Tag Archives: bicycle

We’re All Jerks Sometimes.

Wow its been a while since I’ve last posted.  Have had a lot to write about and not much time to actually do it.  Tonight won’t be a long post either, as I still have some foursquare work to crank on.

Quick story: Went to Washington Square Park to eat lunch today and road my bike over- standard two minute ride.  While sitting on the grass a news reporter (I believe from the NY Post) came over and asked me a few questions about the DOT’s new “Don’t be a Jerk” campaign, complete with billboards and PSA’s attempting to teach cyclists how not be.. well, JERKS.  The campaign begs the question, are cyclists really jerks?  There is obviously no clear cut answer.  Yes, some cyclists are jerks; running red lights, biking against traffic, or riding on the sidewalks with no regard for anything else around them except things bigger than themselves, ie. cars, busses, trucks, and cabs.  Cab drivers fall into a whole separate category of drivers, just like NY vs NJ drivers, but thats a whole different argument saved for another day.  The point is that some cyclists are deliberately jerks, some are entirely law abiding, but most are only jerks when they have to be, usually out of pure self defense.  The problem is that most pedestrians that have never ridden a bicycle in Manhattan have no idea what its like to constantly be looking over your shoulder for the next cab deliberately trying to pass as close as they can to you without actually hitting you.  We’re fast, but not as fast as vehicles.  And the facts don’t lie: Cyclist collisions with pedestrians caused zero deaths in Manhattan last year.  The same cannot be said for automobiles which caused nearly 270 deaths. 270 people were hit by cars and died, but cyclists are still the jerks.

The “Don’t be a Jerk” campaign has done nothing but strengthen the false illusions that all cyclists are deliberately jerks on the road.  What the DOT needs to do is strike a balance of blame between all of the parties involved. Pedestrians are equally as guilty of J walking, crossing on red lights, opening doors into traffic, etc.

Not the first time we've seen this..

The same is true for vehicles: speeding, running red lights, parking illegally, and pulling into bike lanes.  That said, it should be noted that police are not above the law.  If they want to dish out tickets to cyclists that don’t have bells and lights on their bikes so be it.  But I would love to know how to dish it back to cops equally as guilty.

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Saddle Protection

My girlfriend bought me a new saddle.  Needless to say its beautiful. Brooks B17 Special in dark green leather with copper rivets.  Easily one of the best additions to my bike, but unfortunately one of the easiest parts to steal as well.

I can’t imagine locking my bike up only to come back five minutes later to find my saddle jacked. Unthinkable and yet very probable.  I would estimate a good thief could remove my saddle in under two minutes with the right tool.  And who am I kidding, the right tool is no more than an allen key.

So heres the problem; I’ve done a ton of research looking for the right way to protect my saddle from theft and everything has come up short.

Here are the options I’ve come up with so far:

Buy a Quick Release

It sounds great: inexpensive, easy to install, and secure.. at first. Lock up your bike and bring your seat post and saddle with you. And then you realize all of the random times when you just want to ride out to go shopping or something.  Then what? Take your saddle into every store. As if carrying around a 12 pound Kryptonite lock wasn’t enough, now I get to carry my saddle everywhere I go after I lock up.  Not to mention if you forget you have that quick release.  Leave it on the street once, and a three year old child could be walking away with your saddle in under 30 seconds.

Lock it up with an old bike chain

Green B17 Special Brooks Saddle

One word. Ugly. I know its the most effective way to lock up a saddle, and most bike stores will even do it for free.

But seriously, you couldn’t pay me enough to put that on my bike. Besides, the distance from the saddle to the seat stays is way too long to even think about making an old chain look cool.  Simplicity is an art.  One wrong part could ruin the entire dream and thats why its out of the question.

Buy a Removable Flex Cable

Fail. They will cut it in a minute.  Two more minutes and the seat is gone.

Wrap it Up in PlasticScott Amenta CitySpoke

Yikes, clever idea, who would ever think to steal some crappy seat wrapped in an old plastic bag.  And its weather proof too, albeit terrible looking. Unfortunately it can’t be trusted at all, even when combined with any of the other options aforementioned.

Buy a set of Locking Skewers

At first I thought this was the best option out of all of them.  Totally invisible and pretty difficult to work with for the majority of bike thieves.  Plus the set will lock both my wheels and possibly my headset- A great bonus considering I only lock my front wheel usually. However, a bit more research shows just how poor the locking skewers really are.  For one, I read that a universal wrench could probably unscrew even the best of locking skewers. Moreover, the set only locks the seat post. Bleeh.  Did OnGuard or Pinhead or any other lock company not realize there is another bolt attaching the saddle to the seat post?  How is that possible? Whether a thief unscrews the saddle or the seat post with the saddle, they still win.  And I still lose.  It might look like a deterrent, but I definitely don’t trust it.

Keep your nice saddle on your desk at home and just ride around with the $20 one that hurts Your Butt on every bump.

Doesn’t sound very fun but looks like the only option for now…

PPW

Not Quite Copenhagen

I picked up the most recent issue of New York magazine the other day while shopping at Whole Foods when the cover caught my eye.  I’m not one to sporadically buy magazines at the point of purchase for groceries but I couldnt help myself after seeing the words “Bikelash” plastered across the front.  I would think its pretty rare that a bike lane lands a five page story, plus the front cover of any urban magazine, especially one from NY.  The PPW bike lane did just that.

I would encourage anyone interested in the dispute over the PPW lane or just the growth of NYC biking in general to read the article.  Unfortunately it is a little bit one sided, especially at the beginning where the author (although a cyclist) focuses in on the views of anti-bike lane proponents.  It isn’t until the continuation of the article at the back of the magazine (pg. 91) that the good stuff is presented.  One of my favorite quotes, written about the 9th ave bike lane, which was originally met with fierce opposition until tempers slowly dies down was this; “there is something infinitely joyful in putting foot to pedal, something intoxicating about not being bound to the whims of a bus driver or subway conductor or thick tangles of crosstown traffic.  Whipping down the street, completely protected from the cars zooming by just a few feet away, may be the closest any New Yorker comes to flying” (Matthew Shaer). While not presenting anything factual to back up the need for bike lanes in NY, it is certainly an accurate testament to the feelings held by NY cyclists riding in a protected bike lane.  Now imagine a world where those lanes no longer exist.  Not such a pleasant dream when you’ve lost your wings.

Goldy

Saw this bike outside NYU Stern the other day.  It’s cool but also makes me glad that I didn’t go with the gold rims on my bike.  Putting those colors on a track bike is just begging to get it stolen.  This bike probably cant move too fast anyways.  The owner, whose name unfortunately I didn’t get, won the bike at an Equinox raffle and explained that it was pretty poorly built, ie wrong brackets, oversized stem, and cheap knockoff parts made in china.  Either way its an attention grabber, so I suppose Equinox won on that front. Decide for yourself!

Nurds who bike. #bikenyc

Courtesy of Dmitry Gudkov

For those that don’t know, #bikenyc represents a quickly growing twitter group, tweeting and sharing everything bicycle related in New York City.  #bikenyc is a combination of petitioners, community builders, bicycle enthusiasts, commuters, bloggers, and if you hadn’t guessed by my title, tech nurds who ride bikes.

The first #bikenyc tech meetup was hosted at pivotal labs, current home of TechStars and organized by Noel Hidalgo (@noneck), Lara (@bicyclehabitat), and Michael Green (@bikeblognyc).  I happen to be interested in both the bicycling and tech communities in NYC.  Little did I know there were others like me.  The intersection of these two communities at #bikenyc is a great step towards using technology to make NYC a safer, more social place to ride.  Here are some of my thoughts regarding the future of the meetup and what I hope to see come out of it.  While I’m not a programmer, I hope to do my own part contributing through idea generation, business development, my network, etc.

  1. In order to build great products, programmers need great data.  The bike infrastructure in NYC can only be enhanced with the release of city data through open API’s.  Obviously, getting the Bloomberg administration to release this information will be a slow and painful process, but I think it should be made a number one priority.  We could hold our own version of Big Apps competition, inviting programmers to participate in a hackathon specifically for cycling infrastructure in New York.  The innovations that come out of these programs could help put pressure on the government.  Proof of use cases with the data will certainly increase the argument for open API’s.  Moreover, we need to recruit other groups that would also have a strong use for city information.  Joining forces with other transportation startups like Roadify will help apply pressure in critical mass.  From my own perspective, interning at NYC Seed, it would be tactiful to organize the large venture capitalists in NYC to apply pressure for open API’s as well.  They have a lot to gain, as many of their portfolio companies could benefit from the increased amount of data.  As Silicon Alley grows, east coast VC’s can wield a certain amount of power over local government.  It is their companies that are supplying jobs as they grow.  Our economy relies on startups for these very reasons: innovation and employment.
  2. There seemed to be somewhat of a division between the #bikenyc technologists and the #bikenyc community not-for-profit organizers. At its heart, the #bikenyc tech meetup should exist to facilitate communication between these two parties.  Those interested in enhancing the cycling community through initiatives like group rides, community board meetings, etc need to state clearly to programmers what their problems are and how they could be addressed by building online platforms and applications.  I believe the majority of #bikenyc tech meetups should be focused on bridging this divide.  We may try to model our meet-ups on the fashion 2.0 conferences. One or two questions could be proposed prior to the meetup to align everyone thinking about the same topics.  Although classifying whose an “expert” in this field may be difficult, we could invite entrepreneurs from other startups to come speak and offer their own input on how we can help them, and vice versa.
  3. Following the notion of proposing specific topics each meeting, we need to decide on a long term goal.  Whether that means increasing the number of bike lanes, getting more cyclists on the road, reducing the number of vehicles, saving bike lanes already built (PPW), or getting data from the city.  Establishing some long-term goals will help put everyone’s thoughts into perspective about what is and is not realistic to accomplish right now.

I expect a lot will come out of the #bikenyc tech meetup in the future.  There is certainly a ton of room for improvement when thinking about New York becoming a safe, friendly environment to bike.  The reasons for supporting these initiatives are simple.  Biking makes people healthy, social, and above all happy. If we can use the internet to progress this thinking, we will have done our part to make our community that much better.  Until then, ride on #bikenyc.

Oh, and shout out to my photographer/friend Dmitry Gudkov whose #bikenyc portraits you can find on his blog or by clicking the image above.  He has done a great job bringing the #bikenyc community together through his photography. And feel free to hit him up for your own picture as spring approaches!

First Pivot

A friend once told me that the maximum number of times a startup can pivot is twice.  By three pivots you are back to square one and left with exactly what you started with.  I’m not sure what the rules for pivoting a blog are, but this is my pivot towards something that I also find very interesting in addition to bicycling around NYC: technology startups.  Similar to the bicycle community, the tech startup community here in NY is thriving.  In fact, its growing at such a crazy rate that even Silicon Valley is taking notice.  So my blog, CitySpoke, whose name and/or logo may be changed in the upcoming weeks will focus on a couple different things from here on out.  In addition to some of my favorite bloggers/blogs out there like Fred Wilson’s “AVC”, Charlie O’Donnell’s “This is Going to Be Big”, Techcrunch, Mashable, Mellow Yellow, Transportation Alternatives, and Prolly one of my goals is to become a consistent, recognizable voice as both a tech and bicycle enthusiast and participant.  My other goal is a bit more personal; to share some of the thousands of random thoughts I have everyday from the things that intrigue me about NY, my friends, relationships, technology, bicycles, food, fashion, and other things I find inspiring.

Fixed gear bicycles fascinate me.  Think about it.  They are the simplest, possibly oldest form of any bicycle.  Before the freewheel was invented, fixies ruled the street for both casual and professional riders.  Even Madison Square Garden was built to hold a velodrome.  But, it’s the pure lines that make these bike so beautiful, the customization and thought put behind every part that has created such a unique  culture.  There is something intrinsically exhilarating about riding a fixed gear bike in New York.  It’s the idea of forming a bond between man and machine.  The feeling of ultimate control in an environment of uncontrollable chaos.  Slowly, constantly, and effortlessly pedaling to what end.  Let me for a minute draw the link between entrepreneurship and riding a fixie.  Entrepreneurship is a slow, sometimes lonely adventure.  The best entrepreneurs  never stop moving forward.  They are constantly pedaling, differentiating themselves, checking the environment around them, assembling with other riders that share the same dreams, and navigating through unknown territories around hundreds of obstacles faster than anyone else on the road.  The life of a NY cyclist reflects the most important aspects of starting a business; knowing the market, creating a unique product, assembling a team beating the competition, and moving quickly and fluidly.  If you’re debating becoming an entrepreneur in this city, there’s only one answer. Try riding a fixed gear.

Bike America

I’m thinking of biking across the country– NYC to LA!  It should take less than 60 days and I plan to camp and/or sleep in motels along the way.  I’m looking at the Transamerica route but its hard to tell if that is the best option to make the most of the trip.  I am considering attempting to make my own route. Anyways, I would love to hear from anyone that has experience biking across the U.S. or knows of some good routes. Oh, and did I mention I’m planning to do the whole ride on a fixed gear bike!CitySpoke Leave your stories or ideas in the comments section below!

I also thought this quote from Ernest Hemingway was both fitting and rather inspiring for the trip.

“It is by riding a bicycle that you learn the contours of a country best, since you have to sweat up the hills and coast down them. Thus you remember them as they actually are, while in a motor car only a high hill impresses you, and you have no such accurate remembrance of country you have driven through as you gain by riding a bicycle.” Ernest Hemingway