The Indignity of Smugging by Bicycle: Other Cyclists

As I mentioned on Monday, this past weekend I undertook an "epic" Raphian ride on my roadening bicycle. As much as I enjoy unleashing my inner Fred from time to time by embarking on quasi-competitive bicycle cycling rides, I also enjoy few things more than a completely non-"epic," non-competitive, non-commuting, non-errand-running perambulation. Between the lovely weather and the soreness still inhabiting my legular region, yesterday afternoon practically pleaded for such a ride, and so I resolved to treat myself to one.

First, though I had to clear my desk of work, which is an extremely difficult thing to do because, as a semi-professional bicycle blogger, I don't actually have any work to do. As Hemingway famously never said, "Writing isn't work, unless you do it with a pickaxe in a coal mine 12 hours a day." So instead, I simply cleared my desk of half-eaten bowls of Cap'n Crunch.

Next, I had to settle on a destination, and after some meditation I decided that I'd take my child to Prospect Park. Now, I have 17 children, so this isn't as easy as it sounds, but fortunately I have only one good child. The rest of them are vicious little brats, and so it was easy to leave them with their cruel Dickensian nanny with the giant Lemmy-esque warts (she also has a giant Lemmy-esque mustache) who makes them mine coal for 12 hours a day instead of letting them finger paint.

Finally, I prepped my Smugness Flotilla (which complete with it's PeaPod LT child-portaging seat now has the dimensions and curb weight of a Dodge Caravan) and headed out into Brooklyn's evolving yet controversial bicycle lane network.

Some cyclists don't like bike lanes, since they resent being corralled into two-wheeled ghettos where "the man" can neuter and control them, preferring instead to ride amongst the motor vehicles, wild and free. On a certain level I can relate to this, but when one is traveling in flagrante smugalicto as I was, one craves nothing more than riding in a space of one's own. Unfortunately, that space is all too often occupied by intruders, such as idling cars--or, in this case, people cleaning cooking grills:

On one hand I was annoyed, but on the other I was impressed that he was managing to both block a bike lane and dump chemicals into a storm drain at the same time. I also "Tweeted" this photograph shortly after taking it, which prompted the following reply:

So who's the idiot who painted a bike lane over a storm drain?

All I can say is, this is New York City, and I've seen them paint bike lanes over rats, horse manure, and even actual living people. Sometimes the "guy on a bike" symbol is actually a guy on a bike. It saves the DOT money on stencils.

Anyway, despite the ongoing grill maintenance I eventually made it to the park, where I did the usual stuff you do with a small child in a park: terrorize the playground; make fun of the geese; spend 14 hours running a metal detector along the bridle path in hopes that some equestrian's gold teeth rattled out of his head. Finally, though, it was time to leave, since a certain somebody started crying. It turns out geese can be nasty when provoked, and it really didn't need to say that about my haircut.

Now, you might think that leaving Prospect Park on an early evening in late May would be as easy as, well, a walk in the park, but if you do then you haven't been to Brooklyn. In its wisdom, the city opens Prospect Park to motor vehicle traffic just in time for rush hour. This means the park road becomes the Belt Parkway at exactly 5:00pm. Moreover, those first drivers to enter the park don't give park users so much as a minute to acclimate themselves; instead, if you're unlucky enough to find yourself anywhere near the park road either on foot or on a bicycle when the clock strikes five they will lay on their horns and tell you to go fuck yourself. It's an abrupt and infuriating transition, and the park suddenly goes from pastoral to pernicious.

Furthermore, in addition to the cars, the park road also becomes full of legions of Freds and Wilmas who, after a long day at the law firm or investment bank, are itching for their post-work training session so they can prepare for some triathlon or the New York City Century.

Anyway, to leave the park I would have to cross the park road. On the surface of it this should be easy, since there are traffic lights and crosswalks. However, in practice it proved much more difficult, since while the cars would stop at the red the legions of Freds and Wilmas all barreled right on through. I stood there with a couple of the other mommies for two light cycles until finally the light changed in our favor once again, the white hand beckoned, and there amazingly appeared to be a window for us to cross.

Walking my Big Dummy with the good child comfy in his seat and laughing at my haircut, I stepped out into the crosswalk, at which point a woman who looked like she was probably the most annoying person on the board at the Park Slope Food Co-Op pointed her road bike directly at us as though on purpose. At the last second she had the decency to change her path, and as she passed she issued a very Park Slopey "Ugh" and then said to me:

"You should know better."

She then continued through the red light.

At first I was amazed. I should know better? What did that mean? I looked at the traffic light above me: still red. I looked at the hand in front of me: still white. Suddenly though it dawned on me what she was implying: I had a bike, which meant I was a cyclist. And as a cyclist I should have known that nobody on a bike would stop for me, even with a child.

This made me feel depressed, and my depression was amplified when one of the other mommies said to me resignedly, "They never stop."

I still don't agree with any of it, but this stupid woman was doing her best to justify all of it. Thanks to her, "They never stop" is what people think of all of us--even when we're lying in the street because some driver blew a light. It was all her fault.

Only after I was some distance from the park did I realize I should have waited for her in order to immortalize her sour visage in pixels, but by then it was too late, and to actually return to the park and lie in wait for her arguably would have involved crossing the rubicon between "smug mommydaddy" and "psychopath."

Shortly thereafter, I locked my smugness flotilla in front of a dining establishment, and when I emerged it had made an equally giant friend:

I'm surprised the sidewalk didn't collapse under all that smugness.

Speaking of smugness, a reader has forwarded me a blog post about David Byrne, and he points out that, instead of using the actual Momentum cover on which he appeared, they use my subtly modified version:

They should know better.

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