The life of a semi-professional bike blogger and author is one of unrelenting challenges and overwhelming responsibilities. For example, early Saturday morning while the rest of you were still sleeping, I was riding a bicycle down to 33rd Street in Manhattan in order to catch a PATH train to Hoboken (that's Sinatra Jersey, not Springsteen Jersey) so I could hang out at an independent bookstore:
It was chilly and misty morning, and as I was somewhat behind schedule I opted to follow Broadway for its length rather than take the more pleasant but less direct greenways flanking the island.
Making my way through Upper Manhattan I watched an NYPD Traffic Enforcement Agent turn on his flashers, drive right through a red light, and then turn them off again. He repeated this process at subsequent intersections, prompting me to wonder to what sort of parking-related emergency situation he was responding. Was someone parked too close to a fire hydrant? Were they blocking a street sweeper? Certainly both these scenarios merit risking public safety and disregarding traffic signals in a motor vehicle. I also wondered why he was bothering to run the lights at all, since I was more or less keeping pace with him on a bicycle and the light-running didn't seem to be netting him too much time.
After a few blocks, the traffic agent was forced to apply the hated brake pedal due to a double-parked car in his path. I wasn't far behind him, and so I went around him, which is what I generally do when someone stops their car in my path. (I prefer it to riding right into the trunk and going through the rear windshield.) The indignity of being passed by a bicyclist clearly caused the traffic agent considerable chagrin, because a block later he passed me at an uncomfortable distance (despite the entire roadway being clear) and then glowered at me in his rear-view mirror:
Here he is turning onto the cross-street after overtaking me:
At first blush I was tempted to laugh at this deeply petty behavior. After all, he's a fucking meter maid:
What's he going to do, ticket me for parking my Surly in a No Standing zone? And even if he wanted to do that, where's he going to put the ticket? Parking agents are basically powerless against any form of transportation that doesn't have windshield wipers.
But the more I thought about it the angrier I got. You have to have serious psychological problems to make a threatening gesture like that, even if the threat is somewhat mitigated by the fact you're essentially a de-clawed police officer driving a Prius. It's doubly disturbing when you consider how pervasive this sort of behavior is in New York City, from cops hitting cyclists and lying about it, to wannabe cops trying to intimidate them with their glorified golf carts.
That's why nearly two years later I'm still angry about this:
New York City earned the top spot in the ranking of 50 cities, beating out established cycling meccas like Portland, Ore. The rankings are based on an algorithm that takes into account factors including miles of bike lanes and civic spending. New York now has hundreds of miles of bike lanes, a robust membership in the Citibike bike-sharing program, as well as Velodrome in Kissena Park, Queens, all of which contributed to the decision to anoint New York.
Unfortunately there's one thing the algorithm didn't take into account, and that's Common Fucking Sense.
Anyway, presumably the meter man spent the rest of the morning driving through red lights and driving his stupid Prius too close to people because that's all he has in life, and I continued on to Midtown, where I boarded this strange subway train:
Hoboken is a mere ten minute train ride from the West Village, yet it feels like a completely different city...you know, because it is. Not only do they have some kind of exotic bike share system:
But they also have actual bike parking next to their train stations:
Pretty much the only place they have bike parking near train stations in New York is the Bedford Avenue L train stop in Williamsburg, but that doesn't count as New York.
After marveling at all this exotica, I continued on to Little City Books:
A delightful shop that is celebrating its first birthday:
And that has impeccable taste in literature:
It may not surprise you to learn that massive numbers of cyclists do not turn out to ride with semi-professional bike bloggers on cold Saturday mornings in Hoboken. Nevertheless, an intimate group of us did ride to Jersey City, where we gazed at its corporate street art:
And basked in its trikes and muscle cars:
And finally arrived at Liberty State Park:
Which New Jersey Governor Chris Christie apparently wants to privatize and turn into a giant SONIC ® Drive-In or something:
Even under a pall of foul weather the view from Liberty State Park was inspiring, and we even got to see the boats that would be competing in the America's Cup race later that day:
If I were more of a Boat Fred I'd no doubt have stuck around and watched whatever the sailing equivalent of a roll-out is and ringing whatever the nautical equivalent of a cowbell is (a buoy perhaps?), but instead we continued back to Little City Books where I delighted a select group of intellectuals with a hand-curated PowerPoint presentation:
Thanks to Little City and Von Hof Cycles for having me, and it's profoundly comforting to know you're always a MetroCard swipe away.
Meanwhile, at the Tour of the Gila, this happened:
Looks like someone moved the decimal place on his Q-factor about a hundred places to the left.
Adam Bryfogle (Landis/Trek Team) knew there was something wrong with his bike when he couldn't shift into the big ring - a big disadvantage in a criterium where a strong tailwind was blowing through the start/finish straight. Spinning along at about 130rpm on the front stretch, then bumping along the back section of the rectangular course, the bottom bracket worked its way free, finally exploding into pieces onto the pavement with two laps to go.
This is probably a good time to remind you to make sure you snug up those pinch bolts after installing your bottom bracket motor:
Lastly, when it comes to luxury housing in New York City, bike amenities are the new bidet:
Bike rooms in buildings coming to market now are being tricked out with compression air pumps, of the sort found in bike shops and gas stations, and work stands to which one can clamp a bike while oiling a chain or fixing a flat. Tools are often on hand, and sometimes there’s a hose for washing bikes down after a muddy ride.
I'd say that having an air compressor is great for riders who need to mount their tubeless tires, but I suspect the number of people living in such buildings who would actually attempt to do so themselves is virtually nil.
Still, if you're contemplating paying over $1 million for a one-bedroom apartment, a free fixie with a backwards seatpost may very well be the deciding factor:
At the new luxury condo Nine52 on West 52nd Street, the first 25 buyers will receive a complimentary single-speed Joulvert bicycle.
Sorry, I take it back. New York City really is the best bike city in America.