The More Things Change: The Indignity of Protesting by Bicycle

Further to yesterday's post concerning "ANTgate," I'm pleased to announce that everything seems to have been resolved. If anything, I like to think that this misunderstanding underscores the fact that the art of Internet discourse can be just as painstaking as frame building, and that in both cases even the smallest imperfection can cause the entire structure to fail catastrophically. Still, while I'm glad it's all over, I must admit I had expected the controversy to continue for at least a few more weeks, which is why I now regret spending the last sixteen hours creating this "ANTgate 2010" graphic:

(It's an ant and a gate. Get it?)

Oh well, who says you need to sleep every night? (Apart from most doctors, that is.) As much as I would have liked to get more use out of this stunning graphic, the most important thing is that everybody is happy again and that there are no hurt feelers. Furthermore, as an expression of my goodwill, I'm also offering an award of $250,000 (or £26.50) to anybody who can recover Mike Flanigan's stolen bike. Just click here for details.

Unfortunately, I also think this incident has underscored one of the more insidious aspects of this whole notion of a "bike culture." While two bike dorks will make every effort to clear up a misunderstanding and resolve their differences, the whole of bike dorkdom will not hesitate to pounce on an outsider. This is the danger of social groups, and such was the case yesterday when well-known famous celebrity Paris Hilton was cited for driving in a bike lane:


Sure, it's tempting to point, laugh, and cheer, which is what most cyclists did. But how many of us actually took the time to consider the incident from Hilton's point of view? Just because she's been imprisoned for drunk driving in the past, has no discernible job, and spends her free time literally rolling around in cocaine with her disgusting friends does not mean that she didn't have a good reason for using the bike lane to pass some other cars. For example, she could have been rushing to get to the bank in order to wire huge chunks of her inherited fortune to help earthquake victims in Haiti and Chile. Or, she could have simply been trying to regain her coveted status as the Biggest Traffic Menace in Hollywood after Anne Hathaway's car cold-cocked that "hipster:"

It's well-known that Hollywood celebrities adhere to a points system--the trendier the victim, the more points you get. Most likely Hilton was rushing to a fixed-gear freestyle "sesh" where literally hundreds of points were on offer and she hoped to snag a few stragglers in the bike lane on the way, but sadly for her she was stopped before she could get there. She also missed a huge opportunity back in November, when she failed to drive her car through that Jared Leto video shoot:

That would have been game, set, and match.

It is heartening, though, to see Los Angeles apparently making good on its recent promise to "better protect cyclists:"

(Beck makes universal "All You Cyclists, I Will Protect Your Balls" hand gesture)

Not only did Beck call cyclists “our most vulnerable commuters” and promise “We hear you, we know we need to do a better job for you,” but he was also played to perfection by "Magnum, P.I." star Tom Selleck:

This is a real turnaround by a city that is as synonymous with cars as Portland is with cycling, or New York City is with subways, or as Portland is with smugness--and it doesn't stop there. Los Angeles also apparently has bike messengers (isn't that cute?), and they're dishing out hearty, sizzling helpings of street justice to bike thieves:

Of course, messengers in Los Angeles do this in their own unique way. While couriers elsewhere might engage the thieves in fisticuffs, "LA style" messenger justice mostly involves making them take off their clothes:
Or, to put it another way, in New York it's "Don't Steal Bikes, Bro," but in LA they don't wanna "fuck you up"--they "Wanna Sex You Up."

In any case, Los Angeles is confusing to many people from the New York area because it basically just feels like Manhasset or White Plains except unlike Long Island or Westchester there doesn't seem to be a real city nearby so we can't figure out where we're supposed to go. San Francisco, on the other hand, is a bit easier for us to understand--it's like New York if it had been founded by hippies instead of Dutch merchants. Also, San Francisco is very "bikey." But while Los Angeles is now embracing cyclists, a reader informs me that San Francisco is starting to reject them--at least when they coagulate into the soggy breadbowl full of chowder known as "Critical Mass:"

It's great to see that the Ass-Backwards Dachshund of Social Progress continues to advance (and by "advance" I mean "retreat") and that Critical Mass is maintaining its efforts to ban the practice of group cycling. Well done--getting yourself banned from a city full of cannabis clubs that gave America both the Summer of Love and the gay rights movement can't be easy. It's like Paris Hilton not wanting to hang out with you because you're too stupid or you do too much cocaine. While ostensibly a form of social protest, Critical Mass seems to draw its influence from the more potent strains of flu in that it likes to pop up in various cities, cause a bunch of trouble, and ultimately drive people to try to stomp it out. Thanks to Critical Mass it's already illegal now to ride in groups of more than 50 here in New York--though I suppose there's a "silver lining" in that the law will make "tweed ride" organization that much more difficult:

If I might suggest a date, how about April 4th, 1898?

I'll admit though that I have a difficult time understanding bike advocacy. I thought the point of it was to make it easier for us to simply ride our bikes around normally like they do over in Copenhagen or wherever. However, if that were true, then it would seem that a good way to go about that would be for people to, well, ride around normally like they do over in Copenhagen or wherever. (Traditionally, the most successful social movements seem to essentially do the thing that they want to be able to do--think Rosa Parks.) Instead, though, bike advocacy people in America seem to be more interested in riding around in huge groups or wearing funny costumes, which I'd wager the majority of us aren't really all that interested in doing on a daily basis, and which is really just the equivalent of Rosa Parks walking around town in a clown suit. Speaking of clowns, here's another brilliant upcoming protest sure to accomplish absolutely nothing:

What bicycle commuter wouldn't want to be associated with this?

As any dramatic actor, professional person, or political candidate will undoubtedly tell you: If you want to be taken seriously, dress like a clown.

Indeed, the world of bike advocacy is bizarre, DayGlo, and often difficult to get a handle on--sort of like these handlebars, which were forwarded to me by a reader:

If they ever remake "Back to the Future" with bikes instead of cars this would be a good substitute for the DeLorean. Really "feeling" the flux capacitor handlebar setup.

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