Bike snobbery

I generally resist ever blogging about my bike-riding adventures mostly because Bike Snob NYC exists and he says everything I think about while riding my bike so much better than I ever could.

The secret of that blog is that its author is not really a snob at all.  He is just a guy who rides his bike, like many of us do (esp. those of us who live far away from any subway, esp since the last subway fare increase).   He wants cars and bikes and pedestrians to coexist in happiness and safety.  He is not a hysterical activist or a fixed-gear obsessive or a summer-cruising dilettante.  Also, he’s funny.  Whenever I have a bad day on Brooklyn’s potholed, suicidal-pedestrian-filled sidestreets, I turn to his blog for wry, knowing reassurance and often find it.

This recent post is a good example of how BS sees riding a bike as a good way of getting in touch with our worst impulses, over(ahem)riding them, and thereby becoming better at coexisting with our fellow men — even though we might still occasionally give in to the impulse to shame them with a snapshot taken while they idled in a bike lane:

“As anybody who lives in a big city knows, there are times when space-commadeering is acceptable, and there are times when it is unacceptable. There are no hard and fast rules, but like porn, you know unacceptability when you see it. For example, in the subway scenario, a shoulder brush is sometimes unavoidable but a crotch-fondle is never warranted. Similarly, a car entering the bike lane to get around a garbage truck or to parallel park might be the equivalent of a shoulder brush. But sitting in an expensive car and having a cellphone conversation in the middle of a bike lane during the evening rush is just a full-on ball grab.”

Bike snob also taught me to use the term “bike salmon” to describe the jerks who ride the wrong way in the bike lane.  I somehow encountered so, so many of them — among other irritatating things — today, as I made the hop-skip-and-jump trek across a slice of Brooklyn that stretches between my apartment in Clinton Hill and my optometrist in Brooklyn Heights.  This is a terrible ride; there is no possible direct route that doesn’t involve going at least a few blocks on either Fulton Mall or one of its downtown Brooklyn close cousins.  These streets are some video game shit.  A child or someone pushing a child in a stroller (my absolute favorite) is always darting out into your path against the light or in the middle of a block nowhere near an intersection.  Buses and those handicapped-transit vans are constantly trying to run you off the road or run you over.   Then you think you have reached an area of respite because there is a greenway on Clinton Street, but obviously it is full of double-parked SUVs and Fresh Direct vans.   By the time I got to the Cohen’s Fashion Optical on Montague I was so full of near-death adrenaline and rage that I was barely even cold.  I was also warm because I had worn my most disfiguring cold-weather gear, which made it all the more surprising when, as I was strapping it all back on again post-checkup, an old-school Brooklyn macher from old-school Brooklyn macher central — slightly shiny suit, puffy, freshly-cut-looking hair, sunglasses, gleaming loafers –  started hitting on me in the unaggressive, benign way that I actually enjoy.

“You’ve gotta be freezing out here today!”

“Yeah my rule is I won’t ride my bike if it’s under 25,” I told him as I pulled a second pair of gloves on over my first pair.

“I have a rule like that about golf. I don’t play unless it’s over 50 degrees.”

“That’s pretty badass,” I said.

We bantered a little bit more before wishing each other good day and going our separate ways, me on my bike and he in his — ok, to be honest I never notice what kinds of cars people drive.  His fancy car.   I felt really good about humanity for about five minutes, and then near the intersection of State and Hoyt I saw someone unceremoniously open their passenger’s-side door and drop their fast food breakfast garbage out onto the middle of the street.  Those five minutes were nice, though.

5 comments to Bike snobbery

  • Don’t you hate the gigantic creases in the asphalt created by bus traffic on Fulton? That street is a death trap.

    Bike salmon — that’s a good one! I’ll check out that blog.

  • Well, at least you didn’t get doored- probs the most offensive encounter a rider can have with a driver.

  • Haaley

    Hey, I read a couple of your blogs and just wanted to tell you they’re great. You sound intelligent and like you have a good attitude.
    God Bless You

  • sarah

    I seriously hate people biking the wrong way in the bike lane — they are basically forcing you (because if you play chicken with these jerks, you will always lose) out of the bike lane and into traffic.

    Before I started biking I didn’t really get it, but it only took a few times of being buzzed by drivers (in trucks!) almost doored and also having women pushing strollers dart out in front of me (against the light) for me to seriously hate some drivers/pedestrians.

    That said, I was just on a rant last night about people who refuse to put brakes on their bikes. I think they should be charged with manslaughter if they kill a pedestrian.

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