Tuesday, July 29, 2008

So wrong

Luckily somebody was filming. Uh, cops, you should always police like people are filming. That's not necessarily bad.

Here's the article in the Times. It's worth reprinting in full:
July 29, 2008
Officer Investigated in Toppling of Cyclist

A New York City police officer was stripped of his gun and badge on Monday after an amateur video surfaced on the Internet showing him pushing a bicyclist to the ground in Times Square during a group ride on Friday evening.

The cyclist, identified in court papers as Christopher Long, 29, was taking part in a monthly ride, called Critical Mass, that often draws hundreds of riders. In a criminal complaint against Mr. Long, the officer, identified in the court documents as Patrick Pogan of the Midtown South precinct, says that the cyclist rode straight into him. But the video, posted on YouTube and on the blog Gothamist.com, shows the officer lunging toward Mr. Long.

The police said the officer had been assigned to desk duty pending a Police Department investigation. The police did not give the officer’s name or age or say how long he had been with the department.

The monthly rides have been a source of tension for the police since shortly before the Republican National Convention in 2004, when a large number of officers arrested more than 250 riders on charges that included parading without a permit.

In 2006, a state judge turned down a request by the city to forbid an environmental group that promotes the monthly rides from taking part in them, from gathering at Union Square Park beforehand and from mentioning the rides on its Web site.

According to members of the group, Time’s Up, the video was taken by a tourist standing on the sidewalk. It shows bicycles streaming down Seventh Avenue at 46th Street, past two uniformed officers standing in the middle of the avenue. After a few seconds, one of the two walks quickly toward the east side of the avenue and into the original path of Mr. Long’s bicycle. Mr. Long appears to try to steer clear of the officer, but the officer then shoves him. Mr. Long crashes onto the curb, and people gather around him and the officer.

Officer Pogan arrested Mr. Long on charges of attempted assault, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest, the court papers say. Mr. Long, who other cyclists said works in the Greenmarket in Union Square, was released without bail on Saturday.

In papers filed in Manhattan Criminal Court, Officer Pogan said Mr. Long was weaving in traffic, “forcing multiple vehicles to stop abruptly or change their direction” to avoid a collision. Officer Pogan also said he suffered cuts on his forearms as he fell to the ground.

Officer Pogan said Mr. Long had flailed his arms, kicked his legs and refused to put his hands behind his back. He also said Mr. Long had “twisted away” from him, “thereby making handcuffing difficult.”

He said Mr. Long told him: “You are pawns in the game. I’m going to have your job.”

The video clip ends soon after Mr. Long hit the ground. Witnesses challenged Officer Pogan’s account of the incident.

One cyclist, Craig Radhuber, 54, said he was a few feet behind Mr. Long, whom he said he did not know. He said Officer Pogan “body-slammed this kid off the bicycle so hard that he went from the lane to the curb.”

“I went over to yell at the police when another officer came and asked me to move back,” Mr. Radhuber said.

Mr. Radhuber said Mr. Long had not been weaving in traffic, as Officer Pogan alleged. “There was no traffic behind us — there was no traffic to weave in and out of,” Mr. Radhuber said. “The police officer looked to see who he was going to pick off.”

Bill DiPaola, a director of Time’s Up, said he arrived just after Mr. Long went down. “He got up and was dazed,” he said, referring to Mr. Long. Then, referring to Officer Pogan and the other officer in the video, he said, “They put their knees on top of his head and were smashing him into a phone booth.”

A lawyer for Mr. Long, Mark Taylor, said the cyclist had been “assaulted by the police.” He said Mr. Long, who was bruised but not hospitalized, was not available for interviews. “We believe the video speaks for itself,” he said, adding that he hoped the Manhattan district attorney’s office would drop the charges against Mr. Long.

Norman Siegel, a civil rights lawyer who represented Time’s Up in 2006, said he had been asked by its leaders to look at the video. He said it “shows unacceptable illegal behavior by this particular police officer.”

“Unfortunately, it’s another example of how the N.Y.P.D. has targeted without justification the Critical Mass bike riders,” he said.

Cara Buckley contributed reporting.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Cars afraid of bikes

Cars afraid of bikes. Wow! That's a change I could get used to. It's like Freaky Friday.

Here's the CNN Report link (via BikeHacks.com).

One driver said, "We can't go anywhere because we're all horrified, scared that if we go around, then maybe they're going to jump on our car too."

I think there's a good lesson here for drivers everywhere. Pay close attention: If you purposefully run your car into people... even if you're pissed off... even if you're technically in the right... if you purposefully run your car into people on or off bikes... you should get jumped. And I'll be right there in the fray.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Invisible Riders

Roman at Keep It Street Level sent me this link about the immigrant Invisible Riders. In New York, I think the biggest group of invisible riders are all the food delivery men.

New Zealand Bum Flaps

Add this to the stock at our fictional store: World's Best Bike! The store also features Amsterdam rear wheel locks, large saddle bikes, Egyptian spoke bells, Syrian beaded handlebar grips, and the Genuine Schwinn Transistor Radio Holder (part #00-628).

It's a New Zealand Bum Flap! You clip it around your waste and it sits right on your bum. Like a reflective vest, it's an easy addition to safety. It's light. It folds up into no space at all. But it's better than a reflective vest because:

1) It's quick and easy to take on and off. One clip. No velcro. No front and back and arm holes.
2) It's visible from behind even when wearing a bike bag.
And 3) you might actually wear it.

As far as I know, it's only available online from one store. We saw a lot in use in New Zealand. But I've never seen one anywhere else. And it's crazy expensive. US$30 not including shipping. I guess that's what "Made in New Zealand" means. And as my wife points out, judging from the lines in the sewing, "New Zealand quality" may mean made by New Zealand stoners.
I think it's best to make one yourself.

For the Hard Core, Two Wheels Beat Four

There's an article in the Times about commuting to work on bike. It was all same-old same-old until near the end. The article actually mentions and talks about the large but hidden population of bike riders: poor immigrants. So kudos to J. David Goodman for venturing beyond the spandex crew and the fixed-gear set.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Velo Orange

I just discovered this online store. Velo Orange. He has some really good stuff.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Chill out, bro!

I thought they were supposed to be mellow in the Pacific Northwest.

Here are two stories I read on Streetsblog.

Driver arrested after alleged road-rage incident against cyclist.

Police identify suspect in fatal attack at traffic circle.

Hell yeah I'll Ride the City

Well if this isn't the coolest thing ever! Ride the City. It's not perfect, but it's great. What makes it great is that it gives you both the direct route and the nicest route, with bike lanes. They call it "safest"; I'll stick with nicest. Outstanding. And even when it's wrong, it's still useful. I can't believe I only now just heard about this.

I've already learned, to my surprise, the the most direct route to Lower Manhattan from Astoria is Greenpoint Ave and the Williamsburg Bridge. Craaaazzzy.

Sunday, July 20, 2008


I noticed I was getting a few hits from BikeHacks. I had forgotten about this good blog. Read about every New York City bicyclists' greatest fear: hitting a bear head on!

Also good pictures from Japan and a cool little bike spotted on the NYC subway.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Wheel of Misfortune

My bike died yesterday. Or maybe not.

A few days ago I noticed a creaking sound when I pedaled, but it wasn’t coming from the pedals. It seemed to be caused by some motion when I was on the saddle, so I assumed the seat post had become dry and crusty — that makes bikes creak. So when I got home, I relubed the post. I also took apart and reassembled the bottom bracket cartridge, just for good measure.

But riding to work yesterday, the creaking sound was still there, perhaps even worse. At Lex and 60th, I stopped at a red light and examined the frame. There, like a chasm in front of me, I saw a crack. The ragged line girdled the bottom lug of the downtube on my beloved Bianchi Alfana.

I carried on to work but decided it would be stupid to ride home. I caught the N Train at 57th and 7th and took the subway back to Astoria. I went to the last car because it’s normally the emptiest. In the back, I stared at my frame, feeling melancholy. Here I was, with my beloved bike, knowing I may never ride it again.

I had half an hour to ponder. I’d never had a bike die of use and old age before. I was sad, but not angry. What if the bike had been stolen one day earlier? Then I’d have been pissed off. But really, what’s the difference? Either way, the bike had been taken from me.

Maybe it can be fixed — after all, it’s only steel. Tomorrow I’ll take it to my man at the Bicycle Repairman Corp and see what he says.

With boats, they say the only defining characteristic is the line: from profile, the curve on the top of the hull. Everything else can be fixed, welded, repaired and replaced. But you can never change the line.

The frame is the line of the bike. Everything else can be replaced, mended, modified or changed. The frame is the bike. This frame has been with me for 12 years, through bumps and speed and curbs, plus a few spills.

I’m a heavy guy who rides a skinny-tired road bike to commute to work in New York City. Maybe the bike is just the victim of my return commute on 58th Street, one of the worst in Manhattan. It’s one I often take because, well, it’s not 57th or 59th Streets. Or maybe the crack started back in 2005 when I wiped out on the Triborough Bridge.

The frame crack is natural in a way. Organic. A fatal flaw, but also just a wrinkle of old age. It’s hard to be angry; the bike has been good to me, probably better than I’ve been to it. That’s the beauty of bikes: a bike is there for you no matter what, like a loyal dog. But I’m allergic to dogs; all I’ve got is bikes.

Do I want a new bike? No. But I still can’t help but think maybe things could be better. I mean, my shifters don’t really work well any more in temperatures under 40ยบ; the chain ring is no longer perfectly true; 650B wheels would let me put full fenders on the wheels... But these are bad thoughts I don’t want to think — it feels somehow unfaithful.

Along with the real loss, what is so horrible is the anticipation of dealing with the life afterwards. Shock replaced with feelings of loneliness, soldiering on, the future, and replacement. Guilt is a factor when one contemplates loss that hasn’t even happened.

After any great loss, life will almost assuredly be filled with joy eventually. Thinking of that too early seems to trivialize things. A couple of years ago I had to deal with the idea that my wife might die. The thought crossed my mind. To cut a long story very short, she didn’t.

My wife, hell, any person is more important than a bike. I don’t like personifying machines. You can’t buy love. But I can buy a new bike because I live a rich life in a rich country.

Yet the feelings I have for the loss of my beloved bicycle remind me of the sadness of human loss. It doesn’t even come close in terms of magnitude or degree, of course, but in spirit, in the nature of loss, sadness cares not for the source.

My bike is dead. I love my bike. I am sad.


Illustration by Mark Lazenby
Reprinted with permission from The Ride .

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Perfect City Bike

I purposefully try not and post pictures of my bikes or talk about my latest bike ride. I hate blogs that do. Really, who the fuck cares about how fast you biked on what bike but you? But for educational reasons--people really do ask me more than you think about what city bike to buy--I'll make an exception for my Amsterdam bike. Go on, click and zoom. She's a beaut. Also the ideal city bike. At least if you live in a flat city. Here's why:

•One speed.

•Upright handle bars (I like a little bend in my back to give me more power. For softer peddlers, go for the completely upright omafiets.)

•Huge saddle bags (what use is a bike if you can't carry thing? These bags are large enough to carry 10-liter jerry cans of diesel fuel. They often do).

•Dynamo-powered lights (I often don't use them because I don't like the drag or the sound. And unlike New York, I don't think lights are always needed in Amsterdam).

•Steel frame (to last... and to soften bumps in the road).

•Light enough (to lift up or down stairs every now and then).

•Nice paint job (that at one time matched the paint job of Athena)

•Beaded decorative pimp work (from Syria).

(The last two items may not be absolutely necessary, but they can't hurt.)

And the seemingly silly but actually essential aspects of city bikes:

•At least one rain-proof brakes (here they both are: front drum, rear coaster).


•Chainguard (both good for the pants and good for the chain).

•Bell (from Egypt).

•Kickstand (because what you gonna do when you get off your bike?)

Not that you asked, but the make is Batavus and the model is Barcelona.

Man, she's been good to me. I think I've had this bike for about 12 years. I bought her used for, I don't remember, probable about 225 guilders or $150. At the time I was lot poorer. But I won't buy a stolen bike. Even when junkies are selling stolen bikes for 50 guilders. Or free if you just jack one from a junkie trying to sell a bike he just stole (now there's some complicated ethics there).

Luckily, I can keep this bike at my brother's place when I'm gone. When I show up, I put air in tires and she's good to go. I haven't given the bike any maintenance in years. I enjoy working on bikes. But not if I'm on vacation for a few weeks in Amsterdam and have no tools.

Notice the lock. By NYC standards, it sucks. For Amsterdam, though, it's good enough. Thieves in Amsterdam are junkies, not professional thieves. They're not looking for expensive bikes or components to sell to chop shops. They're opportunistic bastards, looking for any ridable bike to sell quickly for their next hit.

On this bike there's also the standard Amsterdam rear-wheel lock. I love these locks. So does everybody I've ever given one to. Talk about the perfect stocking stuffer! The rear wheel lock not only protects your rear wheel, it's a great way to make sure you never leave you bike unlocked, not ever for a second. Not because you think you need to lock your bike for that one second, but because you wouldn't dare leave your keys behind while you run in to buy a newspaper. See the keys can't come out of the lock if it's unlocked. Brilliant.

In Amsterdam, they're considered standard but second-rate locks. In the U.S., these Amsterdam rear-wheel locks have better deterrence value because thieves haven't seen them. And for my fancy road bike in NYC, this lock fits in the rear pocket of my pants. I don't leave home without it.

In Amsterdam, a chain lock is better than a Kryptonite u-lock there are more big objects you can lock to some of time.

But in Amsterdam, you can also lock a bike to itself and feel pretty secure. Often, because there are so many bikes, you have no choice.

My theory is that most stolen bikes everywhere simply aren't locked. Hey, I've forgotten more than once (though I never would have believed it had my bike been stolen). You go to 1,000 parked bikes, one will be unlocked.

Sexy Parisians

Oh those sexy French frames.

There's a good story in the Times about the Paris bike program... perhaps coming to a corner near you.

I was in Lyon a few years ago and was impressed with the system. At least as impressed as I could be without actually riding one of their bikes. I wrote about it on this blog.

There's an important detail: you can't use these bikes in France with an American credit card because our credit cards don't have chips. That means you can't use them.

Any article about these bikes, and they've been many, that fails to mention this key fact means the writer is a bullshitting fraud who didn't actually rent and ride one of the bikes he or she claims to be writing about.

The Times story gets this right.

Here are the interesting facts:

•About 20,600 bikes in service. 1,450 self-service rental stations. The stations are only some 300 yards apart, and there are four times as many as there are subway stations.

•15 percent of the bikes have been stolen.

•The city has made money on the program (the bike company makes money by being able to put up and rent billboards).

•Each bike weighs 50 pounds and costs $3,460. They are heavy duty.

•Biking has become safer. Three deaths out of 27 million trips. A 24% increase in bike use that corresponds with a 7% increase in accidents.

What I still don't understand is how the system can handle popular destinations. The main problem, as I see it, is that you have to return the bike to an available spot.

Buy someone else's book

But only after you've bought mine.

The Ride is an outstanding new bike-related journal/magazine out of London. And yes, I say that because I have an article in it. But so does Greg LeMond (and about 40 other writers). Outside of actually riding a bike, this may be the only time Greg LeMond and I actually have something in common. The Ride really is great. Nice artwork, too.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Better Broadway

Change on Broadway! It's amazing what they can do when they have the will! They're taking out 2 lanes of traffic from 42nd to 34th Streets in Manhattan. Bike lanes are part of the plan. Read the story here.

I love Janette Sadik-Khan and the fact that "The work... has begun without a formal public announcement."

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

5 on a bike

I saw a man with four kids on his bike today here in Amsterdam. Three in the front cargo space of his bakfiets. One in a backpack-like kid carrier. I wanted to get a picture, but he was biking too fast.

Bike parking article

In the New York Times