Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Indignity of Commuting by Bicycle: Out of Step

If you travel regularly by bicycle, you may have noticed that the way others behave towards you can seem cyclical. Sometimes, you're in a positive cycle, during which other cyclist wave at you, motorists afford you the respect you deserve, and riding a bicycle seems like just about the best way to get around since the "riding ostrich." Other times, you're in a negative cycle, in which every cyclist you encounter is a salmon barreling right at you, motorists revile you and buzz you, and you fantasize about moving out to the country and starting a riding ostrich farm.

Of course, it's not always easy to tell whether the world is in fact conspiring against you, or you're projecting your own foul mood onto your surroundings, or it's simply a little bit of both. Regardless, I couldn't help feeling as though I'd entered a negative cycle yesterday when I set out to ride into the "big city" in order to take care of some "business." The first indication was when I encountered a double-parked truck or van of some kind.

When you ride (or drive) in New York City, double-parked cars, trucks, and vans are simply a fact of life. They pick up and disgorge passengers, they transport bedbug-ridden furniture, and increasingly they deliver gourmet groceries to people who can't be bothered to go to the supermarket. In any case, as inconvenient as they can be, you'd think circumventing them would be a relatively straightforward proposition for all involved. Let's say, for example, you're a douchey bike blogger, there's a double-parked car in front of you, and there's another car that's well behind you:

Now, you can't pass it on the right because there's not enough room and/or there's a bedbug-ridden sofa coming out of it. Therefore, logic would dictate that you instead pass it on the left:

Then, the driver of the car that's quite a ways behind you also passes it on the left:

What could be simpler?

Well, unfortunately, that's not how it works here in practice. Instead, what actually happens is that you pass the car, but the driver who's a little ways behind you is disgusted by the double-parked car, the douchebag on the bicycle, and, most of all, himself for reasons that probably go far beyond simple traffic inconveniences and instead involve things like sexual dysfunction and health problems due to an exceedingly poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle. So, the driver beeps at you and yells at you from behind his closed window for reasons you don't quite understand, but which you assume have to do with the fact that he wanted to mash on his pedal and pass everybody and everything in one burst of horsepower. Also, he does so in the middle of the cellphone conversation he's having, which is prohibited by New York State law.

So now you're simultaneously riled and depressed after having been yelled at by a fellow human being for no good reason. Fortunately, though, the new bi-directional lime green bike lanes of the Great Hipster Silk Route are near, and you look forward to finding solace in them. Unfortunately, as you enter the new bi-directional lime green bike lane, the stocky fellow in the Aqua & Sapone jersey who doesn't realize it's bi-directional and is riding towards you right in the middle of it curses you out in a language you don't understand.

Now, I can understand his confusion, since these lanes are pretty new and if you've been riding in the city for a long time you're sometimes tempted to continue following the old patterns that are imprinted in your brain. I'm sure that was the case with him, and that I was in effect "salmoning" through his vestigial memory banks. Still, at a certain point you've got to read the writing on the wall (or in this case the little pictures of bikes and arrows painted on the street) and adjust. The truth is, you can't keep living in the past--and believe me, I've tried, but they just don't build ziggurats the way they used to.

Then again, since I didn't understand his language maybe he wasn't cursing at me at all. Maybe he was just apologizing really vehemently. Or, maybe he had materialized through a wormhole from the pre-bike lane days, which would explain the Aqua & Sapone jersey.

Anyway, it was getting to be one of those days where you feel like the world is rejecting you like a cirrhosis patient rejecting a donor liver. I wondered if it was indeed I who was "out of step," as Ian MacKaye used to shout from between his Pantani-eque ears, and if I should instead just move to some sort of slow-moving rural backwater like Portland, Oregon. Then I mounted the Williamsburg Bridge, where I started to think more positively and told myself, "At least I'm not riding a skateboard," since they seem to be getting the worst of it:


Incidentally, it's worth noting that the skater figure is sort of "scissoring" the pedestrian.

Meanwhile, I was correspondencing with my newleywed blogleague Stevil Kinevil, the esteemed operator of the "All Hail The Black Market" Internet destination and family fun factory, and he shared with me the following video starring respected framebuilder Dario Pegoretti:



In it, he talks a lot about how steel smells:

Having already seen the preview for this film, I'm pleased to report that the finished product should more than meet your expectations (assuming your expectations involve poetic descriptions about how metal smells). I can also say that this film has had a profound affect on me. You see, I've never owned a custom bicycle. This isn't because I don't want one--far from it. Like any cyclist I would love to own a bicycle made just for me by a highly skilled craftsperson. Furthermore, I always thought that, one day, when I had the time and the means, I would treat myself to a handmade bicycle that I could ride and enjoy for years to come.

Until today.

In my custom bike fantasy, I imagined that getting my custom bike would be a moment of joy, perhaps even a rite of passage in my cycling life--sort of like a Bar Mitzvah mixed with winning an Emmy. Now though I realize what will happen is that a wine-soused Italian man will grab me by my neck and force my face into a stack of frame tubing and command me to "Smell, smell!," and when I cannot adequately articulate why the scent is exquisite (because I have a cold perhaps, or because I just don't understand what he's talking about) he'll whack me on the shin with a downtube and then put his cigarette out in my eye. It's obvious to me now that I am indeed a total "pussy" and thus not cut out for custom bike ownership, and that a life of Scattante palpage is my cruel and pathetic fate.

I guess I'll have to settle for an adult Bar Mitzvah, or else hope that my treatment for "The Dario Pegoretti Show" gets picked up and the series receives an Emmy nod.


While I'm glad to see she's riding, I must admit I liked it better when she was on "Sesame Street" in the infamous "My First Erection" episode:

("My eyes are up here, Elmo.")

I do think it's a shame Katy Perry can't ride a bike in New York City without being harassed by the press; if that weren't the case then maybe more celebrities could ride instead of being chauffeured around in huge SUVs. Meanwhile, in the most cruel bit of irony, while Perry attempts to escape the paparazzi, actor and aspiring cycling advocate Matthew Modine is across the street shouting "I'm over here!" and doing some "portaging" of his own:


We know you are, Matthew. We know.

89 comments:

Rick Donkey said...

Get back on the bicicleta soon Dr. Milo

Anonymous said...

Love your work snob.

RANTWICK said...

c'mon, c'mon!

Anonymous said...

BINYA

Anonymous said...

podium????????

Brad said...

ja ja ja

Anonymous said...

eeltop5!

Anonymous said...

fawk!

samh said...

I really, really dislike feeling "...riled and depressed after having been yelled at by a fellow human being for no good reason."

Megan said...

Podium?!

Somewhere in the Desert said...

Ambling in at the top ten

Anonymous said...

RE: Other idiots on the road... Smile, wave warmly, while muttering under your breath God Bless You & Eat Shit & DIe. Do not give them the satisfaction of knowing they are making you upset.

RANTWICK said...

I hear you Snob. Why is it that people seem to get all pissy all at once?

I'm in the middle of an excellent "bike commuting is the best" phase right now. Please just keep taking that abuse for me, ya Pussy.

Anonymous said...

Dang, read the whole thing, looked at the links, got to the bottom and saw 0 comments.

acquiesce808 said...

...six or eight thousand years ago, they laid down the law! Mesopotamia, that's where i wanna go...

hillbilly said...

grrrrr

cyclotourist said...

KATY ELMO

EYES HERE

HATE ELMO

Max said...

There's nothing like a quickie at lunch, is there? I'm had to change clothes I'm so sweaty and stained.

And by quickie I mean, of course, a short and impromptu bike ride on some old cyclocross tracks in the park.

RANTWICK said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Esteemed Commenter DaddoOne said...

"Feed a Scattante Palpage, starve a Triathlete", I always say. Or is it the other way around?

Had one of my all time FAVORITE commutes to work this morning! - hope it gets better for YOU, Snob.

Also, looking for soem action based on the "business you were attending"

Finally, love the TIOCBB columns!

RANTWICK said...

I feel bad now. That's what I get for trying to be funny. Instant guilt.

I "need a cold shower" engine said...

Now let's not abuse Katy Perry.
She is not your average "beautiful godzilla?"

If she did not want your or the photo inclined attention, she would not show up on a children's show with one of the most amazing outfits of the last decade, or go bike "riding" with
"pants / clothing" obviously "sprayed on" with great diligence.

We must promote and praise this, not complain.

PawnShop said...

I was prepared - nay, rather stoked - to engage in an impassioned, lengthy, boring, & frothing-at-the-mouth rant on the futility of living without an appreciation for the smell of steel ( especially tortured steel ), when:

"My eyes are up here, Elmo."

Thank you Katy Perry, and thank you Snobbie; I'll go about the rest of my day in relative tranquility.

Anonymous said...

Ty's Chimera sez;

In A Gada Da Vida there is NO drafting allowed.

Just saying.

tittkorv said...

almost top 20.

Astroluc said...

I so coulda been first... but I read the post before commenting :P

and after perusing the site w/ more Katy Perry pics, I have one question... why does it look like she's "mic'd up" as she is being helped to move her bike inside?

VAPD BMBO

Anonymous said...

http://www.nydailynews.com/gossip/2010/11/11/2010-11-11_the_bold_and_the_beautiful_katy_perry_rocks_bright_funky_dresses_at_victorias_se.html

3G said...

HOTN COLD

Anonymous said...

The two-way hipster silk road is nice and all, until you're passed by a work van GOING THE WRONG WAY in the bike line (salmon van?), as I encountered one Sunday morning. I have photos. The cops didn't give a shit. I don't know how long they were behind me either, makes me wonder if they had considered running me over.

On a related note, when will everyone on foot realize that the Northernmost lanes of the Williamsburg Bridge are now for bikes only, while the Southern lanes are for pedestrians? The 2 other downtown bridges are the same way - if you set your foot over the line on the Brooklyn bridge, a bombing biker will help you part with it. Not true on the Willy-b. Yet.

tgs said...

The Minor Threat video led me to spend 45 minutes on youtube watching Fugazi videos.

TIME SUCK

Test Tickle said...

STRT EDGE

balls.

ringcycles said...

"I can't keep up,
I can't keep up,
I can't keep up...."

Ah, memories....

Anonymous said...

How long is your camera tripod and how did you know you were still in focus?

recumbent conspiracy theorist said...

What would we ever do without Urban Dictionary?

Drove to work today. Rode yesterday though, it was nice.

acquiesce808 said...

@ recumbent conspiracy theorist @2:06.
Amen to that!
i'm still looking on there for a definition for "tokyo sandblaster"

acquiesce808 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YHROHJlU_Ng

I want to play, ride a bike

Anonymous said...

I like the smell of high voc paint much better than steel.

Anonymous said...

non-poetic descriptions about how metal smells:
http://www.nature.com/news/2006/061023/full/news061023-7.html

Anonymous said...

had to look up Sapone, thanks

leroy said...

BSNYC -- some advice: if a man looks for ugly, he's going to find it.

In these trying situations, ask yourself "WWMMD." What Would Michael Moore Do? (Assuming, of course, the situation does not involve an all you can eat burrito buffet and subsequent work near an open flame.)

As for me, my failure to make today's podium is tempered by the knowledge that my undoing is no fault of my own. The ostrich I was riding decided to draft a Sabrett's Hot Dog Cart without even so much as a "by-your-leave.".

Again, another exception to the otherwise useful WWMMD mantra.

Cheer up. Things will probably get worse anyway.

Anonymous said...

When it comes to commuting by bike, nothing sums it up better than the immortal quote from The Big Lebowski:

"Sometimes you eat the bar, and sometimes the bar, well, he eats you."

Paul Bowen said...

Know how you feel. The other night I waited patiently for my green at the newly refreshed junction of Norwood Road and Dulwich Road at Herne Hill. As I set off a cyclist who can only have run the red brakes and swerves around me and shouts "Oh, well done - you cock." So I said "It's my green mate!" and he says "FUCK YOU". Half way up Croxted it occurred to me that the perfect resoponse would have been "Like your Mum did."

grog said...

Aced the commuter quiz!
Bikes not allowed on the Del Mem Bridge, nor the Jersey Turnpike.
Commuter Loser.

martychewsthebigunit said...

CALL MRTY

303-572-4846

Somewhere in the Desert said...

Rantwick:
Ya must be a Cath-o-lic. We're gulity about everything.

bikesgonewild said...

...if you don't like getting your nose rubbed in the "steel is real - smell this" platitude projected by obsessive wine soaked italian frame builders, bsnyc/rtms, you might just consider the brand that 9 out of 10 dentists prefer...

...steel, carbon, titanium or variations thereof, take your pick...service with a smile & they can even paint it to look like an ostrich or a salmon, as needs be...

...just sayin'...

Anonymous said...

What a coincidence!

Normally my commute home would be subject to exactly the cycle you're describing.

But yesterday I fell down the YouTube linkhole and ended up spending the last hour at work firing up Adolescents, really really loud. It put me in a state of mind for the ride home in a way I haven't been for a good long time, Not only did I feel like I was the one doing the pushing, but my mood was impervious to the Wheel of Commuter Samsara.

So I'm gonna consume all of Mommy's Little Monster today, and I'm guessing my mood's gonna be just fucking spectacular and armor-plated besides.

Anonymous said...

And people say TV isn't educational. Little boys have to learn to wank some time. Speaking of which. . . .

Pontius Pilate said...

HAIL CSZR

-P.P.

Anonymous said...

from Harry's blog: "On one hand, to ride without worrying about cars is wonderful. It puts the fun back in 'cycling', and makes it easier for people to become commuters. Riding becomes not just for those crazies that like to mix it up with traffic." where's the flint....

Anonymous said...

Quicksquirt would hit it

cwg said...

What a view! Let me tell you, Katy Perry's wheel is one wheel I'd never let go of -like a Schleck following Voigt at the tour.

Is it just me? Or did she put her kryptonite in the most awkward spot possible? Hello sore knees! You just know she didnt do it herself, so it must have been some douchy bike shop she was at.

Anonymous said...

i prefer yesterday´s, em, cheeks

mikeweb said...

Today I commuted to Central Park and did three laps then commuted back home.

RANTWICK said...

@Somewhere in the desert, 3:00 PM. Right.You.Are!

Anonymous said...

For me, the up and down often occur in the same ride. For example, on Monday, as I approached an intersection, a pickup truck swerved around my left side, cut in front of me, and then ended up turning right at the intersection. This annoyed the crap out of me for about 2 sec, until the guy in the car behind me said through his open window "Wow, that was ign'ant of 'em", thus restoring my faith in humanity.

crosspalms said...

anon 4:04
Same here. A couple months ago I got caught in a downpour on my ride home. Was wiping my eyes at a red light and a guy in a pickup rolled down his window and handed me a wad of paper napkins.

Esteemed Commenter DaddoOne said...

me too ...

a few days ago a guy ran a red light in front of me, then cut off a cyclist ahead of me in order to get a parking spot. the poor girl had short stop and "Schluff" around the car. this was all a 1/4 block ahead of me. the girl rode off but as i came to the car, the guy got out and I stopped and said "you know, asshole, you drive like a terrorist" he told me to get off the bike and say it to his face. So set my fop chariot (rainy day raleigh three speed) on its kickstand and, wearing my rain pants like a true badass, walked right up the guy and said "douchebag, you ran a light and then rudely and dangerously cut in front of that girl to get your good parking space, you. drive. like. a. terrorist." and he said, "YEAH I KNOW I WAS WRONG WITH WHAT I DID, ASSHOLE!!" and I said, "good, are you sorry?" and he said, "YEAH, I'M SORRY JERKOFF!!" and, my faith in humanity restored, I remounted my dorkcycle and rode on.

bikesgonewild said...

...esteemed commenter daddoone...

...what, no "THANKS FOR HELPING ME GET OVER MY ISSUES, MOTHERFUCKER !!!"...

...guy was practically rude to you...

Gunny Hartman said...

I'd call you a whiny liberal pussy but I'm pretty sure that you're a libertarian.

Quicksquirt McHurt said...

With a sledgehammer. Doggy style so by the time I was done she'd be chasing bicycles and barking at them.

Anonymous said...

One pedal stroke on my real steel homemade frame ahead of the SAG wagon. Itsa gonna bea closea...

Katy said...

Woof, Woof!!

Anonymous said...

Ty's Chimera sez;

I'm in upstate (Deliverence with Snow Tires). Tomorrow, Friday will be a beautiful riding day. So her is a note that will get you out of work Friday ...


____________________(Your name here) IS TE WELL TO BE AT WORK TODAY. THANK YOU. SEE YOU ALL MONDAY.

TYLER HAMILTONS CHIMERA

Anonymous said...

Ty's Chimers sez:

Bruyneel has a four legged rider under contract. He's from Chernobyl. More on this at a later time and date.

PS - TE = TO

Just pegged the SRM on me Dura-Ace power bong.

dave said...

If one got upset enough to leave the country to start a riding ostrich farm, that would be a fowl mood indeed.

Thanks folks, I'll be here all week.

PawnShop said...

Cesium-137 doping?
Purity Of Essence.
Precious Bodily Fluids.
Meh.

Grump said...

In your video, it looks like Dario is smoking a "skinny" cigarette. I wonder if that's the reason that he talking about smelling steel tubes. It could also be the reason that I can't understand anything he (and his friends) are saying. To make scnse of anything that he is trying to talk about, I have to try to read those "word things" at the bottom of the video.

Anonymous said...

I bet Katys bike is from metro bikes.

Vegas said...

I find that when affronted by angry drivers that blowing kisses at them makes me feel great while at the same time pushing them off the deck of infuriation into the pool of boiling rage.

Oh, and I definitely recommend motorboating Katy Perry or any number of my namesake city's "dancers" instead of steel tubes.

Lastly, anon beat him to the punch but Mr. McHurt delivers a scathing reply. Well done.

jerk said...

listen up bub-
you say some funny shit from time to time
but it really says something to me that you've never
owned a custom bike. people like you who make this
online image of yourself as an oracle of style
and substance better have the fucking chops to
back it up. some fat 40 + year old bike virgin with
a Trek and an iPad to post online doesn't have the right to
call himself a snob. sorry man your shark has jumped. go write a feel good book about something stupid. oh wait, you already did.

"Guppy" Honaker said...

Hey "Bike Snob!" I would love to take my bike everywhere - including work. Our hot Phoenix summers though, would make that impossible unless each destination had its own showers and fresh change of clothing. But now, here in our beautiful desert, is ideal biking weather.

- David

Top 10 Aloe Vera Juice Benefits
Holistic Nutrition and Health

Larry and Heather said...

Grazie for posting the Pegoretti clip Snobby! We saw it when it first came out and thought it gone forever unless one wanted to pony up the loot to buy it from Rapha. About those who don't "get it" we can only say they're probably folks who think they serve Italian food at the Olive Garden!

Anonymous said...

Jerk - there is medication for your problem. See a quality health care professional. We all bike in our own way. Some ride a 10 mile ride on a trail once a week, others a century. Some on Huffys, others on custom bikes. Like Snob, I can't afford custom. I guess that makes me a bad person.

cycle

Rupert said...

I have a range of reactions for people (drivers mainly) who piss me off; 1)Pissed (scared, but still have enough composure to signal), give 1 finger salute, 2)Pissed but more composed, give peace sign (probably way more effective in pissing them off), 3) truly scared, no reaction at all (rare). 1 and 2 are sometimes followed by a sprint in hopes co catching them at a traffic light and doing something truly rash. 1 is the mandatory reaction to drivers who pass other cars in MY lane, as if a bike (me) does not qualify as "oncioming traffic." Again, I am truly glad not to ride (much) in an urban setting...

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IzzyBio said...

Katy Perry's bicycle is a soho s trek. I own one.

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Fixie Bikes said...

Would that blogger happen to be THE SNOB?!