Monday, February 22, 2010

The Bike Dork Entitlement Program

To many it may seem as if cyclists feel they have and or deserve special rights and privileges: special roadways, rights of way, even the right to bad fashion statements. It may seem as if the purchase of a bicycle comes with a certificate of entitlement. There may be something to this notion. The other evening on the way home, an SUV was carelessly advancing to make a right turn in front of me at an intersection. At the last moment the operator of this vehicle saw me and stopped short. As I crossed its bow I gave an open hand slap to hood. "Bad SUV!" That is just the sort of arrogance that gives cyclist a bad name. It is good to feel special but perhaps not so good to feel "better than"; and even worse to actually slap someone's car. The idea that any cyclist is "better than", say, a motorist, pedestrian, rollerblader, or stroller pushing nanny, is perhaps flawed.

Take for instance this out of my old home town of Boston stating we cyclists are "better" traffic. The writer of this may well be a smart cyclist; following the rules of the road, not being a dork. However, a person on a bike does not make traffic "better". Sure, less carbon, less cars on the road, I am all for that. But think about it, do we really want all of the people that currently drive their cars, getting on bikes? Think of all those self-absorbed folks yakking on their phones while riding the same way that they drive their cars. It would be like riding on the Strand in Hermosa Beach on a warm Sunday afternoon but all of the time.

Some things can bring out the worst in some people and cycling seems to be one of them. It is fun to ride as a group and feel the power of "us". This always seems to lead us to a "them". What almost always follows is "us" against "them" No matter who "we" are, there is always "them". Just look at what has become of the once noble "critical mass" rides. These rides originated as response to the injustices that lone riders were experiencing in traffic on a daily basis. Now I am all for cycling advocacy but when this is the result … oops. No group rides for you!

On the other hand, many of us are certain that because we are cyclists we are special (not better than), and therefore should have special rights. Nothing anyone can say will change this specialness for us. So for us what is needed is that program for certification of rights upon receipt of one's bicycle so that there would be no question of what we can and can not do. I name this the Bike Dork Entitlement Program in which, perhaps each "groupo" would have its own needs catered to. For example:

Upon purchase and delivery of any "road bike" the owner is hereby endowed with the right to:

a) Full lane use on all and any urban / suburban / or country roadway

b) Full and unfettered use of any multi colored lycra clothing

c) Full use of tortured facial expressions on and off the bike

d) May consume one (1) 12 oz. container of Michalob Ultra only after any 100 mile or more ride.

Upon purchase and delivery of any "mountain bike" the owner is hereby endowed with the right to:

a) Full and free use of any dirt trail on any property, any where any time

b) Full suspension.

c) Full neck beard

c) May consume at least one (1) 12 oz. container of any Microbrewed IPA after a ride.

Upon purchase and or curation of any "fixie" the owner is hereby endowed with the right to:

a) Full use of any paved urban or suburban space to bust dope trix or at least try

b) Full rights to wear bike messenger gear even if you are not

c) Must consume at least one (1) 12 oz. Pabst Blue Ribbon on any ride.

Upon purchase and or curation of any "commuter bike" the owner is hereby endowed with the right to:

a) Full lane use on all and any urban / suburban / or country roadway

b) Full use of any fluorescent safety vests, stickers leg, and or arm bands & headlamp

c) Full fenders

d) May consume one (1) container of locally (preferably home) brewed beverage of choice

Of course this is just a rough outline of what needs to be a much better thought out nationwide program that could educate cyclists and the public in general exactly where things stand and how we can all get along. Perhaps this program could be funded with some of the "stimulus money" that is floating around - after all we are entitled.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Angry Dork

There is nothing more unbecoming of a person than a public display of anger. I am not talking about the anger one might express over some great social injustice, for example despotic regimes, racism, or even killing baby seals. I am instead writing of the type of self absorbed anger that comes from within. Road rage would be a good example. The person in front of ME is not going as fast as I would like. That person is texting and putting on mascara while driving... the nerve!

Or as I experienced this very evening: a driver cutting ME off, even though I signaled my turn, have flashing head and tail lights, bright reflective ankle strap, crazy reflectors on my helmet, a bright yellow (and totally dorky) vest. And this infraction at the end of my 15.8 mile commute turning onto MY street.

Pissed I was... yes, I allowed the dark side of the force to control me for a moment and I started to chase the offending vehicle up my street. I watched as my neighbor turned into their driveway and thought "love your neighbor as yourself" Ugh. What could be worse than an angry dork... an angry elf?

I love riding. Also on this same night I saw someone walking a bike with a rear flat. they had a backpack and a fishing pole coming from the bridge over the creek. A lot of folks fish in the Ballona Creek. I would not want to eat this fish, some do. Anyway I turned back and offered to make things right with the tire flatness. Wheel off, tire off, find puncture, patch... oops my glue is all dried out and hard as a rock. Now just today on Bike Snob NYC he mentioned the old dollar bill wrapped around the tube trick. Snobby has never steered anything wrong I am sure though I think he was referencing some dorks touring on fixed (dork) bikes in Japan.

Why not try it I thought to myself. Here I am looking like a total dork, "Here I'll help you out. I have everything you need in my capacious pannier." (yes it is a big bag). everything except a viable tube of glue. Kneeling there with mucilage on my face, I decided to go with the dollar bill wrapped around the tube. It held air. At least better than without, hopefully enough for this lady to get home. She had not caught any fish and said, "I was going to have rice and fish for dinner, now just rice. Well as long as I can get home for American Idol."
Glad to help,
The Bike Dork

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Yes A Dork

It is clear to me that those who choose to ride a bicycle on a regular basis, and in any way make that choice a part of their identity are dorks. You roadies may think you look cool atop glistening carbon in multicolored lycra, but ask any you zip past and they will assure you that you are a dork. the same goes for MTB riders with full suspension, 29ers etc. Fixie riding hipsters... need I say more.

Then there is me, the commuter, the ultimate in cycle-dorkdum. With my fluorescent sticker festooned helmet, yellow safety vest, cargo-shorts (worn over bibs), on a painstakingly curated crappy 10-speed to single-speed conversion. I know the beautiful people of Los Angeles blush with shame as I slip past their Audi A4s on Abbot Kinney Way, thinking "This should not BE in our fair city." (more likely it is just "annoying twit on a bike!")

You can see that I am even proud of this dorkyness. It is true, so proud of my 30+ miles a day that I will wedge it into any conversation. For example: "Sushi... oh yeah i picked up some great sushi on my RIDE home the other night." Which will lead inevitably to me boasting about my pannier capacity. My what big bags you have.

I do love to ride and as I am at it a couple of hours a day most days of the week, it gets some top billing in my mental processes. I think I could share this and other thoughts in a blog...

So here it is, my first entry in "The Bike Dork"