Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Along with hundreds of pounds of mud caked to my truck, I seem to have brought a nasty cold or sinus infection or whatever back from Tennessee. I'm not surprised. I'm prone to what Mark Hendershot would call wussitis. A little putrid pasture mud and rain and I'm fracked. Now I'm flat on my back and home early from work. No evening hammer ride for me tonight. I'm on down time. All the better, cause tonight is the season finale of Lost. The pounding in my head makes me wanna do something old school, like call the local barber/veterinarian/doctor and have him get the toxins out. I'm speaking metaphorically here, of course. Better to let the Sudafed do its job.

More and more the bicycle blogosphere seems to be hitting on the impending wave of Dutch City Bikes coming our way. Not content to stay out of the fray, the Grey Lady is chiming in.

But City Room isn’t quite so sure that the masculine, messenger-centric bicycling culture is ready to embrace a style of lumbering, erect bicycling-riding that is reminiscent of, well, Pee Wee Herman.

Either way, 200 Dutch-style bicycles are coming to New York as part of the 400th anniversary of the Henry Hudson’s landing in New York City. Not just any Dutch bicycles, orange Dutch bicycles. “Very orange,” as the deputy mayor, Robert C. Lieber, put it at a ceremony introducing the bicycles.

Will the hipster fixie kids embrace the upright posture and civility of european city bikes? Sounds like a bad question. As trendy as the fixie craze has been it's only been a trend. And a trend for a relatively small number of people at that. Very very few people ride bikes in this country. Especially here in the heartland. And messenger bikes, whether reclaimed vintage frames or new single speed versions from Redline or Cannondale will never be seen as accessible or practical by the general public.

Yeah, initially I'm sure that some of those annoyingly precious hipster chicks and their emasculated boyfriends will plop down a couple of grand for a Jorg & Olif or a Velorbis. But the truth is that city bikes require that you actually live in a city. A city that's built around them. They don't move very fast. These bikes are usually three or five speeds. They're designed to be ridden slowly in normal street clothes and shoes. Not in congested vehicular traffic. If your commute is 5-10 miles through busy suburban or city streets one of these city bikes might not do the job. You'd be better off with a Shimano 10 speed rear deraileur, drop bar and set of panniers for your work junk.

I'm rooting for bike share programs in American cities. A metropolis like Gotham might be a good place for these Dutch machines. But out here in the midwest we don't even have simple public transportation. No subways. No light rail. No fancy commuter buses. There's one Amtrak train that comes through my town and goes strait to Chicago, but you aren't allowed to bring your bike or even a checked bag onboard. Don't even get me started on the lack of bike lanes here.

Civilized european style bikes won't take a firm hold here until the cities in which we live become more civilized. If we're going to get around on what is essentially a fancy slow moving cruiser bike we'll need a more civilized city. We'll need to live closer to our destinations. We'll need more bike lanes and bike only roads. More racks. A more comprehensive public transit system to fill in the gaps. After all, if so many of us live in the suburbs, we can't really ride our city bikes 30 miles to work downtown.

Until then I'll keep riding my Surly Long Haul Trucker to the bar.

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