Commercializing The Bike Lane

There’s a lot to love about the so-called “micromobility” revolution, but perhaps my favorite thing is getting stuck behind a cargo trike on the bike path:

I’m not sure which I like better: the slowing every time it has to pass between a pair of bollards, or the fact that I can’t see around it and instead get to stare at a big yellow sign that says, “YOUR AD HERE.”

And yes, I get it, “It’s better than sharing the road with gigantic deadly trucks.” Yadda yadda yadda. I’d certainly buy that if there were any indication whatsoever that these things were reducing truck traffic. However, truck traffic is just as bad as ever, and as I point out repeatedly, all these other contraptions are out there in addition to all the motor vehicle vehicle traffic we all know and love, not instead of it.

“Oh yeah? Just wait until congestion pricing!” Could congestion compel more businesses to abandon trucks and vans and use these things instead? Sure, it’s possible–I mean I highly doubt it, but it’s possible. But even if it does happen…is that a good thing? Just imagine if the bike paths were full of these things, their ad spaces filled with visual pollution, their cumulative bollard-slowing resulting in bicycle traffic jams from the Intrepid to the Bowery. And forget heading down to the bike path for a stress-free ride with your young kids. I don’t care how idealistic you are about ridding the streets of giant trucks, you’ve got to admit a commercial e-cargo takeover of our bicycle network would totally suck. So I guess we have to hope for a very-best-case scenario in which congestion pricing reduces cars and trucks, thereby freeing up the streets for e-cargo contraptions like these so they don’t have to resort to the bike path. (I know this is what the advocates hope and believe will happen.) But these sorts of things have a way of defying our models and expectations. Hey, when mayoral candidates were going on about “tearing out your fucking bike lanes” I’d never have thought the biggest threat to the bicycle network would in fact turn out to be unlicensed motor scooters, yet here we are.

I’m fully aware that this is totally a contrarian old-guy thing to say, and as I’ve said before, the world belongs to the next generation and not to cantankerous aging fusspots like me, but sometimes I wonder if the battery is the worst thing that possibly could have happened to bikes–and I’m not just talking about motors, or even electronic shifting. I’m talking about HAVING TO HEAR PEOPLE’S GODDAMN MUSIC ALL THE TIME WHEN I’M JUST TRYING TO ENJOY BEING OUTSIDE:

The “Eyes Wide Shut” mask is merely a bonus:

Nevertheless, we keep laboring under the delusion that e-bikes are going to save the Earth. Not only are we still insisting that e-bikes will replace car trips despite fact that e-bikes have been around for years and it’s not happening in any meaningful way, but now we’re also saying that people will actually migrate in search of e-bike subsidies:

Yes, you read that right:

Nobody–and I mean nobody–is relocating from one city to another to get a discount on an e-bike. It makes about as much sense as flying six hours to a restaurant because they offer a lunch special. All of this survey proves is that surveys are stupid, because you can set them up to give you any result you want. People say “yes” to all sorts of crap that makes them sound virtuous when they know they’ll never have to actually do it. It’s also worth noting the the only data people seem to be able to cite with regard to e-bike trips replacing car trips is that people say they’ll do it in surveys. As I said earlier, predicting the future is a dangerous business, since it rarely turns out the way we think it will. Still, I’m pretty confident in saying we will never, ever see a mass migration of subsidized e-bike homesteaders.

And no, that’s not me saying cities shouldn’t subsidize e-bikes. It’s just me saying let’s get real about how badly people want them.

Moving on, I recently mentioned my new-to-me toeclip-compatible cycling shoes–which I haven’t even had the chance to try yet. Well, that’s not the only toeclip setup with which I’ll be experimenting, and I’ve also got a pair of these on the way:

[Photo: Yellow Jersey]

To be clear, this is not me advocating for a return to toe clips and straps; this is merely me experimenting and dorking out on vintage bikes. Anyway, that’s a slotted cleat designed for a modern three-hole road shoe. (Though it only uses two of the three holes.) Of course, modern shoes aren’t designed for use with toe clips, and features such as ratchets or Velcro straps can potentially get in the way. (As you’ll notice, all those old-timey cycling shoes have laces.) So to obviate that possibility, I got myself a pair of these:

The model is called “Tour.” As I’ve mentioned, I’ve been very pleased with the Quest, and these seemed similar–apart from the laces, which I figured would work better with toe clips. (They’ll also look better with a vintage bike, let’s not lie and pretend it doesn’t matter.) Since Pearl Izumi have foolishly been sending me stuff to try, I reached out to them and asked for a pair, but alas, they were out of my size. However, they were available elsewhere (and on sale!) so I just went ahead and bought a pair. Thankfully, your generous donations make occasional purchases like this possible, and I like to think I’m doing a service to the cycling community in general and the nine people still interested in toe clips with slotted cleats in particular.

As for the shoes, I haven’t tried them yet, but the sole says “carbon” on it if you’re into that:

[They misspelled “crabon.”]

They’ve also got this substantial rubber gripper thingy on the heel, which is one of my favorite features of the Quest:

We’ll see how they do once I’ve got them set up, but between the cleats and the shoes the price was certainly reasonable, and unlike a pair of vintage Detto Pietros I can always use them with modern pedals.

So if you’re looking for a budget L’Eroica setup, I’ve got you covered.

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