Though new guidelines give the New York City Sanitation Department the authority to remove abandoned bicycles from poles and parking meters, ghost bikes — usually painted white and adorned with flowers to commemorate killed bikers — are exempted from the rule, the Daily News reported yesterday. According to the official announcement, “ghost bikes will never be deemed to be derelict.” The News counts at least 67 ghost bikes city-wide. It’s a small, but not insignificant victory for urban riders, a growing, but still embattled group, who are being recognized by local government and given new lanes, yet have their share of enemies who continue to break their locks, run them over or write mean things about them on the Internet! There’s a war brewing; whose side are you on?
Take, for example, the bike-hating vigilante in Williamsburg, dubbed (uncreatively) The Bike Crusader by the Brooklyn Paper:
“If I get the right people together, we will go down Bedford Avenue at 4 am and inject every bike lock on the strip with Krazy Glue,” said the vigilante, whom we’re calling “The Bike Crusader.”
“There is a bike crisis. Every pole in the neighborhood is littered with them. … These Yuppies are running the whole damn city, and I’m left to my own devices.”
This is not from The Onion; it is real life. This is what, at a newspaper, we call an utter lack of self-control on the part of the writer: “That resentment eventually drove the Crusader Krazy.”
And fellow Brooklynites are not happy with the Paper for keeping the Crusader’s identity a secret. “Brooklyn Paper, you’re officially run by herbs,” they say.
Which is not to say that there is harmony even among the city’s bikers! Reuters blogger Felix Salmon, in a burst of Friday sass, delivered a few thousand words he called “A unified theory of New York biking.” Some say the city’s bikers are an entitled set. To that I say, here is a biker who is also a blogger! He’s not wrong though: “Cyclists get no respect as road users. Instead, tragically, they’re treated like pedestrians.” Some of that is the fault of the biker, though, he admits. Specifically, the “evil bike salmon,” who rides the wrong way:
Every bike salmon constitutes an utterly gratuitous confrontation and escalation in the war between bicyclists and motorists. Whenever a motorist encounters a bicyclist riding towards them on the street, that only serves to confirm in their mind that bicyclists aren’t proper road users, aren’t worthy of their respect, and certainly can’t be trusted to play by the same rules that govern cars.
What it seems Salmon (the writer, not the bad biker) means, but may be buried in his passion, is that respect must be earned through solidarity and following rules. Going through the proper channels of change — like when the city saves ghost bikes — is the right direction. In short: teamwork, guys, like we’re riding a tandem.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 5, 2010