Recently I was reading the Metro-North Commuter Railroad Company's bicycle permit regulations, and here is how they define a bicycle:
Definition: A bicycle is a single-seat, human powered, two wheeled vehicel with a wheel diameter not in excess of 27 inches. No mopeds, mini-bikes, motorbikes or motor scooters.
I was particularly incensed by the draconian wheel diameter limitation, to which I have the following reply:
Also, what's that crap about a bicycle only having one seat? Are they trying to tell me I can't ride the train with my "retambent?"
That's some bullshit right there. I'd threaten to take by business elsewhere, but the Long Island Railroad's rules are even worse:
Types of Bicycles: Single rider bicycles only; No tandem, motorized, or three wheeled bikes; no protrusions which could cause injury or damage. Maximum bicycle dimensions are 80" long x 48" high. Bikes must be clean and free of excessive dirt and grease at all times. Cyclist mus have a suitable elastic cord to secure the bike on the train.
That "free of excessive dirt and grease at all times" thing is a total dealbreaker, because each and every one of my bicycles is filthy at all times. Never trust anybody with a clean bicycle. It means they're hiding something and most likely suffer from Lady Macbeth syndrome. Who has the cleanest bicycles? Roadies. And they're all on drugs. Think about it. Also, the "no protrusions which could cause injury or damage" thing is kind of ridiculous, since pretty much every part of a bicycle is a protrusion which can cause injury or damage, and I have the scabs on my shins to prove it. If you remove every dangerous protrusion from a bicycle, you wind up with this:
No thank you.
By the way, yesterday I mentioned bicycles and the apocalypse, and a reader was kind enough to forward the following article:
I'm reading some after-the-electromagnetic pulse disaster novels where the electric grid has collapsed. Lots of people walking home or fleeing home on foot. In the vast majority of these novels there is no mention of any means of human transportation between a car and walking. So some guy has to walk home hundreds or thousands of miles across a post-apocalyptic landscape to get back to his family. Every person he comes across either is on foot or has some Mad Max truck fuel. What's with that?
In my opinion, the answer to this is very simple: Most Americans would rather perish than ride a bicycle. It's a fate worse than death. Therefore, if you're going for realism in your post-apocalyptic fiction naturally you're going to omit them. Maybe--maybe--you have a scene in which someone's getting attacked by some post-nuclear zombies, and he looks at a bicycle, then he looks at the zombies, then he looks back at the bicycle, and finally instead of fleeing on it he surrenders himself to the zombies and lets them eat him alive. Even in real-life disasters people only ride bicycles for as long as they have to and not a second more. Sure, after Supercane Hurristorm Sandy there was a temporary uptick in bike commuters in New York City, but vastly more people chose to wait on line for gas for 12 hours instead. I'd wager that most Sandy bike commuters pretend it never happened, like some ill-advised drunken liaison or that one time they ate horse in Belgium.
It is worth mentioning though that there was a shopping cart in Cormac McCarthy's "The Road," and it is pretty easy to graft a bike onto one of those:
Naturally though they didn't, because it would have diluted the effect of the shopping cart as a metaphor for consumerism.
Speaking of survival, I've recently been coming to terms with how ill-suited to it I really am. In particular, like many cyclists, I am physically completely useless without a bicycle. Sure, at any given time I can manage a hundred mile ride without too much trouble or preparation, but once you take that bike away I'm utterly helpless. More to the point, I can't run. At all. This is pathetic, since running is our most basic means of danger avoidance. Sure, maybe if a lunatic came at me the burst of adrenaline might carry me for a block or two, but what about a post-apocalyptic scenario where mutants have already stolen my bicycle and my own two feets are my only remaining mode of transport? Shouldn't I at least be able to manage a brisk interborough trot in the interest of self-preservation?
Therefore, in a sad burst of stereotypical midlife shame over my body's depressing lack of functionality, I've resorted to running every now and again, during which I listen exclusively to this:
Sure, there were times in the past when I would run every now and again under the delusion that it would help me in cyclocross (it didn't, because when you suck, you suck, and I suck) but now I've been doing it just to do it, and I'm concerned about two things: 1) My knees possibly falling off, because they hurt; and 2) One day accidentally doing a triathlon. Obviously, it's that second one that's the scariest. Now don't get me wrong, I certainly don't plan to ever do a triathlon intentionally, but what happens if through no fault of my own or some bad planning I end up riding, swimming, and running all on the same day? Right now I feel like I'm messing around with two out of three ingredients in a triathlon, and if that third one falls into the mix somehow it will become volatile and I'll perish in an explosion of tri-dorkitude.
Still, the fact is that as the years go by you do all sorts of things you never thought you'd do, like running, or spraypainting your bald spot with barbecue grill paint, or participating a Gran Fondo--which I did last fall to my lasting shame. Even so, it's very unlikely that I'll do the Gran Fondo New York, though I did just receive a press release informing me that it's now the Campagnolo Gran Fondo New York:
The Gran Fondo New York is of course most famous for the fact that they tested for drugs last year and caught some sad Fred doping. It also costs $250, and between you and me, for only $175 I'll be happy to take you on the same route. Sure, you won't have a state-of-the-art timing chip, but there will be numerous "shaming climbs" during which I remind you of how badly you suck. (Provided I can keep up with you, which I almost assuredly can't.) Also, while I don't actually have drug testing equipment, you're more than welcome to pee in a cup anyway. Best of all, each participant in my gran Fondo gets a jersey. Unfortunately, it's this one, and you'll have to order it from Nashbar and pay for it yourself.
And if I get dropped or simply decide to turn around and go home, there will be no refunds.
Lastly, on the subject of survival, subway deaths have been in the news quite a bit recently, and due to the public outcry there is now talk of installing sliding doors on the platforms:
Before we get to the MTA's plans, let's quickly look at the stats you are most interested in—how often do people actually get hit by the subway. And the answer, in 2012 at least, was 141 times. Of those incidents 51 were people who "contacted a moving train while on the platform," 54 were incidents were a passenger was "stuck on the tracks," 33 were suicides or attempted suicides and three were cases were a customer fell between cars.
Interestingly, the MTA is considering a safety measure that would cost $1 billion. Meanwhile, 176 cyclists and pedestrians were killed in traffic in New York City during fiscal year 2012. Practically none of which were suicides, though arguably many of them were homicides, even if the police dismissed them with their standard response of "no criminality." I suppose to some degree bike lanes and pedestrian plazas are the equivalent of sliding doors in that they are meant to make the roads safer, though I still find it odd there's not a similar public outcry over the dangers of private cars.
I'm surprised nobody has suggested that subway riders should wear helments.