Pilate said...

HAIL CSZR

-P.P.

Luke said...

You can hit 46 out on Long Island. What a sad video.

The second computer is the highly sophisticated Shimano Flight Deck. Lots of fred points for that.

Guillaume Désy said...

74km/h. pfff! J'ai atteint 100km/h plus d'une fois ici.

Snob, si la représentation de la terre telle qu'on la voit sur les cartes était erronée et qu'en fait l'Australie était Up-over et que le Canada serait en fait les soquettes des États-Unis? Est-ce que les États-Unis seraient les boxers du Mexique? Dans tous les cas c'est gentil de mentionner le nom de notre fabuleux pays dans votre billet quotidien.

crosspalms said...

You can go way faster if you take the computers off, cause then you can estimate your speed... And I hear you can go 120 mph if you have enough money

Fred said...

Wow. I have the exact same setup on my old bike: flight deck and garmin. Got the Garmin as a gift and am too lazy to un-tape my bars to un-mount the flight deck. Now that I see the awesome fredliness of it, I think I'll keep it that way. At least until my bar-tape rots and falls off.
I never "woo-hoo" at 46mph, I'm too anaerobic.

Anonymous Coward said...

"I have become a gigantic dork" -- priceless.
You should have shirts made of that Snob.

Anonymous said...

I used to be a Fred, now I'm just a dork like RTMS.

A. Weiner said...

I have 2 computers on my bike but mostly I use them to take pictures of my crotch. And my primal chest. I'll send you some.

grog said...

I know I have become a gigantic dork. I just hate being the last person to know it.
30 mph is fast for this dork. My mind wonders: "what happens when the fork breaks at this speed?"

yogisurf said...

Great description of your break-away Snobby. New York has it all...smug butchers....

Udder said...

Grog asked: "what happens when the fork breaks at this speed?"

Forget the fork. What you have to worry about are dogs, squirrels, blow outs, soft asphalt (remember poor Beloki), storm drains and worn brake pads.

Anonymous said...

I think the correct noun form of the adjective is "fredulity".

Anonymous said...

Whoa, I meant adjectival form of the noun. I must be addle-pated from the heat.

Furthermore, thought, as a founding, card-carrying member of the Beard and Helmet Mirror brigade, I urge all to embrace their inner Fred (or Wilma, as the case may be).

Definitely draw the line at recombents, though. As Herbert Kornfeld once said, "Ah gots my reasons."

bikesgonewild said...

...@udder...nonsense, i say, as regards your lack of understanding of the true nature of 'fording'...

...the boat george washington used to cross the delaware in that famous painting was built by an early relative of henry ford...

...originally, any boat crossing was called "fording" in tribute but as fords reputation for breaking down & sinking grew, the term 'fording' came into play as folks had to look for shallow spots to walk across...

...bsnyc/pdx/sfo/rtms was simply referencing a historical meaning...

...it's also why the founding fathers eventually put washington on the dollar bill..."hey george...betcha a buck your ford doesn't make it across without springing a leak...you mind signing that dollar if i win, pal ???"...

...history...it's cool stuff...

Marcel Da Chump said...

grog,
I had a fork break at 10mph; resulted in a mouthful of blood.

Steve Barner said...

Fred needs to come to Vermont. I go that fast every day on my commute. Nothing under 50 mph is worth talking about.

Anonymous said...

@ Mikeweb-
Yeah, it's a fun descent on a bike too. The top of it is about 45 minutes from my front door.
It's down Claremont, in Oakland. And it's popular as you could imagine.

Anonymous said...

Had a front tire blowout at ~45 mph once - I screamed something other than woo hoo... Had to change tire and shorts that day.

Chevy said...

BGW: Ford = "found on road dead..."

Ford = "fix or repair daily..."

Anonymous said...

I saw a 'Fredish' hipster on avenue Bernard this afternoon at around 15h (3pm for the rest of you), he had a camera right in front of his face! I say to you Montreal hipster, you looked ridiculous, but most of all, you were dangerous. Maybe it is time to grow up?

Anonymous said...

Ford = First On Race Day, thank you very much!

Anonymous said...

he's got two computers cause that shimano flight deck is piece of garbage that never works.

Anonymous said...

FORD - Fix Or Repair Daily

TTTSWRFFTPT-Quincy Chapter said...

FORD-Found on road dead!

Rupert Murdoch said...

Actually, my made in Meh-heeco Ford 500 is a bitchin' ride. Bangin' hipster chics and livin' the life!

I Go Around and Around said...

Yesterday, at 5th and 20th, I saw a woman walk directly out into traffic with her hand out for the oncoming town cars, taxis and delivery trucks to stop. Or rather to "stawp!" as she was saying. Then when they did (I and all my brethren on the sidewalk were agog) she pointed to a silver Lexus and said, "Honey, pahk the cah ovah heeyah." Whereupon a meek little man tentatively steered said Lexus towards an open spot at the curb and inexpertly wedged it under the bumpers of two other cars with a fair amount of grinding noises. She then released her crowd with a tilt of her hand, and she and her husband went into a local cosmetic emporium, I suppose for a new spatula with which to apply her makeup.

Had I not seen it, I would not have believed it. It was truly an act of God.

Anonymous said...

Please.

No, 46mph isn't crazy fast, but it's fast enough to get fucked up. And depending upon the terrain, it can feel much faster. Sure, at a rr recently there was a 55-60mph downhill finish, but in the context of a race, it was fairly safe.

Going 40 mph with semitrucks and potholes everywhere is a much different thing. Even getting doored at 10 mph can be fairly damaging.

You guys need to stop trying to act so tough (although the video is indeed lame).

PawnShop said...

Anon@12:56:
make that a gigantic quirk.

Is that what the young people ( and Congressmen ) are calling it these days?

Just curious.

JDH said...

maybe we should just start calling them "not an internal combustion engine driven carbon entity lane"?

Etherhuffer said...

Our friends rolled a tire off the rim of their tandem at 25mph in a curve. She has a cracked pelvis and broken collarbone. Both broke their helments. But they are alive. Can't imagine at a higher speed.....so will have to google up motorcycle crash videos.......

Ground Round Jim said...

At around -:58 a SUV nearly clips the woman the PD is talking to.

Classic.

Anonymous said...

There is no ethical meat!
Panties!

JDH said...

My steel forks never break. At any speed. Never hit my head during a crash, either. Learned how to fall playing football, learned how to ride delivering the Rocky mountain News.Just sayin'.

Anonymous said...

Washington was no dork - he refused to portage! Yet the expression of sublime smugness? Intact as his foreskin.

g-roc said...

I've gone faster than that on my mountain bike. Now if he had gone 74 km/h-American, I'd be impressed (that's like 119 mph-Canadian), but as it is, he only attained 46 km/h-American. Mediocre.

leroy said...

That school of salmon appears to be heading north on Kent Avenue where there is a separate northbound bike lane on the sidewalk next to them. Maybe their proximity to the City's auto auction lot confused them.

leroy said...

Oops. Anon 12:06 already made the Kent Avenue bike lane point.

But the lane is hard to miss.

bikesgonewild said...

...@chevy...hey, amigo...i had good fajitas at your restaurant & they were pleasantly af-ford-able...

...on a serious note, any speed on a bike can fuck you up if you're not focused & paying attention...

...& basically, anybody who's descended a serious mountain pass on a racing bike 'at altitude' has gone about 20 mph faster in that thin air than double computer guy's posted 46mph...

...just sayin'...

leroy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
leroy said...

I think BGW has been tutoring Sarah Palin on Anerican history.

I also think Anthony Weiner meant to post that he "had become a gigantic dork". Accidently dropping "become," made all the diffiernce

bikesgonewild said...

...leroy, you should a' heard the 'paul revere' story i really told her...

...she botched that shit way up...

..................................................

...to be honest, amigo, when i watched that palin interview wherein she was adamant that she knew her 'paul revere history' & literally laughed off the interviewer's concern about her lack of facts, i was both amazed & rather disgusted to think that so many people can't see through her "aw, shucks..." fake americana bullshit...

thomask said...

blocked bike lanes? too bad.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bzE-IMaegzQ

mikeweb said...

Can't believe nobody posted this piece of George Washington history. It's all factual.

Better late than never. Enjoy.

wes the bike commuter said...

46 mph = Not fast. I've done that pulling my two kids in a Winchester trailer with a Trek 920 Singletrack. Downhill.

On another note, I thought Californians were egocentric. We have nothing on New Yorkers.

Anonymous said...

"46mph? Did he just buy the bike or something? We roll 44mph on gravel rollers here in flyover country."

Amaen. I recorded 60mph on a gravel downhill stretch in Nova Scotia on a fat tire MTB.

Camera in my head...

EMT Wench said...

Hello, BikeSnobNYC,

You are a tough person to find.

Thomas Frank suggested I contact you. (I'm sure you are wondering why...)

This started with a post on Patrick's Place, who posted an article called "Wouldn't You Pay $5 for Advice to Improve Your Blog?" recommending Thomas to do this. So I found Thomas, both on WordPress and on Facebook and asked if he looked at Blogger blogs? He does not, but he recommended you.

Hence my note to you.

So, the big question is, do you critique Blogger sites and give help as to how to improve the site, get more readers, etc. If you do, I'd love that. If not, might you be able to point me in the right direction?

Your site is certainly interesting. I learned more about biking in NYC than ever - I give you a lot of credit. It doesn't look like a good way to ensure a long life - but it will certainly ensure an interesting one!

Thanks,
Aislinge

KenDomik said...

Hey BikeSnobNYC,
I'm the Fred (Ken) that made the 74kms/hr video you posted on your blog. It was the fastest I've ever gone.
One of your followers guessed why I have two computers, the Garmin Forerunner 305 is my GPS computer for downloading the data to the internet and the Shimano is for my gears and cadance. I'm gonna try for the 100kms/hr someday soon so I hope you post that too. :)
Thanks for the hits, I really appreciate it.
Ken (not Fred, lol)

Anonymous said...

First? (damn)

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Fixie Bikes said...

If my memory serves me right, Washington is crossing the river to kill german mercenaries in their sleep on Christmas eve. Our nation has such a colorful history.