24 October 2016

But I'm A Rider, Not A Fighter!

Make love, not war.  But be prepared for both.

I don't remember where I first read or heard that aphorism. Perhaps it was a slogan for a store that sold sex toys and guns.  Now, where I would have found such a store, I don't know...

Seriously, though:  I have long felt that the bicycle is one of the greatest "weapons for peace", if you will.  If nothing else, it could help reduce our dependence on fossil fuels if more people start pedaling instead of driving to their jobs and schools, to shop or just for fun. That, in turn, would lessen the likelihood of a war over finite resources.

Also, I think cycling breaks down at least some of the social barriers that are created, or at least fortified, when people are encased in shields of metal and glass.  Although some cyclists play games of one-upsmanship when it comes to equipment or the level of another cyclist's skills (actual or percieved) and physical fitness (again, a or p), I think it's harder to feel superior to, or to be made to feel inferior to, other cyclists when one is on a bike.

That could be the reason why, in my experience, cyclists are generally more accepting of other people's differences than other people.  That may be a reason why our politics tend to tack a bit more to the left than average.

Still, we face the reality of war--or, at least confrontation, if not violence--just as anyone else does.  Back when crime rates were higher here in NYC, I knew of cyclists who were jumped for their bikes, or who fell victim to thieves who strung fishing line between two poles at just the right height to snag a cyclist.  Some perps also scattered debris on streets or created other obstacles to stop or divert cyclists and snatched their steeds from them.

In those days, one had to use particular caution when entering or exiting the Williamsburgh Bridge:  neither the Brooklyn neighborhood for which it is named, not the area on the Manhattan side of the bridge, had begun to gentrify. Two old riding buddies, and another acquaintance, lost top-of-the-line bikes when approaching or leaving the span.

Concerns about crime were not, however, new to cyclists in those days.  In fact, our peers from a century earlier also had to think about highway robbers, sexual predators and other predators.  Such criminals, it seems, were enough of a concern that one Marcus Tindal wrote "Self Protection On A Cycle" for Pearson's, a magazine that, apparently, was a more left-leaning and even more literary version of The Atlantic or Harper's.

In his article, Tindal outlines the various ways in which a cyclist can fall prey to thieves, thugs and perverts--and how to fight back. Here is an illustration from what is, to my mind, the most interesting part:

Tindal shows us that the bicycle itself can be one of the best weapons for self-defense.  Interestingly, many of the illustrations are of women on bikes, reflecting the cultural changes that the bicycle engendered (pun intended).  And some of the advice is, shall we say, quaint--like the suggestion 

More than a century after its publication, someone turned the article's illustrations into an enjoyable series of animated GIFs.


  1. I suppose dropping a Raleigh Roadster on your assailant could be effective, lord knows it's heavy enough. However if you are strong enough to pick the damned thong up over your head you probably don't need a weapon to defend yourself.

  2. Edit: Oops. That should be damned thing not damned thong. That thong business is a whole nuther ballgame.

  3. The last three .gifs are (unintentionally?) funny. The woman/purse thief/brake-check one made me laugh, 'cause I'm imagining her flipping "the bird" when the hand is raised at the end.


  4. Phillip--Damned Thong! It snags me in all the wrong places! ;-)

    You're right about the Raleigh Roadster. I wonder how effective a carbon bike would be in such a situation.

    Wolf--It is funny, especially when you consider that even in such extreme circumstances, it's not something a "proper" lady would have done. Maybe she yelled "damned thong"!