Anachronisms: Getting a Handle on History

Early on in life, we learn two simple truths: bikes are good, and sharing is good.  Logically then, combining "bikes" and "sharing" should be even better, right?  Well, you'd think so, but unfortunately most people manage to unlearn these truths as they mature into what psychologists call "selfish assholes."  That's why New Yorkers keep finding new ways to complain about the new bike share system we're about to get.  Most recently, some people in Fort Greene, Brooklyn don't want a bike share station on their block because it's too ugly:

More specifically, they feel it goes against the historical character of their landmarked neighborhood:

The main objection on the block appears to be aesthetic, with residents complaining about the program’s bright blue, bank-logo–covered kiosks.

“The notion of having Citi Bike logos … will go against the [landmark] character,” said Mr. Cheek.

Oh, and also the bike share station will take up their free parking:

Like other car owners across the city, Washington Park residents also complain that the bike kiosk will cost them on-street parking.

They almost had me going until they got greedy and threw in the on-street parking thing.  See, it should be noted that the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission designates as Historic Districts "areas of the city that possess architectural and historical significance and a distinct 'sense of place.'"  Fort Greene is one of these districts, and as the official designation report pointed out back in 1978:

The Fort Greene Historic District reflects the architectural development of Brooklyn's middle-class residential neighborhoods in the twenty-five year period c. 1855-1880. The area included within the boundaries of the Historic District was built  up almost entirely during this period and a large part of the area retains much of its original 19th-century ambience. 

I agree that it's important to maintain this "sense of place," and they certainly didn't have bikes with bank logos on them in those days.  But do you know what else they didn't have in the twenty-five year period between 1855 and 1880 that is embodied by this neighborhood?  Streets lined with cars!  How are a bunch of Subarus and idling Fresh Direct trucks more in keeping with the landmark character of a neighborhood than a bike docking station?  You don't get to ditch the bike share but keep the free car parking.  I'm willing to defer to their argument if and only if the people of this neighborhood are willing to preserve their neighborhood's unique "sense of place" by eschewing all trappings of life post-1880 while within the boundaries of their landmarked district.  That means period-correct clothing only, and no cellphones, no computers, and no electricity.

Or, if the people of historic Fort Greene really want to know what it is to maintain a distinct historical sense of place, they can become Amish--or even Hasidic, which might actually suit them better, because not only can they stay in Brooklyn, but they also won't have to look at any unsightly bike share stations:

Evidently, the Hasidim are very frightened at the prospect of naked bike share customers:

"The women come through on bikes, and they're not dressed properly," said Joel Weiser, a Hasidic musician who lives in the area, echoing complaints heard during the backlash that forced the removal of a painted bike lane on Bedford Avenue. "They're more naked than clothed."

I'm not sure this is a legitimate concern, since when I was in London pretty much everybody I saw riding a "Boris Bike" was wearing a suit.  Even in Williamsburg, it's hard to imagine legions of people suddenly deciding, "Let's get naked and go bike-sharing!"

But that's life in the big city I suppose, and sharing it with people who don't like bikes because they're psychotic is worth it to me for the lack of space and high cost of living.  Still, I'd give it all up tomorrow for a chance to become a "storyteller and adventurer" like this guy:

Apparently, he wants money from you so he can ride all over the world, have adventures, and then teach the youth about "the process of the heroic journey."  Or, to put it another way, he wants to be Joseph Campbell...if Joseph Campbell were a gigantic Fred:

Somewhere out there an adventure calls each of our names.  We aim to help souls better heed its call.  Thus, I quit my 10-year university teaching career, joined the National Speakers Association, and I'm devoting the next 27 years to cycling the world, collecting stories, and educating about the process of heroic journeys.  

Mind you, this is no credit card trip.  No vacation.  I'm sleeping in the roadside heather like troubadours of old, and hoping to make friends of strangers.

I have a feeling he's going to have a hard time with the "making friends of strangers" part, because if I were approached by a chipper fellow in a cycling jersey who had clearly just crawled out of a roadside ditch I'd do my very best to get as far away from him as possible.  I'm also concerned about the fact that he's engaged a "teenage video wizard:"


Dallin Green is a pint-sized Spielberg who creates eye-popping work.  I believe in his creative genius, and want to propel his career.  Besides, my collaboration with his team helps youth (and the youthful) see they can embark on "the most daring of all endeavors . . . to meet the shadowy future without fear, and conquer the unknown" (Ferdinand Magellan).

Really?  "Propel his career?"  It's one thing if this guy wants to destroy his life by quitting his job and becoming a Lycra-clad adventure seeker, but I really hope he's not pulling this kid out of school and wrecking his future as well.

Meanwhile, speaking of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps (or failing to), a reader has alerted me to this fine leather bicycle carrying handle:

I always thought that a bicycle frame already made for a pretty convenient handle, but apparently there are people who are unable to carry their wildly flailing bicycles without killing or maiming innocent passers-by:

For city dwellers, it makes carrying the bike up flights of stairs much easier by providing a natural-feeling grasp point. Carrying the bike low helps keep it laying flat against you and not flopping around, hitting others or knocking into walls.

Really?  Has it come to this?  Can people not find enough "natural-feeling grasp points" on this object?

It's marginally less difficult than finding the "grasp points" on Peta Todd:

Though only Mark Cavendish can tell you whether or not they're "natural-feeling."

Of course, it should go without saying that the leather bike handle is not only made in Portland, but that it has also already been more-than-funded via Kickstarter--where, amazingly, it is touted as "minimalist," even though having a handle for your handle is anything but minimalist:

Designed for urban commuters, this minimalist handle makes carrying your bike actually feel easier and lighter by lowering the center of gravity and using your normal muscle groups for lifting and holding your bicycle, same as lifting a grocery bag or carrying a briefcase.

There's also a video:

Which features people lifting their bikes from the drive side with utter disregard for the cleanliness of their pants:

I'm sure it's this failure to understand the basic concept of staying away from the dirty side of your bike that will pave the way for their next project: 

The artisanal leather chainring cover.

It's nearly as essential as a crabon fiber pie plate, as forwarded by another reader:

As well as a tattoo telling the world you have had a vasectomy, as forwarded by yet another reader:

Which should make you even more attractive to potential partners, even if they reply to your come-ons with a hearty "Fuck You!"

You said "You're gorgeous," I said "Fuck You" - w4m - 23 (Union Square)
Date: 2012-06-11, 12:40AM EDT
Reply to: [deleted]

I was walking through Union Square when you stopped me on the street because you "had to tell me something." I was on the phone and very stressed out because my bike wheel had just been stolen. I figured you were going to try to sell me something but I stopped just in case it was actually important. You told me I was gorgeous, then I yelled at you and stormed away angrily. I immediately felt terrible, and wanted to apologize. I shouldn't have taken it out on you, and that was a nice thing to say.

Don't reply unless you can tell me what I said after I told you to shut the fuck up.

I bet the answer to that last sentence is "asshole."  That's the classic "shut the fuck up" follow-up.

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