Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Hard Times: Is Preciousness Over?

Last week on this blog, there was much discussion in the comments regarding the subject of h-e-l-m-e-t-s. (So as not to start another debate, please note I'm spelling out the "h" word as you might spell out the word "walk" when your dog's in the room.) This is ironic. While we cyclists bicker over h-e-l-m-e-t-s incessantly, most American non-cyclists think we're crazy to ride bicycles no matter how much safety equipment we use. In fact, even driving an economy car is still widely regarded as suicidal in this country. I was reading an article in the New York Times this past weekend about fuel efficiency standards, and one commenter had this to say:

While it might be technically feasible to do this how many extra deaths will we get as a result of the smaller lighter cars? I read that for every 5 mpg increase there will be 3,500 extra deaths each year. So that means something like 17,500 folks will die each year to avoid extracting a little more oil out of the ground. With our current death rate on the highways of 42,000 that is about a third increase. No thanks, I'll keep driving my big old mean SUV.

Right. Because it's impossible to get hurt in an SUV.

Nevertheless, the rolling bunker mentality is still a pervasive (and politically influential) one. For this reason, even though bicycle commuting is on the rise all over the country, as cyclists we remain vulnerable. We're like mammals in the waning days of the dinosaurs: far more adaptable and with much better long-term prospects, yet in the meantime still in imminent danger of being squashed.

You'd imagine that at some point Americans would wake up to the fact that they're being sold a very expensive illusion of safety that is in fact killing them and opt for practicality and efficiency over sheer size, but until that day there's nothing illusory about city streets filled with light-running SUVs driven by a gentry who are more or less free to maim with impunity. And when it comes to cycling for transportation, the fact that your safety--indeed your very life--is not a consideration is what you might call a "barrier to entry."

We all approach this barrier differently depending on our dispositions. Some of us hop it as adroitly as a cyclocross racer and ride undaunted. Others step over it with considerable trepidation, riding only occasionally or strictly for recreation. Still others simply go around it by opting for other modes of transport. And of course millions of people buy gigantic "safe" automobiles and just drive through the fucking thing while jockeying their smartphones, with two or three cyclists pinned to their bumpers.

But while a h-e-l-m-e-t may help some New Yorkers approach this barrier with a bit more confidence, guess what's not helping? Expensive pretty stuff:

It took a few years, but it would appear that people are finally coming to terms with the fact that New York is not in fact Copenhagen or Amsterdam, and that beneath the veneer of gentrification it's still an indifferent hellhole. You've got to hand it to them, though--they really tried to maintain the illusion for a few years. Remember those articles about "cycle biker chic?" Remember when we were all going to be riding Dutch Bikes?

That was cute.

Then it turned out that in New York City $1,000 commuter bikes still get stolen, cops still hate you, and drivers don't care how faaahbulous you look because they don't see you in the first place.

Of course, the "hook" of this article is that it's women who are finding all this discouraging, but to spin it that way is to ignore the fact that we all suffer regardless of genitalway. Who among us--male, female, or "other"--can't relate to at least part of this?

And if the experiences of Lisa Buonaiuto are any indication, the safety concerns are still legitimate. She started cycling three years ago, taking her bicycle from the Metro-North station on 125th Street in Harlem to her job at Barnard College. In that time, she has been nearly hit by a bus, ticketed for riding on an empty sidewalk on Amsterdam Avenue when she felt overwhelmed by the trucks and endured shouts from “daredevil” messengers. Now she travels along side streets, avoids Broadway and on a recent afternoon took the Hudson River Greenway to a hair appointment downtown.

For my part, I've actually solved the hair appointment problem by riding in curlers. Not only do I save time by styling while on the go, but the curlers themselves offer protection and make a fantastic helmet substitute:

(New York City Cycle Chic 2.0)

I'd like things to improve for all of us, but in the meantime the h-e-l-m-e-t remains a symbol that we're under attack, and the expensive pretty stuff a symbol of a somewhat rarefied ideal. Speaking of rarefied ideals, these are also the hallmarks of that other incendiary "h" word, by which I mean h-i-p-s-t-e-r-s. They too tend to live in denial when it comes to certain realities of urban living--and when they're inevitably forced to confront them it always seems to make the news:

In an age when some of New York City's roughest areas have been "tamed," it's only natural that the young and creative should feel as though they have something of a "Midas Touch" when it comes to neighborhoods. As it turns out, that's not the case, for when a "psychedelic punk-rap" band rented a cheap apartment in Bedford-Stuyvesant recently they were immediately robbed:

“This is not the kind of neighborhood people like us move into,” said Zayd Brewer, known to friends as Spaceman, the 19-year-old lead singer of the band. “Call it naïveté or whatever. ‘We can defend ourselves.’ ”

The story of what happened in that apartment on a corner of Bedford-Stuyvesant on the morning of June 13 is a cautionary tale about too-good-to-be-true dwellings in unfamiliar neighborhoods, and a reminder that not all of Brooklyn is a red carpet for the young and aspiring.


Indeed, what follows is more than just a cautionary tale. In fact, it's perhaps the most harrowing h-i-p-s-t-e-r gentrification-gone-awry tale ever told, and the Medal of Valor goes to bandmate Andrew Downs, who presumably cowered under his car while the "shit went down:"

Mr. Downs was outside: he had gone to move his car before morning. He was returning when he saw “a whole bunch of dudes overrunning the house,” he said. He hid and feared the worst for his friends: “I thought they were all dead.”

Granted, barging in and trying to be a hero probably wouldn't have ended well. But, like, you don't even call 911? "Ah, they're probably all dead anyway," Downs apparently concluded. "Why waste my anytime minutes?"

None of this bodes well for the tide of gentrification, which is clearly ebbing:

They revisited the apartment on Tuesday to clean it up, as the landlord threatened to keep their security deposit, 300 bucks they badly needed. There was blood on the floor and fingerprint dust on every doorknob. They are looking for new digs, undeterred. Maybe Bushwick.

That is one ballsy landlord.

Anyway, the time-honored pattern is that artists move into a rough neighborhood for the cheap rents, put up with a huge amount of crap, and eventually shore it up so that rich douchebags can move in and displace everybody. Now though, even the first wave is simply saying "fuck it" after a few days, which is either good news or bad news, depending on how you view gentrification in the first place. This may also be something of a generational shift, especially when you consider that the band itself is actually bragging about it:


I remember when rappers used to brag about robbing people. Now they're bragging about getting robbed. What's next, Christian death metal?

Speaking of theft that's only newsworthy because it happened to h-i-p-s-t-e-r-s, a reader informs me that some guy got his bike stolen in London:


Yes, I'm sure he's the first person ever to have his bike stolen in London:

Though I'm pretty sure he's not the first person to lock his bike only by the seatpost:

By the way, the photo above shows the thieves actually stealing the bike. It was taken by a "bystander," who clearly attended the Andrew Downs School of Passive-Assertiveness Training.

At least it wasn't the even more expensive Kate Spade model.


99 comments:

Anonymous said...

wow

Anonymous said...

NINE TIMES?!!!

Anonymous said...

podium

le Correcteur said...

Missed podium and unread; but top 10!

le Correcteur said...

Or maybe podium, since Anonymous has 3 top spots? Now to read; welcome back, Snob.

ant1 said...

ant1st!

Pontius Pilate said...

HAIL CSZR

-P.P.

PK said...

Top ten!

DoNotReact said...

HELMENT

t said...

topteneel!!!

hillbilly said...

did you read the part above "check ya boyz?"

rural 14 said...

ant 2nd!

I like to be hated engine said...

"Then it turned out that in New York City $1,000 commuter bikes still get stolen, cops still hate you, and drivers don't care how faaahbulous you look because they don't see you in the first place."
Brilliant
I ride so I can be hated. but the other two don't matter to me.

What should I do?

old hipster said...

"Now she travels along side streets, avoids Broadway and on a recent afternoon took the Hudson River Greenway to a hair appointment downtown."

So now she does what everybody else does!

Chazu said...

I read it first.

Esteemed Commenter DaddoOne said...

"In that time, she has been nearly hit by a bus, ticketed for riding on an empty sidewalk on Amsterdam Avenue when she felt overwhelmed by the trucks and endured shouts from “daredevil” messengers."

...so just like being in a car

crosspalms said...

Welcome back, Snob!
On ride in this morning, pulled up at a red light behind a black Mercedes and watched as it ran the red, made a left through the pedestrian crosswalk and pulled into a parking garage. Could this be a Chicago sighting of Martin Erzinger?

Kenny Banya said...

"We're like mammals in the waning days of the dinosaurs: far more adaptable and with much better long-term prospects, yet in the meantime still in imminent danger of being squashed."

I'm going to use that Snobby, that's GOLD!

Chazu said...

A new law is in effect which begins to get tough with motorists who hit pedestrians and cyclists.

A 3-Foot passing law has been in effect for several years.
http://www.tennessee3feet.org/

Anonymous said...

Bikesnob, don't gas that band up!

Anonymous said...

Lisa Buonaiuto ticketed for riding on an empty sidewalk on Amsterdam Avenue.

Safe biking.

Marcel Da Chump said...

Feel a liitle bad about laughing at the hipsters' misfortune. But it's a good lesson: if you're from good homes, don't move to a ghetto; your new neighbors will know you're from the suburbs.

Anonymous said...

Just spat my spaghetti out over "Check Ya Boys in the New York Times."

anonymous Coward said...

Cadel Evans, the Mugsey Bogues of cycling

Top 25

BikeSnobNYC said...

Marcel Da Chump,

I noticed this at the bottom of the article:

Involved in a crime?
E-mail: crimescene
@nytimes.com.

So presumably they actually solicited this article.

--Wildcat Rock Machine

Anonymous said...

Seatpost? What happened to saddleposts, since all hip cyclists are supposed to refer to the thing that connects their ass to the bike as a saddle?

Anonymous said...

Panties!
P-A-N-T-I-E-S-!
Panties!
Helmets!

cyclotourist said...

SEAT LOCK

GENT RIFY

AndyBoBandy said...

I hate bike thieves as much as the next guy, but I say bravo to these two fellows. They are obviously providing a much needed service to clear the streets of posers (or at least give them very expensive lessons). If you can't even figure out how to secure your new bike when you leave it to go 'a drinkin' then the "bike police" come and take it away for you. I see nothing wrong there.

xyxax said...

Those who drive enormous SUV's with the latest tech in the city:

Even when they need to go somewhere, they don't want to leave the fucking couch. Gotta have a phone, a TV, stereo, plush seating, headrest, etc. Having to make the slight effort to avoid a cyclist or god-forbid actually expend the 6 calories of energy it takes to park in an open space rather than in the middle of the god damn street is NOT LIKE IT IS IN MY LIVING ROOM!

Whew. I need to eat less salmon.

Marcel Da Chump said...

Wildcat Rock Machine,
hmm(mm), street cred is not what it used to be.

Richard said...

I try and wear a helmet when i can. Richard from the Amish settlement of Lebanon,pa

PhilboydStunge said...

@xyxax,
That's the crazy part. The thing that really pisses motorists off about cyclists is having to notice them. Yeah the fractional seconds of delay is bad, but what they really hate is having to see me in the 1st place, like I was riding through their living room.

Etherhuffer said...

From a friend: "It doesn't take a 5000 pound vehicle to take a 100 pound woman to the mall." After seeing a wee thing in an Escalade at Bellevue Square in Swellvue, WA

Udder said...

I didn't know there was debate on helmets. If you fall and hit your head without one, you can die.

I've cracked 3 helmets in 30 years- one in a race, one while training, one going 3 miles an hour drinking from my water bottle in crosswind.

Klutz? Maybe. Alive? Yes.

guacamoletoes said...

So you know how they make those helmets with watermelons painted on them? If they had one with curlers painted all over it, I would totally buy it and wear it on my daily commute! Especially because I am bald!!! Can any of you h-i-p-s-t-e-r-s photoshop what that would look like? HA!

sufferist said...

Bought a shirt at MicroTel in Dallas that reads, "Meh" and thought of you Mr. Snob....

Anonymous said...

England is a shittier America

Paul Bowen said...

must...resist...

g-roc said...

Oh, way to go with all your H-E-L-M-E-N-T talk, now the dog won't settle down. Thanks a lot.

Anonymous said...

David Cameron, the Prime minister of Great Britain, also had his bike stolen in London. He had locked it to a waist high post. Genius.

Anonymous said...

"We can defend ourselves." Umm... no you can't!

Anonymous said...

If anything, that NY Daily News article illustrates how Americans, and indeed the Free World, need cars BIGGER than SUVs.
Having an SUV and feeling safe is part of the OLD pre-9/11 mindset.
In these times of new prosperity we need a new class of vehicle that provides confort, premium in car entertainment and safety.
Enter the AUV (Apocalyptic Utility Vehicle).
The future, bitches.

ringcycles said...

I miss the olden days when the only christian death metal was a fist full of nails and a roman hammer. Simpler times.

crosspalms said...

If that AUV sports a roof-mounted machinegun turret with laser sights and pinpoint accuracy, I'll take one. In fact, forget the pinpoint accuracy, make it a backseat wine cooler instead.

Martin Erzinger said...

Nope, don't go to Chicago.

I only drive on the sidewalk, when there are pedestrians to be hit.

You made a mistake if you think I have gotten soft and missed somebody on purpose.

Just some other well meaning Merc driver, my kind of guy.

Terre Haute Karl said...

Anon @3:01
I believe what you are looking for is the Urban Assault Vehicle

luciferyellow said...

"Sports utility vehicle accident statistics show that SUVs are three times more likely to rollover in a single vehicle accident than any other car on the road. Of all vehicle accidents, rollover crashes are among the most fatal. Sports utility vehicle accident statistics comprise only three percent of the total number of accidents, yet three times that number of SUVs is involved in fatal rollover accidents. Sixty three percent of all SUV deaths and 46 percent of all SUV injuries are the result of rollover every year."

And then of course in some cases you need to add that feeling of invincibility:

http://www.wired.com/autopia/2009/01/hummers-can-hid/

Oik said...

Finally I got my picture on the internetz.

Anonymous said...

What happened to the Bicycling TdF blog? I see stages 1-3, then bubkis.

Yours-
Anon 1:37

Charlie Didrickson said...

But curlers mess my hair up.

THE American Bamboo Society said...

Can the planet-saving power of bamboo be even remotely doubted?

I do not think so.

Bamboo curlers, yes, bamboo curlers.

Purchase your sustainable bamboo-based hair care products here: http://mp.hairboutique.com/Conair-Bamboo-Small-Self-Grip-Rollers-6-Pack/P/120524

Craig Calfee uses these as headset spacers on the Calfee Recumbamboo TM, so you know they're plenty tough... whether you are using them for for hair curling or helmenting.

Bamboo my friends. Bamboo.

Matt said...

I think bandmate Andrew Downs, who stood by his car while the apartment was, like, overrun with dudes, should be award the Meh-dal of Honor.

g-roc said...

Oh, stage 4 is totally there. In fact, I'm currently contemplating Bicycling's offer of 2 "Risk-Free" trial issues. The main reason I've avoided reading Bicycling Magazine is the risk of paper cuts and of leaving the magazine on a hot stove top, causing a fire. "Risk-Free" is for me.

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

you may be interested in these two articles from pseudo-America where helmets are law:
Dear CycleChic. Does my head look fat in this helmet?
http://www.sydneycyclist.com/forum/topics/dear-cyclechic-does-my-head

The big issue:helmet hair
http://www.sydneycyclist.com/forum/topics/the-big-issues-helmet-hair

Anonymous said...

ER doc here wrote in an editorial some time back that the SUVers have it all wrong--THEY are driving the death trap. He said we should all just imagine how much safer our lives would be if everyone would drive smaller, more sensible cars.

Yes, he was put in the stocks on the public plaza the next day for daring to utter such heresy.

I Go Around and Around said...

I bought my wife a bicycle from Adeline Adeline. They were the only shop carrying the brand/model my wife wanted that didn't say "Call me back in a month and see if I have any then." Instead, she said, "I'll get you one. Is next week okay?" It was and they did. Good business.

Helmet hair is a big concern in our house though. Otherwise my wife would ride to work. That I cannot tell the difference between regular hair and helmet hair is a definite personal defect on my part and claiming in my defense the blindness of love only makes it worse.

Air today is horrible. Central Park was like breathing through a flannel shirt. And that's the weather for today....

vegan salmon said...

a nonny mouse @ 2.37

current population of england is 51.5 million whilst american soil supports 300 million...rounding the ratio - that's approx. 6 to 1.
i find it hard to believe that the population of a small european monarchy produces more shit than the country that spawned the concept of supersize fastfood portions.

spartacus said...

stuff SUV's...we need to return to the glory that was the chariot. chartiotchic was globally epic in the first millenium.

Anonymous said...

Cheer up, Mr. Snob, you could live in LA... As the city's mayor offered suggestions for dealing with unusually high road congestion expected this weekend: riding a bike comes in third after walking (well, okay!) and 'going on vacation'.

HELL MENT said...

"fantastic helmet substitute"

Dammit!
See what happened in the comments?
It only takes one mention!

Anonymous said...

If you are stupid enough to lock your bike by the seatpost, you deserve your fate if someone then takes your bike. And the former owner's righteous indignation should bring only scorn. It's like dropping a $20 bill on the ground and then screaming "stop thief" when someone picks it up.

I am an upside down engine said...

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/rollover/etc/before.html


Range rover created by our english overlords, proves again that we are the stupidest consumers ever.

xyxax said...

@PhilboydStunge

"what they really hate is having to see me in the 1st place, like I was riding through their living room."

That's what I mean! But you say it better.

Chafed said...

This post is awesome. You are awesome. Your book is awesome. That picture of those assholes stealing that bicycle made me cry though. I know the owner locked it up in a dumb way but I hope the guys who stole the bike (who hardly look poverty-stricken) well I hope their nuts drop off and squirrels eat them.

JDH said...

I need a Brooks "saddle seat".

Anonymous said...

Snob - You remind me how nice it is to live in Iowa City where motorists are JUST as likely to NOT notice a cyclist... But as farmers pass you when you're grinding gravel, they usually give a wave and slow down to cut the dust. If NYC is the place to be, please stay there and give me uncrowded rolling plains. I can experience the artistic hotbeds of big cities through travel and the internet. Being considerate of others holds a small place in humanity.

test said...

separated facilities, as much as possible. The helmet is nice, but a painted line on the street don't mean squat to a texting SUVer enroute 10 minutes late.

Anonymous said...

Helmet hair isn't such a big deal... Every time I've buckled a helmet onto my wet, freshly showered hair it's turned out incredibly beautiful, shiny, full of life and bounce. There's something marketable here :)

thefsb said...

I've smashed two bonce buckets in crashes in the last 9 months. Once when a squirrel jumped me and jammed my front wheel (and smashed my colar bone). And once in Madison racing. In the first I've little doubt that I'd be dead or very badly hurt without the lid. In the second I'd probably have lived but I wouldn't have been back at the track in two days. Life is full of risks. What y' gonna do? Drive a car instead?

Daniel said...

"...how many extra deaths will we get as a result of the smaller lighter cars?"

We can lower speed limits until the smaller lighter cars will be very safe. And save even more gas...

Dan.

Anonymous said...

hard time don't come round here no more.

knicksdefense said...

walmart, brakeless fixed gears with bullhorns:

http://www.walmart.com/ip/Cycle-Force-Tour-de-France-Stage-One-Vintage-Red-51cm-Fixed-Gear-Bicycle/15382966

Anonymous said...

Snob, you are kind of awesome, and a real insensitive douchebag at the same time.

It is OK for the Times to "blame the victim" when it is a bunch of kids getting ripped off in Bed-Sty, but it is not ok for the Daily News to "blame the victim" when a yuppie takes a left turn onto Canal St. from the right side of Broadway, gets hit by a car, and goes to the hospital in a coma that may have been just a concussion if he had a helmet on.

No doubt, people get hit by cars all the time, regardless of their helmet wearing. But fuck man, people get robbed and murdered in Bed-Sty regardless of whether they are gentrifying hipsters or not. These are all cautionary tales. Living in the Big City is dangerous.

And Paul Bowen, you're an asshole.

Johann Rissik said...

Some douche sat there taking pictures of two guys stealing a bike? Holy fuck, I hope they asked their permission. What has it come to?

Anonymous said...

Everyone seems surprised that bystanders take pictures instead of intervening in the theft of a bike. Does nobody watch tv anymore? (I mean free tv, not rich people's tv, AKA: cable)

http://abcnews.go.com/WhatWouldYouDo/video/stop-bike-thief-10589721

Direct Axis said...

Crazy statistics! I still believe that with adequate cycling gear will improve your safety, but it won't cure stupid/unpatient drivers. Thanks for the article. Great read!

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Fixie Bikes said...

That's a sick crash.

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