Tuesday, December 15

Editorial: All Bicyclists Are Not Crusty

Hoo, boy, this Williamsburg Hasidic Jew-Hipster Cyclist turf war is the culture clash of our time, and it has something for everyone (or at least two types of people). Do you hate hipsters who ride bikes? Also, do you kinda hate Hasidic Jews? Congratulations! You now have more reasons to do so.

Further, do you really hate hipsters who ride bikes? Do you like to conjure false and hackneyed equivalencies between the two "religions" represented by this epic struggle? And is your name Tunku Varadarajan? Well, then, you should certainly type up a column and upload it to Tina Brown's online kitchen-sink clearinghouse of cloying claptrap The Daily Beast, because you are obviously a deeply thinking human.

Here's a condensed version of the hot war currently being waged: Williamsburg Hasids recently prevailed on the city of New York to remove the bike lane on Bedford Avenue for safety and religious reasons: not only did the lanes make a narrow street even narrower for cars, but the presence of young ladies on bicycles in various states of undress was rendering some Hasids unable to read their holy book while also driving a minivan because of boobs and such. Then a few Williamsburg bike riders cheekily repainted the lane one night and then got arrested.

Here's how Master Sensei Tunku lays out the case against bikers:

Cyclists . . . pursue a form of zealotry of their own. They have quasi-religious garments (Day-Glo jackets), they follow austere codes of discipline (exercise and low fat), they think they know the one and true way (cycling), and they demand special treatment for the Church of Lycra (bike lanes). Also, they trail a frightful whiff of sweat in their wake. (But the same can be observed, sometimes, on a sweltering summer’s day, of those who dress as if for a winter in Vilna.) More broadly, is it entirely surprising that respect for a religious community is often a challenge to hipsters who have been raised outside any religious tradition?

Ugh, has there ever been a more tortured effort at equating two sides in a debate? Yeah, and he also says that many cyclists "are eco-bombastic crusaders with an ungovernable contempt for non-cycling scum." (Mr. Varadarajan, I do indeed have contempt for you, but not because you don't ride a bicycle.)

As airtight as Tunku's logic is, I must point out the tiniest of gaping holes in it: some people who ride bikes actually aren't hipsters—even in crusty, crunchy, skinny-jeaned Williamsburg and its best gay friend Greenpoint (where I live)! I know this goes against Tunku's science, but it's true. And many people ride bikes simply because they prefer to commute that way, not because they are smug, dirty hippies who calculate their carbon footprint every evening before alphabetizing their Kashi cereal boxes.

Let's get something straight: bicyclists are often assholes. I say this as a bicyclist. At least once a day I see a fellow cyclist do something really irritating and dangerous. I myself have no doubt done things that are irritating and dangerous. One reason bicyclists are assholes is because people are constantly trying to kill them, even when they aren't doing things that are irritating and dangerous. If you've ever biked in this city you are familiar with the intense and naked hatred many drivers around you feel toward you. But whatever, I'm perfectly fine being called an asshole. But don't you dare call me a hippy.

I don't bike to save the Earth. I don't bike to feel superior to others. I sure as hell don't bike to show off my body's way with lycra or day-glo jackets, neither of which I've ever worn.

Here's why I bike: so I don't have to pay for a monthly MTA card, so I don't have to ride the terrible L train, and so I can start my day by having a good 45-minute workout before sitting down at a computer for 8-9 goddamn hours.

I don't give a crap if you drive a Prius, a BMW, or a freaking Hummer. As long as you don't hit me with it.