Friday, June 20, 2008

There ARE Biker's Ed Classes In New York

...but they're only for kids. Why?

From what I can tell, being over 18 doesn't automatically make you smart enough to ride a bike in the same direction of traffic.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

I likeNY in June, How About You? I Smell Jizz Trees In Bloom, How About You?

Successive themes of obsessive focus carve this landscape that is my conscious mind.

Huh? What did I just say? Basically, I fixate on something for days, weeks or months at a time, and I just can't let it go until the next theme of obsession comes along that even more urgently needs my pointless obsessive attention.

Right now I'm obsessing about two things, because I've learned to multi-task. One is about biking in New York, and the other is ... hm, I seem to have forgotten.

Summer has arrived, so I'm bothering to leave the house more often. I got back on my bike a few weeks ago and have been experimenting with commuting in the city. Technically, there are bike lanes in Manhattan. New Yorkers think the bike lane is where you drive when you're looking for street parking. And if you can't find street parking? Just double park in the bike lane. There are neighborhoods where even cops park in the bike lane.

I used to think that people who rode their bikes in NYC were pretty hard core. Now I just think they're stupid. I'm convinced that cycling in the city is dangerous not just because of the low IQ among drivers in this town; it's also because of the low IQ of cyclists. Especially those guys who deliver food on their bikes. Is it a job requirement for those idiots to ride the wrong way on EVERY street, sidewalk and bike lane to get to their destination? Are they forbidden to put a light on their handlebars at night?

City cycling culture is so different here. It's not centered around a sense of community. I think that's what I can't get used to. Bikers really feel no sense of connection to other bikers. I ride safely and defensively mostly because I'm not an idiot, but also in part because I don't want to make things more difficult for other bikers by being that reckless ass-wipe who pisses off drivers for no reason. I don't get why other bikers don't see it this way - oh, classic narcissism! But seriously - a lot of bikers here don't see that any stupid thing they do, drivers will project onto all of us, and it just makes them want to run over anything between two wheels and a helmet.

Uh oh. Here come the inevitable comparisons to San Francisco...

In San Francisco, I always felt this sense of solidarity with other bikes on the road. Bikers, for the most part, cooperate with traffic and don't do stupid things like go the wrong way on a four-lane, 45 mph thoroughfare when it's dark and you're wearing black and have no light on your bike. I felt like we looked out for each other, in the sense that we knew that the way we rode affected the way cars treated all bikers. If we rode safely and didn't antagonize cars, then cars would view us as a normal part of traffic, and stop thinking about how to run us over or, at the very least, how close to get before pegging us with their Big Gulp full of Mountain Dew and ice. This is rather idealized and over-simplified, because there were plenty of bee-tard bikers in SF who gave the rest of us a bad rap...but the ideal was there.

When I'm president of the planet, driver's ed will have a major "biker awareness" component, where drivers learn to respect the rights and safety of bikes on the road. And bikers in New York will have to attend a biker's ed class, because obviously ensuring one's own safety is not an intuitive concept to everyone. And most importantly, I would make New York and San Francisco car-free cities, and tell everyone to get off their fat asses and start pedaling.

YES. There are exceptions. Public transportation vehicles like buses, trains and subways would still run. Casual carpool and other private carpooling would still be allowed. Anything that doesn't burn fossil fuels, like those pedicabs and the horse-drawn carriages in Central Park, are fine. There would be special exceptions or discounts for the elderly, disabled and anyone else who has legitimate reasons for not riding a bike everywhere. Also, commercial delivery vehicles like the ones that deliver food to your grocery store would still be allowed. I haven't decided what to do about cabs. I still have a few years to work on this idea.

There was an article in some local pop culture magazine that basically summed up the road biking culture here: bikers and drivers will never get along. That just isn't good enough for me. I don't care to be resigned to drivers who feel like bikers aren't entitled to be on the road, and bikers who think that their jerkoff riding habits exist in a vacuum instead of eventually trickling down into a giant communal pool of seething driver hatred towards all bikers.

Therefore, I'm going to get myself elected President of the world and make New York a car-free city. As per above.

Oh, Critical Mass. So I've ridden in a few Critical Masses in SF over the years, and although I like the sense of community in participating, it always made me a bit uncomfortable. They always announce at the beginning of the ride that we're supposed to obey all traffic signals and not be aggressive bee-tards towards cars, but inevitably some people start to feel invincible because of our sheer numbers, and bikers start taunting drivers. Arguments ensue, fights break out, everyone else keeps pedaling towards the bar. These pockets of confrontation always bother me because they negate the spirit of Critical Mass. Yeah, it's a protest and a political statement and a social movement, and most of all it's just powerful. But like most things, it doesn't quite live up to its ideals. It's an imperfect phenomenon, created to bring together imperfect people, and maybe in truth, that's why I like it.

Oh, now I remember my other theme of obsession: Disgusting specimens of the male species. So now that summer is here and I'm bothering to leave my house, I've created strategies for minimizing the probability that I cross paths with any of the drooly, grunty, armpit-scratching, mite-picking, mouth-breathing, glassy-eyed organisms that loiter in my neighborhood. Being on my bike helps a lot, because I flit across their field of vision in a fraction of the time it takes an electrical impulse to fire across a synapse in their little drooly brain.

But running is a different story. Mainly because I'm a slow, slow runner. Old hunchback men waddle past me when I run. That's how slow I am. So I had to devise a route that avoided the worst concentrations of drooly organisms in my neighborhood. So far, pretty successful. So successful, in fact, that yesterday I started to wonder if maybe I'd exaggerated the drooly organism population in my head. I ran past a high-rise apartment building overlooking the Hudson, one of those places that I could never afford to live in, but whose building manager is kind enough to allow people like me to pass by on the sidewalk. The security guard for the apartment building was wandering around outside, and when I ran by he surprised me by saying, "Good morning."

"Good morning!!" I said, too enthusiastically. I realized then that at best I had expected him to ignore me, and at worst I had expected him to drool and call me his baby. I definitely did NOT expect him to greet me like a normal person.

Man, no one says good morning anymore. Certainly not the drooly organisms. Not people I see on the elevator everyday. Not the security guard in my building. I feel like even a simple smile upon eye contact is unheard of among New Yorkers. Hell, eye contact is unheard of. More evidence for my theory that there are way too many people on this tiny island, and everyone here hates dealing with everyone else. People actively tune each other out. I was on an elevator in a subway station, and seven of ten people had iPods stuffed in their ears. I could hear what at least three of them were listening to, and I must say that too many people have really bad taste in music.

And Jizz Trees. Admit it, you've smelled them too and thought the same thing. Peeee-yew! They grew all over the Peninsula and South Bay, and I could never figure out what kind of tree it was because I was never sure if it was appropriate to ask, "Where do you think that sperm smell is coming from?"

But a few weeks ago, the jizz trees were at full stinkiness here in New York, and they were EVERYWHERE. I finally went on the internet and discovered that there are several types of trees that could be the culprit. Here in New York, I think it's the Bradford Pear tree, which doesn't even bear edible fruit. It's an ornamental pear tree that was planted all over the island for its ability to survive New York City pollution. It explodes into gorgeous white blossoms in the spring and, apparently, quickly explodes into noxious clouds of jizzy odors in the summer.

I think the jizz blooming has ended because I haven't noticed the smell in a week or so.