Obviously as a semi-professional bike blogger and noted book author of books I am a highly-accomplished cyclist with a deep well of experience and wisdom from which to draw. However, when it comes to bike (and pedestrian) advocacy I'm not even a Cat 6; I'm more like a Cat 30. I'm also a relative "noob." After all, when I started this blog I was terminal Fred who thought people like David Byrne (who does not own a car) were cloyingly smug and off-puttingly self-important. Now I still find this to be the case, but I like to think I've developed a brand of cloying smugness and off-putting self-importance that is uniquely my own.
Anyway, despite the moisture behind my ears I felt compelled to join the ride. However, I couldn't leave my seventeen (17) children behind until my co-parent got home from work, by which point the smugness train would have long since departed. I also couldn't do the ride with my children, since I live in the far reaches of the northern Bronx, and I'm not riding a child-laden WorkCycles like an hour and a half each way in the dark. Most importantly, I couldn't leave the neighborhood with the kids until my eldest child was finished with school--and no way I was taking him out early, because he's in first grade, and if he doesn't do well now he won't get into a good college, and in 20 years he'll still be living at home and I'll be buying weed from him.
Then it hit me like a fucked-up Altima with Pennsylvania plates: I'll choose my two (2) most favorite children and we'll take the subway! Sure, we wouldn't get to to the actual ride, but at least we'd be there for the roll-out to show our support, for what tiny bit it was worth.
So that's what we did.
Hey, someone's gotta represent the pedestrians.
By the way, I should point out that attending protests with my offspring is not without precedent. Remember way back in September of 2011 when I visited the Occupy Wall Street protest?
Of course you don't.
Nevertheless, what I didn't mention in that post is that I visited on my (erstwhile) Big Dummy with my (at that time only) child strapped into the kiddie seat. At the time he was around one and a half years of age. Now his brother is about that age, so exposing him to a massive smugness gathering seemed only fitting.
Anyway, here was the scene at 59th and 5th when we emerged from the subway:
And here are some Plaza Hotel guests wondering what the hell is going on with all these bikers and why they didn't go to Bermuda instead:
Now at first glance you might think that all these protesters are appropriating public space in the name of safe streets in a manner that, paradoxically, makes the streets less safe for the pedestrians attempting to make their way through:
This was not the case. Even though I had two children in tow and was pushing a stroller like the worst kind of sidewalk-commandeering Park Slope parent, everybody made sure to clear a path and afford me easy and safe passage:
Of course, this could be for any one of three (3) reasons:
1) They're simply kind and considerate people who care about pedestrian safety;
2) They were under strict orders from their smugness overlords at Transportation Alternatives not to anger all the tourists and billionaires;
3) They recognized me as an important personage and were affording me VIP treatment.
Who knows, but you can be goddamn sure it wasn't #3.
By the time we arrived the speechmaking was in full swing and Paul "Steezy" White of Transportation Alternatives was addressing the crowd:
Participants had been instructed to wear yellow, a directive with which some complied by wearing golden neckerchiefs:
Though this particular rider also accessorized with what appears to be a USB cable:
Hey, it's a lot cooler than a LiveStrong bracelet.
Speaking of sartorial choices, the ride was a veritable runway show for the fashion style I like to call "advocacy chic." Of course there were the usual unfastened helmet straps and gear from other protest rides:
(I'll bet this was a banner day for the Soupman, nothing goes together like soup n' smugness!)
Though designers also used the opportunity to debut new looks. For example, here's the dope new #crashnotaccident collabo:
And some of the designs were really edgy:
"How dare you?," I shouted. "Don't you know my child can read above his grade level?!?" (New York parents always work a boast into their outrage.) I then covered my kid's eyes with a yellow neckerchief, threw a poncho over the rider to obscure his shirt's slogan, and tackled him to the sidewalk.
Just kidding. We took the subway down, remember? I can assure you he heard "mother fucker" and other similarly offensive phrases at least once every 15 seconds on the way there--and some of them weren't even uttered by me.
And by the way, my own outfit was also the very pinnacle of "advocacy chic," and here's the shirt I was wearing:
Indeed, one of the riders complimented me on it and informed me he too was from Cleveland. Horrified, I explained that I wasn't. Then I thrust into his face a copy of the birth certificate I carry to thwart the birthers.
We continued to make our way through the crowd:
And all the way to the fountain from which the speakers were speaking, though by the time we got there the speakers had pretty much finished:
And before long the riders funneled onto 5th Avenue in the midst of the evening rush hour:
Grabbing my elder son by the shoulders, I ordered "Don't let anyone steal your brother!" Then I climbed the base of a lamp post:
(Show me a parent who can take a kid into Manhattan on the subway without losing his shoes and I'll show you someone who's using Krazy Glue.)
And watched the riders make their way downtown:
It was an impressive showing, and without a hint of irony or smugness I can say that I felt proud:
Once the last of the riders departed the skullbusters followed behind:
And with that the city swallowed them up.
But for a little bit of residual honking you'd never know they had just been there--unless you were the Soupman of course, who promptly took over the bus lane to retrieve his cart and count his earnings:
At this point the sun was setting, so we headed into Central Park to stretch our legs before the return trip:
At twilight the rats become active, and the park was teeming with them. So we chose a fitting vantage point from which to watch them forage and frolic:
It wasn't too long ago that you didn't want to find yourself in Central Park after dark lest you fall victim to a crime, but now you've got to get out before the LARPing begins:
In all, it was a successful and inspiring evening, but it was also an exhausting one, and it felt good to get back to the Bronx and set the parenting switch to the "Off" position:
Now to find that lightsaber and show those LARPers a thing or two...