The Indignity of Commuting by Bicycle: Soul Erosion

Most Americans are familiar with the famous painting, "Washington Crossing the Delaware:"

In it, the man who would become our nation's first President looks ahead with determination and resolve as he fords an icy river and leads his men into battle:

The event depicted in this painting took place in the year 1776, and the painting itself was rendered by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze in 1851. For most of us, this seems an impossibly long time ago. Nevertheless, even today, we can still see similar bravery in the face of uncertainty all around us. Consider this guy:

Like George Washington, he wears the expression of a man undaunted. Also like George Washington, he has funny hair. But it is here that the similarities end. For while Washington was crossing the Delaware in order to confront enemy forces in Trenton, New Jersey as well as carrying the very fate of our nation on his shoulders, this guy was salmoning through a red light across Lafayette Street:

The fact that the street he's crossing is named after a hero of the Revolutionary War only serves to underscore the irony.

Nevertheless, commuting in New York City can indeed feel like a war: cars vs. bikes, pedestrians vs. pedicabs, hang gliders vs. roller skis... However, it turns out that when you divorce yourself from your own vehicle of choice and take a pigeon's-eye view we're not really at war at all. Instead, we're just a bunch of idiots who don't look out for each other, as this video forwarded to me by a number of readers shows:

3-Way Street from ronconcocacola on Vimeo.

I've long suspected it, but this proves conclusively that New Yorkers are the most mobility-challenged people in The United States of Canada's Undercarriage. If you've ever wondered why most of us are so annoying, it's because each time we need to leave our homes and go someplace else we lose little pieces of our souls. Our humanity is like a little hunk of bread floating in a bowl full of hungry goldfish--after awhile there's just nothing left.

Yes, commuting takes its toll on us both physically and psychically. In fact, sometimes it takes both tolls at the same time--like if you were to get hit behind by a truck while avoiding a health care advertisement parked strategically in the bike lane:

Sometimes irony hurts the most.

Speaking of irony, it would appear that here in New York we're in the midst of actual, literal salmon season:

Similarly, bike salmon season is also in swing, and at this time of year you're liable to see entire schools of the creatures:

And, obviously, this prize fish:

Often when I encounter such a specimen, I fantasize about hooking him, reeling him in, and placing him on the cargo deck of my Big Dummy smugness flotilla. Sadly, I was not riding my Big Dummy yesterday when I saw the aforementioned salmon and his regal hairway, though that did not stop me from ogling another one I saw locked to a bike rack:

As I stood there admiring my fellow smugmonger's smugness upgrades (which included a centerstand, stoker bars, and evidently hand-curated guardrail) I came to a sudden yet oddly comforting realization:

I have become a gigantic dork.

Another realization I had a few blocks later was that something like three-fifths of New York City bike lane traffic consists of non-bicycles. Consider the following photo, which depicts two cyclists (I'm counting myself), a guy pushing an empty hand truck, a pair of guys towing a household appliance, and an older gentleman in a motorized wheelchair:

First I passed empty hand truck guy, then I totally "wheelchairsucked" for awhile:

Once the guy in the wheelchair passed the appliance haulers, I then launched my own attack off his wheel, dropping the entire sad peloton at the green light ahead.

Though I did meet my match a little while later, when I got stuck behind a balloon "portager:"

I would have given almost anything for a samurai sword at that moment, for I could have punctured his entire payload with one flick of my blade.

Meanwhile, I haven't heard very much about the bicycle crackdown in New York City lately. This could be because it's finally easing up a bit. Or, more likely, it could be because this is the time of year when the sorts of self-important people who would ordinarily write impassioned screeds about how the ticket they got on their bicycle is a gross miscarriage of justice are instead preoccupied with fair-weather activities such as hosting artisanal "ethical meat" barbecues.

However, a reader tells me that the city of Chicago is now experiencing its own crackdown, though it's of a far kinder and gentler nature:

Giving out warnings instead of tickets? Explaining to people what they're doing wrong? Cooperating with the Department of Transportation?!? That would never work in New York City, precisely because it's the sort of thing that might actually work. Plus, the police doing the down-cracking are actually riding bikes themselves:

Silly Chicago police. Now that's just crazy. How are they supposed to arrest the cyclists after dooring them?

Lastly, in a bit of exciting Fred news, one Fred has embraced the art of hillbombing "edit" curation, and the results are spectacular:

I'm not sure why this Fred is using two computers, though it could be that he's jury-rigged some sort of kludgy flux capacitor-type device and wants to travel through time like his patron saint. I'm not sure he was successful, though at 53 seconds we do learn that 46mph is the exact speed at which a Fred goes, "Wooo-hoo-hoo-hoo!"

That's what you call a Primal scream.

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