Important Thinkers dislike cycling in New York because it disrupts the city in their heads. This magical New York City—where parting words are bitingly clever and cab rides always end before Houston Street and our urban chaos is revealed to be a giant Rube Goldberg machine of Love & Fate—provides an incubator for their inspiration and a stage for their genius. Extant New York can sniff around, but puncturing this artifice arouses their outrage. So it is with author and screenwriter Delia Ephron, who is very upset at Mayor Bloomberg because Citi Bikes are blue.
Ephron's New York Times opinion piece begins with a conversation many of us are having these days: What do we think of Mayor Bloomberg?
“BLOOMBERG, love him or hate him?” a friend asked.
“Hate,” I said.
It’s this bike program. The other day I stepped off a curb and a bike coming the wrong way down a one-way street passed so close I could feel its breeze on my back. It seems as though, every day, I’m almost hit by a bike. That’s a problem, but it’s not the problem.
So Danger, the very real threat of Danger that is felt by pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists alike (hundreds of them are killed every year, though not by bicycles) isn't the real issue with Bloomberg (here are some real issues). It's the color and sponsorship of his bike share program.
He’s turned our city blue.
For $41 million — what Citibank paid to sponsor the program for five years — our city bikes became Citi Bikes. To make certain you don’t forget this fact, a Citi Bike sign hangs in front of the handlebars, Citi Bike is printed twice on the frame, and a Citi Bike billboard drapes the rear wheel on both sides. The font is the familiar Citibank font and the Citibank signature decoration floats over the “t.” There is no way to see a Citi Bike without thinking Citibank. The 6,000 bikes so far rolled out, of a possible 10,000, and their signs are a Day-Glo cobalt blue that you see on banks. Nobody wears this color. Nobody paints his or her apartment this color. This blue is bank blue.
Ephron's bubble has been pierced with the cobalt sword of Reality, where advertising is sadly ubiquitous and alternative modes of transportation are desperately needed and where relief from subterranean sedentary tedium is welcomed, no matter its color or who is picking up the tab.
We’re told that this bike program is modeled after the one in Paris. But in Paris, the bikes are a silvery gray and the sponsors have discreet small tattoos on the bike frame. Paris bikes blend. They respect the romance that is Paris.
By this logic, we're lucky our bikes aren't made of take-out containers and rat skulls, with dollar slice padded saddles, smartphone handlebars and a bell that rings as abidingly hollow as a failed "U-S-A" chant on the subway. But that sounds complicated so blue, whatever—whogivesashit?
Speaking of which, it is impossible to discuss this blight on our cityscape without a shout-out to an intersection at Ninth Avenue and 18th Street that I think of as Bloomberg corner.
Where there used to be four lanes for cars traveling down Ninth, there are now two. A long triangular concrete island has been installed to guide drivers making left turns even though drivers have been making left turns since they got licenses. On the concrete island are 15 filthy distracting newspaper dispensers in red, blue, white and orange.
"Johannes Gutenberg: Love him or Hate him?"
"Hate," I replied, as my chapped hands, riddled with paper cuts from the takeout menus crammed into my mailbox like so many tapas-themed booby traps, cupped yesterday's AM NY and gripped a steaming turd recently produced by my corgi, Leonosis.
To the left of the left turn lane is the bicycle lane. I hope you can visualize this because it’s nuts.
It sounds absolutely bonkers. It sounds like the Medusa of intersections. The melter of synapses, the destroyer of sanity, a malicious M.C. Escher encased in a concrete hellscape.
Then it will be winter and we’ll have one of those blizzards that turns the city entirely white and nearly silent. You will leave your apartment to take in this miracle, trekking down your street, making the first boot marks in virgin snow, and as you turn a corner, your head will suddenly spin toward a gigantic inkblot on the landscape: a stand of 27 bank-blue bikes. A total of 135 Citi Bike signs. You will forget the awesomeness of nature.
Luckily, the guy holding a Guitar Hero controller and a bottle of Beam peeing "FUCK RANDY" into the patch of virgin snow that a member of his party will further desecrate with the bile of leftover 35-cent wing night should snap you right back into your bucolic trance.
Then the snow will melt and freeze, and someone on a blue bike will skid right into you. Finally spring. Your broken leg is almost healed. The surgery to insert pins went well. You have completed four weeks of physical therapy, and at last can limp around outside without crutches. As you spy a cherry tree lush with blossoms, a you-know-what will zip by. Suddenly that beautiful day will get so much uglier.
All because of the color blue.