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I ♥ Bicycles - The Local East Village Blog - NYTimes.com


I ♥ Bicycles


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blue bike brown paper bagMario Ramirez

The bicycle is such a decorous, ingenious, quiet machine, it’s a shame it has become a politicized one as well. But when you see somebody on a bike with a placard attached to it which reads A QUIET PROTEST AGAINST OIL, you know Politicization has arrived. (On First Avenue, in this case.)

Beautiful and ingenious as the bicycle may be, the human body is even more beautiful and ingenious, at least until the age of 60, and especially below the age of 30. And let’s not forget one important thing. As a pedestrian, I also fall into the category of partaking in A QUIET PROTEST AGAINST OIL, unless I’m in a cab. I just don’t have a sign, or a T-shirt, with which to make this fact plain. But I’m going to get one. It’s going to be a quiet protest against other, equally quiet protests.

I’m not crazy about cars except when I’m in them – especially expensive ones. This doesn’t happen often, but they’re great! When you’re in a car, pedestrians are so annoying! Bicyclists are so annoying! Cabs, dogs, buses, motor scooters, cats, traffic lights, “No Entry” signs, skate boarders, rollerbladers, tourists, and all other vehicles and drivers are so annoying! Everybody out of the way! Can’t you see I’m trying to get from A to F? If you’re a rat, fine — I’ll run you over. Birds — people are touchy about that, even if they do charge into your windscreen without a by-your-leave. Anyway, I only drive in Los Angeles, and I’m never in Los Angeles.

Johnny Pérez

When it comes to locomotives, you can’t beat a bare pair of legs. They can also be a feature on the bicycle, although rarely in high heels. However, I will keep personal tastes, sexual preferences, and weird kinks out of this. I’m just saying, legs will get you around. Until very recently, New York was known as a “walking city.” You could step off the curb without worrying about it. That’s what made it different from other places. Now, it’s not so clear. Everyone’s got a claim: Drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians. Tempers flare. Lawsuits beckon. Lawyers lick their chops.

Glasses with a tiny rear-view mirror attached to the frame are becoming a fashion statement, like piercings and hair extensions. Increasingly personalized designer helmets, informing people exactly who you are and what you believe in, are bound to proliferate. A new industry beckons, especially on the distaff side. Bicycling is also good for the legs, lungs, and heart. First Avenue is 125 blocks long, 250 there and back – a race track! A marathon! Something to boast about afterwards as you down a foaming glass of micro-brew on a warm summer evening while chatting up a potential mate in a mutual rush of blood-flow glow.

Bicycling is a great thing, it’s true. But Americans are a competitive, sports- and fitness obsessed people, provided they can get off the couch. In cities like Paris and Copenhagen they use bicycles just to get around. Here you’re going to have people who use them to work on their calf- and thigh muscles, and muscles you’ve never heard of. They do that in France, too, but they do it outside town, and wear really weird costumes and hate Lance Armstrong. They have a clearer notion of what’s “urban” and what isn’t. They stop for wine. New Yorkers not so much.

There’s not a lot to be said for cars, unless you’re in one. Of course people love cars, too — the color, the design, the engine, the horse power, the leather seats, the smell, the dashboard display, sound system, virility, and so on. That’s why they’re always breaking into them and stealing stuff.

Bike CongressMichael Natale

Bicycle lanes, bicycle lanes, bicycle lanes…. What about bicycle sidewalks? If you have one, you have the other. Where are you going to put the bicycle after you get out of the lane? On the sidewalk, mostly. Chained to bus stops, parking meters, fences, railings, trees, random bits of metal and anything else you can bind a bike to, including bicycle racks. People are less afraid of having parts ripped off now, which they certainly used to be. There’s strength in numbers. A powerful bicycle lobby lobbied the Mayor who bludgeoned the city, and so confidence grows. On narrow side streets, if only by inches, the space left over for pedestrians grows smaller. But then everything in New York can be measured by inches. Inches are important. Check out your apartment.

I ♥ bicycles! Except I don’t ride one (for now at least). Which means I don’t really ♥ bicycles. I have to look both ways, all the time, like someone who can’t remember whether he’s in America or Australia (where they drive on the left). It’s a bit like the old days when you kept turning around after dark to make sure the person behind you wasn’t carrying a gun as opposed to a cell phone.

One thing is certain: Bicycles are here to stay. Except in winter, when most of them go away.