Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Bike-Coastal: A Tail of Two Cities

Greetings this fine Wednesday morning from my virtual Stumptown! I can't tell you how much happier I am since I pretend-moved to Portland. Actually, I can. I'm this happy:




Or, for you rural folk, I'm this happy:

Really, telling people how aaahsome things are is the best part of "living" in Portland, for as we Portlanders say about life, "If everybody doesn't want to punch you in the nuts then you're just not being smug enough." Sure, I have occasional hourly crying jags, and sure all the indigent people who live under the bridges are kind of depressing, and yeah, I suppose if you really pressed me I'd admit that Portland is like a big Williamsburg only without a real city around it. But there are plenty of bike lanes, and of course the goddamned coffee is fantastic, and what else do you need, right?

Right?
Yes, every day it's another shade of grey in the land that reality and diversity forgot:
Things are looking up briefly around 1:00pm though.

Meanwhile, "back East" in New York City (where my physical presence resides slumped in an armchair like a character from "Inception"), it looks like the Mayor's office is trying desperately to rehabilitate the bike lane network's negative public image:

Ironically, a key component of this propaganda campaign involves making the network seem utterly insignificant by downplaying its size:

The memo cited improvements to street safety and played down the growth of the lanes, noting that 255 miles had been added in four years, a small fraction of the city’s 6,000 miles of streets. In the past, the city has bragged about its swift expansion of the bike lane network.

You might think that "swift expansion" would be positive. After all, when it comes to transportation networks and public projects, "swift" and "expansive" are good, while "sluggish" and "limited" are bad, right? Wrong. These are bicycles we're talking about. People hate bicycles. Therefore, the general public needs to be reassured that this is just another ineffectual project that the city is approaching in a typically half-assed fashion and that will ultimately come to nothing.

Consequently, the city is now selling the lanes like a self-effacing Viagra salesman: "Yeah, it's technically erectile dysfunction medication, but look how tiny the pill is, and I promise it'll hardly make your penis move at all."

This is also why, as much as pretend-living in Portland is increasingly making me want to tear my own face off in boredom and frustration (is that why so many Portlanders wear beards?), I'm not sure I could ever go back to acknowledging that I live in New York. New York hates cycling so much that Robin Williams can't even ride in a balaclava there. That's right--I was reading The New Yorker in the bathroom recently, and in the "Talk of the Town" section the hirsute comedian and ├╝ber-Fred related the following anecdote:

"This morning, I biked up the George Washington Bridge. It was cold, so I put on my black Army balaclava, covering my face. A cop stopped me and asked me to take it off."

Granted, he could have been joking (without that hairy forearm applause meter thing he does it's tough to know for sure) but I have a feeling he's probably serious, especially given the fact that the NYPD has managed to almost completely rid Central Park of cyclists:

On the surface of it you'd think a bunch of local taxpaying businesses complaining about the loss of revenue might actually influence the city to ease up on the "crackdown," but when you consider that all the bike shops in Manhattan probably generate about as much taxable income as a single hedge fund operator then you start to realize what you're up against.

Yes, everything's outsized in New York, which is why normal reasoning rarely applies. Consider these tips from my Freds friends at "Bicycling" magazine about how to keep your bike from getting stolen if you don't have a lock with you:

Rig the chain
As you're coasting near your stopping point, shift into the big-ring/big-cog combo. When you stop to park your bike, shift just your shifters (don't pedal) into the small-ring/small-cog combo.
Thief jumps on, tries to pedal, gears go crazy, chain drops off, thief freaks out and splits.

Loosen the rear
Open the rear quick--release skewer.
Thief pedals for a bit, wheel starts to wobble, bike eventually becomes unrideable, thief drops bike and runs.

Secure it secretly
Use the straps on your helmet to "lock" your bike to a secure object.
Thief grabs bike, straps stop thief, thief fumbles with helmet, gets frustrated, leaves.

Use your mini-tool
Loosen the side pinch bolts on your stem and turn your bar 90 degrees; loosen your seat clamp bolt and turn your seat backward.

Thief looks at bike, thinks he's losing his mind, wants nothing to do with it, thief moves on.


It goes without saying that all of these methods would be laughably ineffectual in New York, and I don't even think the thieves in Portland are easily vexed enough to be hindered by them. The last one about turning the bars around 90 degrees is especially ironic considering that's how most people's Walmart Mongooses (Mongeese?) are set up anyway. I'm surprised they left off the old "leave some fake poo on the saddle" trick--or my personal favorite, "The Riddle of the Spinx," in which I leave a note on the bicycle explaining to the thief that he may keep the bike, provided he solve a cunning brain teaser. Yes, many's the time I've emerged from the store only to find a thwarted thief still puzzling over a real head-scratcher like "What bleeds for five days and doesn't die?" (Answer: A hemophiliac with a really tiny papercut. Duh.)

Yes, we New Yorkers (or former New Yorkers) love to pride ourselves on our "street smarts." Indeed, that's what's behind the proliferation of bike messenger movies and concomitant boasting about urban survival skillzzz. Then again, being a bike messenger in New York can be very difficult--at least when compared to being a bike messenger in Los Angeles, which mostly just involves modeling:



Though this is not to say it isn't also possible to take a potentially dangerous wrong turn when working as a bike messenger in LA. However, instead of, say, getting hit by a truck, you're more likely to fall victim to the unsafe-for-work world of messenger-themed porn:

Guess he was a little late on that "triple rush."

Speaking of porn, I can't help noticing that many of VeloNews's "Training Center" articles are are at least mildly suggestive:

You can see this when you implement the old "add 'in bed' to the fortune cookie fortune" trick:

Then again, maybe I'm watching too much messenger porn.

Finally, speaking of bicycle delivery and things that are sexually suggestive, a reader informs me that a woman in San Francisco will rendez-vous with you in order to give you some hot pie:



These days you can get your cupcake-sized pies delivered by bicycle if you live in the right San Francisco neighborhood, or can convince Natalie Galatzer of Bike Basket Pies to schedule a rendezvous because you can't live without her apple-cheddar, shaker orange or sweet potato-chard mini-pies.

Yes, pies are apparenty the new cupcake:

In short, pie seems to have hit a tipping point similar to the one that propelled the lowly cupcake to pastry superstardom.

Right. Because up until a few years ago, cupcakes were totally obscure.

Anyway, I visited the Bike Basket Pies website, which led me to this video:




From it, I learned that the proprietor "started this when I didn't have...I wasn't doing any other kind of like, inspiring...work?" Actually, that's exactly the same, like, reason I'm starting an artisanal "squirrelrito" bicycle delivery service in Portland:

As it happens, I was watching an episode of "No Reservations" last night in which Anthony Bourdain was eating squirrels, and given the "Americana backwoods revival" movement I think the next urban dining trend is going to be Ozarkian cuisine--though I'm giving it a twist by serving it in burrito form. Naturally, my enterprise will be totally sustainable for two reasons:

1) I will deliver your "squirrelrito" by bike;

and

2) Those little fuckers are everywhere.

I also think it's going to be way more successful than the failed "ratrito" joint I previously launched in New York City:

Not only did they make a tasty subway snack, but they also delivered themselves right to your mouth while you were sleeping.

I have no idea why it never caught on.

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