Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

30 October 2010

Cycling vs. Fishing: The Class Structure in New York City?

Sometimes I ride down to the Canarsie Pier, as I did today.  It's on the South Shore of Brooklyn, along the Greenway that connects Howard Beach to Sheepshead Bay and parallels the Belt Parkway as it winds along the beaches and coves of the Atlantic Ocean and Jamaica Bay.

At just about any time of year, in any kind of weather, at pretty much any hour of the day or night, people--usually older men--fish off the pier:

In my time, I've seen plenty of guys fishing off piers and bridges.  The ones I see on the piers seem to have a mutual non-acknowledgment pact with cyclists.  The ones on bridges, on the other hand, are often resentful or simply hostile toward cyclists.  That may have something to do with the fact that on bridges, we tend to pass closer to them than we do on piers, as the walkways on most bridges (where cyclists usually ride and fisherman cast their lines) are only a few feet, if that, wide.

It seems that the worlds of cycling and fishing, at least in urban or suburban settings, exclude each other, whether or not by design.  Sometimes I see men riding bicycles to their fishing spots.  But they aren't riding to take the ride; the bike is strictly is a means of transportation and portage.  As often as not, their fishing poles are strapped or even taped to the top tubes of their bicycles.

Perhaps some of those fisherman resent or envy those of us who are cycling for its own sake, or for training.  After all, even if we have to put down payments on our bikes and pay them in installments before we pedal them, we have lifestyles--and, with it, access to the means, or whatever will get us the means, to buy a nice bike.  Most of the fishermen (Most are male.) are poor and/or working class; many have families they are supporting in full or in part.  And most of them, at least in this area, are members of racial and ethnic minorities.  At the Canarsie Pier, as in other fishing spots in this city,  they are usually Caribbean or Latino.  On the other hand, most cyclists, including yours truly, are white.  Even those who are Caribbean, Latino or from other minority group tend to be a bit better off, financially as well as socially, than those who are fishing.

Hmm...Could it be that this city's class structure can be delineated according to whether someone fishes or rides a bicycle?


  1. Hmm, interesting idea! It doesn't quite pan out that way over here (Oz) as fishing is seen, in the main, more as a pastime (inferring enough income to take time off). It is certainly more of a boy thing than a girl thing, though things are changing, and you do see families having a great time together. One thing you can pretty much guarantee is that the person pulling in the most fish on the jetty is either an elderly man of European extraction or a cheeky, local schoolboy (it's never me).

    Maybe the lines are clearer there because it is a more concentrated population where the guys are fishing, or maybe you don't have the well- policed bag limits and freshwater license requirements that we do? Either way, it's a shame more people don't enjoy the best of both worlds, a lovely cycle ride to a pleasant spot and then a wonderfully relaxing fish.

  2. BB: Interesting. Fishing in NYC really is a different kettle of worms, if you will, from what it is out your way. As far as I know, limits (if they exist) aren't enforced because, well, the police here have bigger fish to fry. (Pun intended.) However, one thing is the same: Fishing is definitely a male pursuit.