Big Smoke

'cause it's hard to see from where I'm standin'

Try-Hards

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It’s gotten to the point where I can’t read articles about biking without feeling some jolt of antipathy for hipsters. And I bike.

Oh, sure, there’s a general good Bloomberg’s effected by lining street after street with bike lanes – even though I believe the bike lanes themselves are somewhat pointless and at times counter-productive – as he’s increased the profile of biking as a viable means of transit, but dear lord is there way too much attention to a certain type of biking that’s quite frankly ridiculous. What I mean to say is that, under a simply pragmatic approach, biking is great. However, biking’s been hijacked as a ‘lifestyle’ that’s hurting its image.

I speak of hipsters.

When the article lists grandstanding ideas like Vilnius’ mayor using a tank to destroy a car parked in a bike line, and compares New York to biking havens like Portland and Minneapolis, I become very cognizant of the fact that I’m reading a lifestyle treatise: A hipster manifesto. It becomes less about a means of commuting as it becomes a definition of self, and that’s quite frankly the wrong way to go. When you start fighting battles against Williamsburg Hasidim and Park Slope yuppies – two disputes that are given no end of column length on the Times and in the Voice – enough to stage demonstrations, when you don’t give that effort to the issues of jobs or education, you become, in hipster parlance, a try-hard.

For instance, this Voice article where page upon page is offered for biographical background of two hipsters who got hit by a car because they were riding erratically at night. Were they any other demographic but what they were, they would have been summarily dismissed as a statistic, but because they’re hipsters, they get to pose the question as to why the whole might of the NYPD isn’t brought to bear in bringing their hit-and-run motorist to justice.

My only response, and I can’t be the only one, is, “sorry, y’ain’t special.”

In fact, the last thing as a biker that I’d want to be is special. The more bikers make the news, the more the police crack down on bikers. The best of all possible worlds is enough bikers to make motorists remember to take them into account, but there’s a fine line between that and making motorists (and pedestrians) resentful of and hostile to bikers. This is why I hesitate to use the term ‘critical mass,’ in case I might summon the try-hards who hoot and holler and tempt the cops to knock them down, cuff and impound them, as the popular backlash just makes people hate bikers the same way they hate professional protestors.

You’re not special for biking; more attention than is prudent is already being given to you, and we are not Portland.

Thanks, But No Thanks

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I am a biker and I use the Riverside Park bike path daily.

Even I think this cute little diversion was a total misappropriation of funds.

We’re laying off teachers and closing down libraries. We’re pulling cops off the beat and taking trains off the tracks.

And we spent $15.7 million so I don’t have to take a tiny detour?

Unconscionable.

Stopping For Red Lights

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Chris Raschka is clearly a man not in a hurry to get anywhere.

Consequently: Of course cabbies like it. They’d also like if you dropped dead.

Trafficking

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A few NYC cabbies are found out to be double-charging for trips, and people go ballistic.* Don’t they know that the only people allowed to gouge the American public are bankers, government contractors and insurance providers? Meanwhile hamburgers still go for $25 in Times Square, so in reality it’s only a crime if they force locals to pay these ridiculous rates.

Consequently, imagine my surprise at just how far Bloomberg’s gotten to documenting everybody (and the NYPD have been doing so a bit more aggressively as well) when, in hailing a gypsy cab up in Washington Heights I found that, to a man, they now had little plastic cards with the NYC logo showing their licenses and a bill of rights for customers, including how very illegal it was to hail them. It didn’t stop ‘em from ferrying me around, but hey: We must keep appearances, no?

Speaking of appearances, a Mercedes ad has cropped up on the pages of Bike Snob and Streetsblog, where some guy in a Mercedes SUV enjoys a leisurely trip while losing time in a race with a frenetic bike messenger. The former scoffs at the ridiculous route the Mercedes driver took, the latter rails against how they make Manhattan bikers look like maniacs. Well, this ain’t Amsterdam, after all (though I do have special enmity against one-speeds). They both forgot the most important part of the whole exercise: Where the hell is that guy gonna park a goddamn SUV in Brooklyn Heights?

*Seriously, get over yourselves, people. An extra $4 a trip average ain’t gonna break the bank if you’re taking cabs in the first place, it’s a scam as easy to catch as watching the meter tick once, 3,000 cabbies outta an estimated 39,000 – what with the high turnover rate – is far from universal, and saying you’re “not going to tip out of spite” or how we should “revoke their green cards” is petty and racist.

Congestion

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The debate continues (and continues) on bike lanes and just who owns the road in NYC. Staten Island thinks itself a “car culture,” Chinatown thinks they add congestion and the commentators think bicycling is the only mode of transportation where people disobey the posted rules.

Now instead of going on yet another diatribe about the uselessness of bike lanes for anything other than symbolic gestures by the city to accommodate bicyclists (or the infinitely more satisfactory practice of removing a lane of motorized traffic) or pointing out that while bicyclists run red lights, ignore the bike lanes and zip up the wrong way on one-way streets, motorists frequently speed, shift lanes without signaling, block the box and do all sorts of oddball maneuvers in traffic and pedestrians jaywalk like cars don’t exist and if they did it’s their own damn fault for driving in the city… but that’s just the joy of it.

Everybody crunches down on everybody. The debate will never – ever – subside and nor should it. The fact that people are paying attention is good enough.

Friday I saw a taxi being pulled off the wrought iron barrier by a tow truck after having slammed into the 72nd St 1/2/3 subway station. A woman interviewed said she asked the cabbie, bleeding on the ground, if his brakes failed and when he answered in the affirmative she told the reporter for NY1 she thought he was lying. Tuesday I glided past a block’s worth of apoplectic motorists on Dean St to see a guy parked in the middle of the street, making progress impossible. When told to get the fuck outta the way, he replied that it was alternate side parking and it was a $200 fine to park in the bike lane: Apparently he didn’t worry about being assaulted and battered by the dozen furious motorists behind him. That’s the kind of city this is: Ain’t no law that’s gonna stop people from their opinions.

I’ve had an NYU student purposefully block my path at Lafayette and 8th to slow me down and while my frantic evasive maneuvers had shorn the chain clean off my bike both I and the hapless activist remained whole. I’ve had a suit attempt to elbow me on 51st and 6th when I buzzed his wife as she obliviously wandered into traffic to hail a cab. I’ve been thrown to the sidewalk on 194th and Broadway when a city bus crossed two lanes of traffic in a plunging angle to make a stop. I’ve glided through raging arguments between motorists that lasted as long as they were going the same direction. I’ve had cabbies with two lanes of space slow down to berate me for not being in the bike lane and I’ve had cabbies cut me off when swooping into the bike lane to deposit passengers. I’ve been waved through a red light by a cop at Columbus Circle and 59th while I was waiting and yelled at by a cop at 61st and Broadway for running a red light. I’ve had SUVs squeeze me so tightly I could elbow them both at the same time. I’m personally responsible for the loss of at least three Starbucks beverages and I’m not at all remorseful, for I have encountered pedestrians shocked – shocked! – that bike lanes are not an extension of the sidewalk. I’ve had a cabbie reach over a front seat passenger to wrestle an apology out of me for dinging his rear view mirror on 42nd and Park Ave South and I’ve had a cabbie offer me a hat while biking in the rain on 57th and Madison. I’ve had pedestrians not hesitate to pick me up and dust me off after faceplanting on Washington and 14th and I’ve had a woman in pantsuit deadpan “nice brakes” when I stopped at 42nd and 5th. She was so straight-faced I still don’t know if she was being sarcastic. I’ve had just as weird an experience walking: It’s the city!

“A Gift to Bicyclists”

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I may not know everything in the world, but I know that this is most decidedly NOT a “gift to bicyclists”, and furthermore I have lost respect for the reporter of the NYTimes who did THIS cockup:

On second thought, lets just make drivers walk their cars across Times Square.
On second thought, let’s just make drivers walk their cars across Times Square.

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