It's clear to me that no one was built to get along with anyone else. Humans are, in fact, created to be constantly unhappy. Especially with each other. This is what I learned from reading Central European fiction. I believe it was Franz Kafka who wrote something along the lines of "We are incapable of loving, only fear excites us." After living through a decade dedicated to making us feel freaked out at all times, one might feel like the clouds now are parting. Fear hasn't excited us so much over the last 5 years or so. We've just learned to accept it. And the thing we take for love probably isn't technically love. "Love Your Neighbor" is more like "Tolerate Your Neighbor." Love, naturally, is an emotion that makes us do things we'd never do and behave in ways that are completely at odds with the way we want to live. I mean, no one decides logically to fall in love with a loser or anything. We wouldn't chose to fall in love; it's an entirely out-of-control feeling that is, at heart, unnerving. No one likes to feel out-of-control. Or in love with people who don't deserve our love. Or unloved by people we want to love. If Fear is what we're left with because we've lost the capability to truly love anyone else, than we must constantly be finding new things to fear. Fear I get. Love I don't get.
You want to know what else I don't get? Why people don't like bike lanes. And why New York City seems to hate people on bikes. If the cops weren't throwing your bike in the river during the Republican Convention they were following bike people around for organizing and gathering on Friday nights in Union Square. Bike people are, for some reason, Public Enemy #1. For complicating the lives of car-drivers. When complicating the lives of car-riders is exactly what the government should be doing. I guess we just need to elect a bike-riding mayor. Or maybe just one that doesn't leave town by helicopter every Friday afternoon.
I'm not a bike person. But I appreciate bikes. It's kind of like having gazelles in the city. Imagine if there were a million beautiful gazelles running around the city at all times. With their graceful legs constantly bending and jumping, we'd be so thrilled to have these animals running amok on our streets. People on bikes are often beautiful. With their spandex and sweating glistening hotness, toned from riding bikes all over the place. Bike people glisten not just with hotness, but also with a sweaty halo of superiority. They do not pollute the earth except with their hotness. And their haughty, beautiful self-righteous dispositions. And you know what bike people feel entitled to? To not having to worry about being killed riding their bikes in the city. Every day I pass at least one memorial bike painted white dedicated to someone who died on a bike in that very same spot tied forever to a pole. If there were Shells of Cars painted white at every intersection in Manhattan, Queens and Brooklyn, well, that would be a lot of cars. But bikes don't kill people on bikes. Cars probably do. By running them the hell over. Or people getting out of cars do, when they open a door without looking and hit someone on a bike.
Their haughty self-righteousness is reasonable enough to me. I'd be a little punchy—though much less glistening-hot—if everything in the city was trying to kill me all the time. I'm too scared to drive a car in the city. Because I'm sure I'd kill a bunch of people and myself. And cars are expensive and a pain in the ass. I have nightmares about parking, I wake up screaming. I'm a jaywalker more than anything else. Whenever I suddenly and mysteriously get the urge to cross the street, I do. It's because I'm from Boston, where jaywalking is tradition. Paul Revere's ride took a lot longer because he had to dodge all kinds of dudes who seemed to be crossing the street just to bug him. If you want a city not built for walkers, bikes or cars, it's Boston and Cambridge. Great for horses, though! And paddy wagons!
New York was also built for horses and carriages. And yet somehow the city elders got together at some point and said, "We should forget about these horses and focus on cars. All this horse poop in the street is really bringing me down." And so now horses are restricted to bringing tourists around the park in an unhealthy and kind of weird way and cars are everywhere.
If they've banned smoking, won't they someday ban cars in the city? And why do you need a car anyway? You can have Fresh Direct or Soap.com deliver whatever you need to shop for. You can take a cab when you buy dresses at Barney's. You really only need to have a car in the city when you want to Leave the City. And that's against the interest of all the businesses in the five boroughs. They want you to stay! And eat dumplings! And go to Thor! And they want you to do it here. Never mind drawing tourists to the city, we ought to make it a little harder to leave for the people who do live here. Thankfully, I have a solution for everything. I'm a middle child, I'm always trying to fix everything.
It's clear to me that cars and bikes and strollers and walkers all can't live together. I mean, no one can ever really live together in peace with anyone else. But it's more likely that cars can deal with other cars. And if you asked me which should stay and which should go, I'm picking bikes. Everyone should start biking. Women on bikes are beautiful. Men on bikes look strong. Women and men in cars are just, like, selfishly killing the earth. But apparently we can't just tax cars for coming into midtown—that's a solution no one seems to be down with.
Instead, I'd like to advance a solution similar to Chris Rock's for the gun problem: Guns don't kill people, bullets do. Just make bullets super expensive., and you would be less likely to shoot guns randomly if at all. Gas is already $4 a gallon in the city. It could just as easily be $100 a gallon. A parking ticket is already $100. It could be $1000. You'd have to be a great car owner to live in Behrle's New York. Hitting someone on a bike with your door would be $10,000,000 a pop. You'd have to wear a photo of the person you doored around your neck for ten years wherever you went, recounting the story whenever anyone asked. If killing people on bikes was a financial and social pain in the ass, you'd definitely look both ways before you opened your damned door. Most definitely. And if having a car for those who weren't totally on top of the car at all times was incredibly expensive, you'd keep your car in Connecticut or New Jersey and take public transportation out of town to go visit and drive it around.
I propose floating car parking flotillas that can not just house your ride, but also give you a lift out of town to drive it around. They could pick up at 34th St., Battery Park and the Queensboro Bridge (fuck you, Ed Koch) and you could ride it like a ferry to Jersey City, Crouton-on-Hudson or Bridgeport. And then drive, drive, drive like a mofo, you drivers. There's no reason in the world so much of our city needs to be taken up so that you can drive to your girlfriend's house 20 blocks away and back. Walk! I mean, You're Killing the World.
We could also give out parking spaces in New York to only those who are truly deserving. Those who do great deeds, save puppies from fires. Give mouth to mouth to strangers on the subway (only when they NEED mouth to mouth, you pervs!). The mayor now gives out keys to the city that open nothing. How about a golden ticket you hang on your rearview mirror that says you've committed enough miracles to earn yourself Parkinghood? And ensuring that you continue to commit grand gestures at all times or else "Yipes! They revoked my Golden Parking Ticket for being a dick!!"
There need not only be bike lanes, there ought to be Entire Bike Avenues. I'd start with Broadway. What if only bikes could go up and down Broadway? How delightful might that be? It's hard enough to drive up and down Broadway with all those little Tourist Cafés at 23rd, 14th, 34th and 42nd. Just get cars right out of there. Less smog on tourists drinking cappuccinos. In Brooklyn, maybe no bikes on Atlantic Avenue And Flushing. We ought to be making it easier for bikes and harder for cars. Bikes are clean, keep people fitter, create less noise and take up much less space to park. New York City ought to be making it much easier to bike and ought to send cars to the same place they sent saturated fat, the original Four Loko and Marlboros.
But what about Moms and strollers, you ask? Now, first of all, aren't you a bad person if you use a stroller? Like Maggie Gyllenhaal said in that Dave Eggers' movie, "Why would you want to push your child away from you?" Shouldn't everyone have a Baby Bjorn? And use it until the kid is, like, 15? Yeah, they should. But they don't. They wheel around town in these giant baby missiles. Well, they can have 2nd Avenue. Just push your kids for miles next to other moms and their kids and you can all judge each other.
Using this awesome plan, there'd be no cars in Manhattan by about 2012, 100% less pollution and 100% more toned-hot bikers—but the very same amount of people who think that having children makes them special in a world full of people who have had children. Children are fun; people who take their children too seriously are seriously not fun. People have been having children since the beginning of time, but did you know it was actually perfected in Park Slope in the early 2000s? Someday our children will inherit a New York not populated by cars, but with those pneumatic tubes we saw on the documentary “Futurama.” Until then you should think of your child and the oil war they will someday have to fight every time you turn the ignition of your car to drive to the dry cleaner. Vroom! Shouldn’t you be raising your kids in Connecticut anyway? Yeah. You can drive and push strollers around up there all you want.
People on bikes are better people than us. I stand in awe as I watch them go, pumping and pumping while I am eating pork chops. And I say, Go Bike Racers Go. If people had to pedal their Priuses and the only emissions were the Familial Happiness They Felt While Pedaling, I’d be for those, too. I'm still working on my Idea For A Citywide Teleportation Device, with results that are thusfar excruciating. Someday I hope all the things we need will come to us. And we will be 800 pound cyclopses whose main role in life is to ruminate in our own personal kabuki drama. The future is with us and yet it is also so far away. “What will survive of us is love,” wrote the poet Philip Larkin. And he was probably right. So go hug something or someone. When we pick on other groups we are forever wrong. Except people with babies. What's up with them? What makes them so special? They once had sex? C’mon!
Jim Behrle tweets at @behrle for your possible amusement.
Photo by Ed Yourdon from Flickr.