So you know how in the United Britain they have this show on TV called "Top Gear?" If you don't, it's a show about cars, and they made a shitty American version of it even though it was already in English. Well, yesterday a reader forwarded me an essay by one of the "Top Gear" guys about the bicycles:
I liked the essay. In particular, I liked this:
The bicycle was without doubt one of the greatest inventions ever.
Only the ability to ride a bicycle remains with us after decades of inattention, and that's because riding one taps into some innate understanding of basic physics. A bicycle really is an extension of both your body and your psyche.
Bicycles should never be regulated, they should never be subject to road tax, they should not require third-party insurance and competence to ride a bicycle should not be tested. It tests itself, because if you can't do it, you have a crash. Bicycles are the first rung on the personal-transport ladder and should be free at the point of use.
But I'm not so sure about this:
Cyclists have become miserabilists.
Several times a week, I go for a bike ride alongside the river near where I live. It's good for me. Or at least it is until I meet another cyclist coming the other way. "Morning," I chirp, cheerfully, because I am cheerful, filling my lungs with the airy elixir and freeing up my tired old bones. Nothing.
I was keeping score for a while, but I've long since lost count. It stood at something like - May, 8,000; other cyclists, nil. I supposed I might just be coming across as a weirdo. So I then tried smiling instead. Still nothing.
There are numerous great debates that rage within the topic of cycling. Obviously, the king of all of these is the Helment Debate. Then, just after that (I'm not going to continue with the royalty metaphors, I know nothing about royalty because I'm not from a primitive monarchy like England, I'm from an oligarchy south of Canada), you have the stupid equipment and frame material debates, like Dick Breaks vs. Tubulers, Crabonium vs. Lugged Aluminium, and Ridged vs. Supsension, or whatever the hell idiots bicker about on forums nowadays. And then, after that, you have all the etiquette stuff, the main one being whether or not to wave to, or otherwise greet, other cyclists.
For some reason, many cyclists get really snitty if you don't wave to them or return their wave, and frankly I think this is completely ridiculous. Sure, a friendly greeting is nice, and if you receive one you should return it, but at the same time there are a million legitimate reasons not to do either. Here are just a few that I feel are perfectly acceptable:
--You didn't see the other rider and therefore were unable to offer a greeting;
--You didn't see the other rider greet you and were therefore unable to return the greeting;
--You were preoccupied with a shifting issue or other mechanical problem because you don't read enough Internet forums and you bought the wrong component group;
--You think the other rider looks like he's probably a dick;
--You know the other rider and he's definitely a total dick;
--You like the rider OK but you think the club they ride with is stupid;
--You've had a shitty morning, this is the only time you have to yourself before work, you've got some heavy emotional crap to deal with, and instead of leaving you alone with your thoughts complete doofuses are smiling and waving at you every thirty seconds;
--You DON'T FUCKING FEEL LIKE IT, OKAY!?!
Just to clarify, I do wave to other cyclists. I just don't do it all the time. Sure, it makes sense to wave to another cyclist on a country road in order to acknowledge your mutual humanity, but it would be ridiculous to wave to every commuter on the Manhattan Bridge in the same way you'd have to be a complete kook to greet every single person on the subway. (Sure, I do it, but I'm a complete kook.) And so what if I'm riding my Fred machine on a country road and I don't greet you because I'm deep, deep, deep in my Fredliness? If you're old enough to ride by yourself on a country road do you really need complete strangers to coddle you and make you feel special and loved? I'd argue that you don't.
I also maintain it's perfectly fine to scowl instead of wave in certain circumstances. For example, I often ride the mountain bike trails in Cunningham Park, Queens. (Or at least I used to before I moved to wherever the hell it is I live now, which is thankfully not Queens.) Now, I couldn't care less whether or not people wear helments. However, in Cunningham Park the Parks Department wants you to wear a helment, and I think that's a pretty fair trade considering they let these people build mountain bike trails in the first place. So when I'm riding in there and I see some goofball helmetless singletrack salmon in a velour tracksuit riding a dual-suspension bike the wrong way on a one-way trail you can be sure I flash him the sort of withering look I generally reserve for Bichon Frisés. (I always scowl witheringly at Bichon Frisés on the street, it's delightful to watch them recoil.)
Anyway, all I'm saying is that waving is complicated, and that unless someone actually gives you the finger you really shouldn't worry about it. If you can't handle someone not returning your wave or your smile then don't offer it in the first place, and that way we can finally evolve into the cold, introverted, smartphone-addled society we were meant to be. Hey, it's 2012. Maybe all those people James May thinks are snubbing him are just waiting to get home so they can "like" him on Facebook.
By the way, that's a lot of words without pictures, so here's some guy skitching with a pennyfarthing:
If the pennyfarthing were still the dominant form of bicycle then all the Lucas Brunelle wannabes would be wearing magnet shoes.
Speaking of outlaw behavior, I received a compelling email this morning, and I share it in the hopes of raising some intelligent discourse in the comments section. (Just kidding, any comments not containing the word "scranus" will be deleted as per the BSNYC style manual.) Here is that email, and as you read it keep in mind that "GC" refers to Grand Central Station, which is not only a very busy station but also a famous landmark, unlike that craphole Penn Station on the other side of town:
I am writing to you because I recently received a summons for "disorderly conduct" for parking my bike in GC station. Most people I have told this to are baffled. You probably have a different take. Please let me know what you think about all this, and feel free to share my story.
I was meeting my husband & son in GC station at the mezzanine bar the evening of Friday December 7. As you may or may not be aware, there is absolutely nowhere safe to lock your bike up within blocks of GC.
After making this determination, I locked my bike to the handrail below the balcony on the main floor. As we were imbibing, I glanced down a couple of times to check on my bike...
The first time, all was well.
The second time, another biker was about to leave her bike next to mine on the railing.
The third time, my bike was gone.
Having already finished our drinks & food, I immediately went down to the main floor (after seeing my bike was gone), and spotted a cop standing nearby. I asked him if he knew where my bike was. He told me it was at the police station downstairs and that I wasn't allowed to park it inside the station, that I should have instead locked it to a pole somewhere outside. He also said some people were concerned that there might be a bomb in the pannier, so a canine was deployed to sniff it. Wow, all this had happened in the course of the maybe 10 or 20 minutes between my bike checks!
So I went to retrieve the bike at the Police Station in the basement level of GC and was told to hand over my ID. After waiting for 15-20 minutes, my bike was delivered to me along with a summons and a broken lock. It wasn't until I was on the train heading back to Westchester that I noticed that my rack bag and pannier had been slit open. Like most everyday bike commuters I keep bike tools, a lock, and a spare inner tube in the rack bag along with emergency rain gear. Riding home from the station, I had to stop a few times to pick up gear that kept spilling out of the ravaged bags. These have now all been repaired and I am supposed to show up in court on February 21.
If you have any advice or interest in joining me in court, I could use the support.
Firstly, while I appreciate the invitation to a day in court, I must emphatically and enthusiastically decline. Secondly, while I think the mandatory court appearance is a bit excessive, I'd also fully expect an unattended bicycle locked inside Grand Central Station to get the potential bomb treatment. Thirdly, I agree bike parking sucks on the streets around Grand Central, but I've also visited that neighborhood many times to see the foot doctor (stubborn plantar wart, if you must know, which you didn't want to, and now you're not hungry anymore), and I did manage to lock my bike, so I know that it can be done.
I'll also add that this is why people get folding bikes, and the whole "looking like a trained circus bear" thing is just a bonus.
Anyway, if you have a different opinion about parking your bike in Grand Central please let it be known, and if you'd like to attend court with the accused I'd be happy to put you in touch.
Once again, I've been remiss with the pictures, so here's a minimalist unicycle:
Lastly, just moments ago, I received this video from Klaus at Cycling Inquisition:
Nice guitar playing, but a wave would have been nice.