Summer Streets – a NYC Bike Safari

I liked the first Summer Streets – lots of conspicuously first time riders, which I think was the point, and I always support car free space. I thought the 7 am to 1pm hours were a bit absurd – I think New York has enough of a night life to expect that folks will spend most of Saturday mornings asleep – moving back the time might bump participation, and make a bigger statement against car-driving.  Overall, an excellent idea, I hope this becomes a jumping off point for car-free streets designed for, you know, transportation rather than recreation.  I believe I was misled, however on one major point: my ride did not once feature Lance Armstrong, David Byrne or Jay-Z, and for that I blame Mayor Bloomberg and his fleet of lies.

Summer Streets was a veritable zoo, representing almost every variety of New York’s diverse cycling biosphere.

The Commuter on their steel beater – An important species, usually the most curmudgeonly of cyclists, because they’ve spent years doing this and god damn it this world just needs less cars and more cyclists that follow the rules. Ride conservatively, but like cycling and make up the vanguard of folks making cycling easier in New York City:

The Folding Bike Commuter – Typically seen toddling through city streets trying to make bikes with 10 inch wheels do things they probably shouldn’t. Note basket and earnest desire for people to take them seriously, despite their clownish bikes. Typically Manhattan based.

The Middle Age Recumbent – another commuter variety, likely to express similar grumpiness, but while reclined. Like the commuter in most ways, except with higher disposable income to spend on a bike that puts the rider’s face at about bumper-level. I don’t understand it, but more power to them, I guess.

The Twinkie – I’m not sure on the origins of the name, but I’m more than familiar with this particular species. Note the matching bike-spandex-helmet combo and shaved legs. Potentially rides competitively, but in the mean time spends time most of their time riding circles around Central Park looking focused.

The Fixie – Among the most polarizing of cyclists, the fixie rider eschews brakes and traffic laws with equal zeal. Some descriptions call them ‘reckless’ ‘absurd’ ‘dangerous’, etc. etc. I once agreed, but now, alas I am a ‘fixie’ myself. Typical identifying marks include tattoos, u-locks, attitude, and a penchant for trendiness.

The Fashionista Cruiser – tending to be feminine, but with increasing numbers of masculine riders spotted. An outgrowth of the ‘bikes as fashion’ trend, identifying marks include sunglasses, a slow but assertive riding style, and summer dresses.

Other fauna spotted at Summer Streets incldued:

The ever-present ‘Person going the wrong way‘:

‘Person with bike very poorly suited for its use‘ (see center – hard to make out, but this is a full suspension mountain bike):

and the parasitic “NYPD Motorbike” which was unable to leave its host even when the streets are closed. It seems the NYPD was worried that TimesUp! might turn its Clown Parade into a spontaneous Critical Mass, and so posted one of the iconic scooterbikes next to the TimesUp! tent:

Missing from this safari expedition are the working class of cycling: messengers and delivery people.  Their conspicuous absence from the event shows the basic flaw of Summer Streets – it was designed for people who bike in their free time, not for people who ride daily as employment.  I’d like to see more large-scale pro-bike events designed for people who may not have free time on Saturday, and don’t live in Manhattan.

The greatest discovery of Summer Streets was an event unheard of on Manhattan streets. No, not just 7 miles of car-free space, but this:

Cyclists actually stopping for red lights at intersections

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3 responses to “Summer Streets – a NYC Bike Safari

  1. Nice little photojournalistic article. It’s funny how so many people who ride fixed feel that they can’t use any other carrying vessel than a messenger bag. I suppose fashion always comes before function and comfort for those kind of people.

  2. Hey, that’s my kid on the silly folding bike!

  3. I enjoyed your article, what I might even consider a rather useful taxonomy of city cyclists.

    But I thought the point about the flaw of summer streets, that it isn’t designed for those who make the daily commute, is off. I’d argue that that is exactly what they’re trying to create, an environment to fostering cycling to generate more daily commuters. What better way to generate cyclists than to lure them in on safe streets, give them an incentive to purchase a bike, and then once they’ve got one they’re already committed and have to learn the hard way like the rest of us.

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