Wednesday, August 13, 2008


Because DC's new bike program launched today ("SmartBike") and I am secretly obsessed with bike culture, this post is devoted to velocipedes.

Of course the city's mayor, a "bike enthusiast" is thrilled:
"The most basic use, we believe, would be for someone to pick one up near their home, to use it to commute to work and, of course, drop it off somewhere near their work location and use it to get home in the same way," Fenty said.
Uh, Mr. Mayor? The bikes last for three hours. I'm stubborn. I just don't think there are enough bikes or stations to allow for people do that successfully. (I do however, hope I'm wrong.) Did anyone try it today? How did it work for you?

Here's, this YouTube video I meant to post several weeks ago of a uniformed police officer assaulting a cyclist during July's Critical Mass. You've probably already seen it but I think it's worth watching just in case you haven't.

Critical Mass is "a monthly bicycle ride to celebrate cycling and to assert cyclists' right to the road." Events are held all over the world (look, one is coming up soon in Alaska!) but probably gain the most traction (pun not intended) in larger cities like New York. Cyclists have long cited excessive force with police during the event. 200 cyclists were arrested in New York in 2004.

In smaller towns the event doesn't accomplish anything--in Frederick there weren't even enough people to attract attention or cause a nuisance (which isn't the point of the event). Given the focus of the event and the subsequent action in July, it's fairly obvious that there's a struggle in sharing the road. That should be common sense--a vehicle is heavier, faster, deadlier--but the severity and frustration seems to escape most people anyway. (You can see my friend Jacob and I go at it in this f-locked LJ post.)

Before you ask, Gothamist reports that the cyclists were within their rights for the event. They didn't need a permit, and, the Gothamist also kindly points out, most of the time cyclists have to swerve around parked cars obstructing the bike lane.

As of July 29 the officer, 22-year-old Patrick Pogan, has been stripped of his badge and gun. The cyclist, 29 year-old Christopher Long, was detained for twenty six hours following the incident. He was also charged with assisting arrest, attempted assault, and disorderly conduct.

And finally, to file under You Have to Be Fucking Kidding Me: Baltimore's City Paper music editor was attacked on one of the trails:
Approaching the old BGE power station--the future site of the Westport development--a group of 10 to 15 teenagers (presumably) rushed me. I was able to swerve away for the most part but took a fist to the face and stayed, fortunately, on the bike.
This is mega shitty and it's been bothering me all day, for several reasons. Foremost, the shittiness of the situation on its own. (Obviously it sucks that someone can't walk down the street, wait for a bus, ride a bike without being threatened or bothered.) But then there are the little things that bother me. Since moving to Frederick I've dreaded riding my bike through the neighborhood because I'm convinced I'll be hassled by one gaggle of youths or another. This is a personal issue, but it bothers me because it makes me realize that I'm Old And Afraid of Young People. When I was sixteen I dated a boy on the other side of the neighborhood. He was short, and with blue hair and black band tees, was significantly unpopular with the dope dealing faux hip hop crowd...who hung out near his house. Because he insisted I stay over as late as possible I usually had to run home and the fastest way home was through unfenced backyards and parks inhabited by "bad kids." This didn't bother me. I was genuinely not afraid. What were they going to do? Call me fat? Call me a bitch? Big deal, that didn't bother me. But now the idea of it does, and I'd rather ride my bike through cow laden pastures. Cows don't call anyone a "fat ho."

My parents' neighborhood is nice. People don't think it's nice because it has a reputation, but most of the unsavory things that occurred in the late 80s through early 90s were perpetrated by people who didn't live here. They lived in the expensive communities and went to the "nicer" high school in Frederick's city limits. The shooting that occurred in high school was by a woman from West Virginia and the shooting that occurred last year solely involved people from Frederick. They just rented out the facilities in Walkersville. (This explanation isn't helping.)

Ultimately I come back to wondering how I would have handled that situation when I lived in Baltimore/Towson. Maybe that's what bothers me most of all, because the visualization is on a continuous loop and it always ends with me as a heap of limbs on the ground. What would you do? I really want to know what Kate's experiences are like and what she thinks.

The blog received a comment detailing a reader's description. Commenter c3104 responded to the post with his/her own account of a similar incident (emphasis mine):
I have been jumped like that in the middle of Fell's Point. Bottom line, people are not safe anywhere. I carry a canister of powerful mace that dangles from the clasp of my bag's strap. So, it sits basically on my chest, a clear warning to any would be attackers, that they will get juiced. I'm glad you were ok, my incident required 18 stitches.

I know we are supposed to accept violence as part of city life, but do we have to? My commute now is disturbingly safe. I'm more likely to get injured because the bus crashed than even engage in a verbal altercation. This is new to me; I've accepted brazen and aggressive behavior as the norm. In fact, I expect it. (And I miss it.) If I did engage verbally it's with a corporate drone over cutting in line for the commuter bus from Shady Grove Metro station to Frederick, and though we're all very cranky, it's not likely to happen. I could probably sit in line on a laptop and remain undisturbed, and though I am obviously jarred by bad behavior, I'm just as bothered by the radical change to this weird sense of classicism. Because that's what it is--these routes are treated better than everyone else's because of the people that are on them.

I'm a downer. I'll have more for you tomorrow, I found a lot of articles about MTA (NY) today while fact checking. (Don't worry, I have more thoughts about the DC commute, too.)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i was also knocked off of my bike on guilford. i managed to hold onto my bike even though that's what the person really wanted from me. i had to go to the hospital my tooth went through my lip and i had a broken arm. i haven't changed anything about my bike riding (such as carrying mase or weapon) i know there is violence, and i know it happens to innocent people i just like to hope that every day is my lucky day. it's quite a blow when it isn't though.