Thursday, November 23, 2006

Bicycle Repair Man

I was buying a bike tire at my favorite Astoria/Long Island City Bike Store (Bicycle Repair Man, 40-11 35th Ave, tel: 718 706-0450. Open 10 - 7, closes around 2 on Sunday). And was eyeing the Continentals 3000. They're expensive ($45-$50), but I've had good luck with them. He only had yellow. I didn't want yellow because they make the bike look fancier and more attractive to thieves and vandals. I told him I wanted all black. He said he could order it for me, but then proceeded to downsell me on a $25 Michelin tire. I think it's a classy business man who successfully downsells a customer.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

In the ghetto...

One thing this blog isn’t about is where or how far I biked on my latest ride. I don’t care about your ride. I don’t expect you to care about mine.

But Saturday night a friend was over with a bike I gave him (see oh those sexy french ladies' frames below. I wasn’t going to do shit with that bike, so I gave it to him. He’s French, too. How appropriate.) He arrived in New York about two weeks ago and moved to East New York one stop from the end of the 3 Train. Only a man who doesn’t know New York would do that. But good for him, I say.

I’ve never been to East New York, Brooklyn. It’s perhaps the most dangerous part of New York. I like bad neighborhoods. I don’t want to live in one. But the city lover and sociologist in me is always drawn to them. Rich neighborhoods are kind of the same everywhere. If you want to know a city, go to the “bad” part. And no better way to do that than by bike.

So at 2 a.m. I decide to bike back with him. I actually love the idea of a tipsy 2 a.m. ride to the ’hood via a route I’ve never been. Really. I used to take a lot of late night rides in Boston. I miss them. And I love being places I’ve never been. So with a handy NYC bike map we set off and made it there in more-or-less a straight line. Not perfectly straight. But good enough. Through a dark park. Past a national cemetery. And over hills, which I don’t associate with NYC.

It took an-hour-and-a-half there and 45 minutes coming back. 10 miles each way. I biked a bit faster coming home and it’s always easier to find home. Basically Miller St to Jamaica Ave to Cypress Hills St. to Fresh Pond Road to 58th St. to Broadway. The roads are well paved and traffic was light.

So I’ve never been to East New York and no white person I know ever has (present French company excluded). You say ghetto and I think East Baltimore. But ain’t nothing as bad as East Baltimore. I have to say, I didn’t see East New York during the day time, and maybe there’s nowhere to buy fresh vegetables, but the block he lived on (Miller St just north of Livonia) looked as good as Astoria. No vacant buildings. Houses kept up. In some ways I’d prefer to live there than the “nicer” neighborhoods in Queens I biked through to get there. At least subways—a few of them—go through East New York.

If that’s the worst New York has to offer, we’re doing OK.

Two nights later (tonight) I got two flats biking to Coble Hill, Brooklyn. I can only handle one flat. A second leaves me walking. I’m happy it didn’t happen in East New York. One flat in Williamsburg and another in Fort Green. I had to take the G to get where I was going. Only on the train did I notice my $45 rear tire was kind of blown out. I’ve had it two years and obviously should have replaced it earlier. On the plus side, for the return trip, I discovered my bike can fit in the trunk of a cab. Never has $28 and 15 minutes been so well spent.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Sheldon Brown is hurting

I just learned that Sheldon Brown has a bad-case muscular disease. Perhaps a particularly bad kind of M.S. (and even the good cases aren't great).

At some point, he's inspired a whole lot of people on bikes. And anybody who has ever put wrench to bike has looked at his web site, the first source for bike information.

You can read his updates on his health blog.

I feel for him. Having been to hell and back with my wife's emergency heart surgery earlier this year, I know how hard and frustrating it can be to even figure out what's wrong with you. Good luck, Sheldon!

From the very first post on this blog:
Harris Cycles, outside of Boston, sells them and almost everything. They’re perhaps the best bike store in America. Not the least of all because Sheldon Brown works there. He’s undoubtedly the most famous person in the world when it comes to strange, technically, and downright nerdy bike issues.

Don’t believe me? Just type in “‘Sheldon Brown’ bike” into google and you’ll get 22,800 results. By comparison, “Mayor of Boston” gets only 20,500; my name turns out 353 (and they’re not all for me). Sheldon Brown is a true professional (as Ali from Kebab CafĂ© defined professional): “somebody who does what he loves and makes enough doing it to support himself.” Sheldon’s website is a treasure trove of everything you could possibly want to know about bicycles.

If you have any questions about the bike terms used here, check out Sheldon Brown’s bike glossary.

November 2006 update: Sheldon still has Mumbles Menino beat: 111,000 to 93,000. I’m still a distant third with 967 hits.

New Yorker bike piece

There’s an article in the current New Yorker about bike culture in New York City. I was afraid to read it for a few days because I just knew it would piss me off. I read it. I didn’t piss me off in an angry way. It just pissed me off because it’s a pretty lame article. Especially by New Yorker standards. It was just obviously very lazily written. (see Bike Blog more comments)

Didn’t really capture the gestalt at all. And it featured an anti-noise anti-bike crazy man far too much. What was his deal? I really didn’t get it. Nor did I care.

The New Yorker piece mentioned the various biker tribe in New York (I wonder where I fall on that typology?). But it omitted the most commonly seen biker in New York: the delivery men bringing you bike haters dinner. I guess the illegal immigrants just don’t count. Except when they bike on the sidewalk. A shame. Because they’re the ones most in danger, forced to bike against traffic on Manhattan’s Avenues, and too poor to afford lights, helmets, bells, and all the other accoutrements of T.A.-like yuppie-bike-dom.

And this lame piece got too caught up in the spectacle-side of Critical Mass and ignores the greater lack of will to help bikers. Like “no room for bike lanes” on roads 12-lanes wide not counting the cars illegally parked. 250 feet of pavement exist at the entrance the Queensboro bridge. Really. And yet bikes have to ride against traffic because they can’t find 4 feet for a bike lane (that 4 inches per traffic lane). Lack of will, plain and simple.

On why bikers don't obey the law, part II: “I had the walk sign.”

The New Yorker piece on bikes has this crazy guy in the article who was all into the importance of everybody obeying the law—especially bikes. Even though this freak had no problem littering his cigarette butts while ranting about other people (say in German accent:) not following the rules!

[I have to give some props to the pussies at Transportation Alternatives for refusing to say that bikes should stop at red lights. They said that bikes should yield to pedestrians. They’re right. Everybody should yield to pedestrian, except, of course, when they’re in the bike path.]

A few weeks ago I was biking home in the rain from the West Side and came across a young woman lying in the crosswalk at 59th and 5th. She had just been hit by a car. She was pretty upset in the adrenalin-fuelled kind of way. She kept saying, “I can’t believe this happened to me. I had the walk sign!”

I’m sure she did. She was in the right. She was foolish enough to think that if you play the rules, you’ll be fine. And then she got hit. Pretty hard. She was going to live. But she wasn’t going to walk away. Her leg was sticking out all funny. Right does not equal safe. Bicyclists often have to violate traffic laws to be safe (getting in front of the crosswalk at red lights immediately comes to mind). The problem is not bikes and pedestrians disobeying the law. The problem is cars. That’s why we have traffic laws: for cars. Because they can kill you. Even when you're in the right.

Anyway, there wasn’t much I could do for this girl. Having been a police officer (in Baltimore... really), I moved traffic along so the fire truck could pull up. Once she was in better hands, I bolted, happy to have 59th St. blocked-off and traffic-free!

Meanwhile yesterday another fucking SUV plowed into some more pedestrians on a sidewalk. Last week the same thing happened and hit a family, killing a kid. Ripped them right out of his shoes. That’s what happens when you get hit hard enough by a car. Can you imagine how hard you would have to be hit to separate you from your shoes?

And this hot off the presses from today’s Times: “A man was killed by a speeding car late Thursday while bicycling … in Queens…. The bicyclist … was on Linden Boulevard … in St. Albans when a speeding westbound Dodge Stratus struck him…. After hitting Mr. Simpson, the car crashed into a telephone pole…. The car’s occupants, two young men ages 15 and 22, were in stable condition at Jamaica Hospital and Medical Center, the police said, adding that neither would admit to driving the car. No arrests were made.”

What’s the impact all this reckless and irresponsible driving will have on driving and public safety in New York? Now imagine if a bike was in the wrong and killed three people? Hell, even if the bike was in the right. And not that bike could kill three people, but just imagine…

Two wheels good. Four wheels bad.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Great bike carries

I'm always been impressed by what bikes can carry. Someone just sent me these pictures.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Yucatan taxis

I was down in the Yucatan, Mexico, and discovered that tricycles were the most common form of taxi and transport in villiages and small towns. The sad part is they'll probably eventually all get replaced with loud motorized vehicles as they get more money.

There was even the occasional bike path next to some major roads out of town.