Thursday, January 16, 2014
The Indignity of Commuting By Bicycle: Freds
Cyclists love to argue about waving to each other. Some of us are quite whiny about it. "The stuck-up roadie didn't wave to me, wah, wah, wah." Whatever. Get over it. For some reason, Americans can't ride bicycles without receiving acknowledgment and encouragement at least every five minutes. We need constant validation that we bought the right thing and look the right way and that we're saving the Earth.
Hey, if you're not actually receiving the finger from somebody then that should be good enough for you.
That's not to say I won't wave to people on bikes. It's just that I mostly reserve it for cases when I see someone on a bike and think, "Wow, we need more of you!" People on road bikes do not fit this criterion. I know this because very often I am one, and when I am on my road bike I am contributing absolutely nothing of value to the world. Rather, I am merely engaged in self-serving recreation, and at best it is the equivalent of publicly wanking. Do you wave to the pervert masturbating on the subway? No you do not. So why wave to the Fred trying to set a good time on a Strava segment? Moreover, there is no shortage of Freds in any city in America, and if anything we're just Rollerbladers with more expensive equipment.
But you can be sure I'll wave to a Hasidic kid riding a Citi Bike:
Especially because he's probably disregarding the stupid 16 year-old age limit.
Hey, if he's had his Bar Mitzvah then that should be good enough for the criminals at Citibank.
Not only that, but it makes me happy to see kids riding bicycles, especially when they're from communities that are (rightly or wrongly) sometimes associated with being "anti-bike." A Hasid on a Citi Bike is a somewhat unexpected sight (though probably getting more and more common), and that also compels me to wave--though "unusual" is not always reason enough in itself, since this is somewhat unusual too:
Yet I didn't wave. Instead, I gawked, and felt a mixture of amusement and suspicion. It's moments like these when I realize people are merely animals, and we're no different from the dog barking at the person walking with a limp. We react very strongly to things that are a little "off." It's sort of familiar--the pedals, the clothing, the helment--yet there's only one wheel, and that makes us uncomfortable. It gets the hackles up. I don't know whether to bark at it or sniff at it to make sure it's okay.
Anyway, as I rolled up to sniff the unicyclist's butt, I noticed he had what looked like a number pinned to his CamelBak:
As he was the only unicyclist in sight, the number and the hydration pack led me to wonder if he was either winning or losing an "epic" transcontinental unicycle race by a huge margin. However, I didn't ask him, because people who ride human-powered vehicles with only one wheel are scary and freakish to me.
Anyway, I spotted both of these people yesterday while on a commute that took me through four out of the five boroughs of New York City (Staten Island being the only one spared the kiss of my tires), and here are some observations in no particular order:
--Five years ago Rapha was the clothing of choice for the well-heeled and discerning roadie. Now, you mostly see it on the sorts of people who, five years ago, would have been wearing Primal or Discovery Channel jerseys.
--Doughy bankers with copies of the Financial Times tucked under their arms continue to fling open the doors of yellow cabs with considerable abandon.
--Paradoxically, the best places in the city to ride a bicycle often have the least bicycle infrastructure.
--If you didn't know better you'd think the bike lanes of New York City were equipped with free wi-fi, because pedestrians love standing in the middle of them while staring at their smartphones.
--Roadies doing laps in Central Park in the middle of the day will yell at children on bicycles to get out of the way, so if you're looking for someone to blame for all those Central Park ticket blitzes, why not have a word with the CRCA?
--The Williamsburg waterfront has morphed into a strange hybrid of Jersey City and Miami Beach that seems completely disintegrated from the fabric of the rest of the city.
--Brooklyn has reached "peak beard" and they're about to go suddenly and violently out of style, since far too many people now look like this.
--The Harlem River needs better bike crossings and it will be great when they finish this--except that it will attract the sorts of people who ride bicycles, many of whom are annoying and look like this.
--The 59th Street Bridge is the least pretentious East River crossing.
--New York City used to be a true freakshow. Now everybody just looks like this.
In other news of New York City, I was very pleased that Mayor Bill de Blasio finally began to implement "Vision Zero" yesterday:
De Blasio also announced more immediate steps. School-zone speed cameras, which have been issuing warnings since they were installed in September, will begin issuing tickets tomorrow, the mayor said, and the police will begin prioritizing enforcement of the most dangerous infractions: Speeding and failure to yield to pedestrians. In addition, NYPD will be increasing the size of its highway division — which investigates crashes and performs much of the department’s traffic enforcement — to 270 officers, an increase of 50 percent; already, the unit has increased its staff size by 10 percent, up from 170 officers.
We'll see what actually happens, but the fact that a mayor is even saying some of this stuff is unprecedented, so that's promising. Hopefully he'll deal with the scourge of reckless bicyclists, too.
Sorry, did I say "bicyclists?" That's just a reflex, since we've been led to believe over the past few years that bicycles are the biggest menace to public safety in New York. Incidentally, this took place right down the street from the police station, and if you're wondering why they're not doing anything, it's because these riders probably are the police.
Also, the police are supposed to avoid high-speed chases:
Department policy requires that a vehicle pursuit be terminated whenever the risks to uniformed members of the service and the public outweigh the danger to the community if [the] suspect is not immediately apprehended.
That's why it's much easier to harass cyclists, since a cyclist fleeing at top speed is still far less dangerous than the opening door of a parked car.
Lastly, in entertainment news, Dustin Hoffman is going to be in the Lance Armstrong movie?
My guess is either Eddy Merckx, Michele Ferrari, or else he'll simply reprise his role as "Ratso" Rizzo corrupting the young Joe Buck.