Sunday, May 20, 2007

SF Weekly rides with the bike lemmings

The SF Weekly and the SF Bay Guardian, the city's two free weeklies, are bitter rivals for dominance in the SF market. But their competition is purely commercial, since there's never been much difference in their political/cultural perspectives. Witness SF Weekly's current "Best of San Francisco 2007" issue, which shows how it targets the Young and Cool market in SF. How do you court the Young and the Cool? First, you devote a lot of space to music, which both publications do. And you have to buy into the primary fantasy of many of the city's young folks---bicycles as a political and cultural accessory.

While SF Weekly's columnist Matt Smith buys into the whole political BikeThink mindset, the Weekly also emphasizes bikes as a matter of personal style, especially when it comes to bike messengers, "the coolest guys in town":

Bike messengers: Barely employable cycle couriers who transport packages at breakneck speeds between offices in the city. Known for their dubious hygiene, excessive drinking, and obeying traffic laws on a case-by-case basis. Basically the coolest guys in town...Best Bike Event: North American Cycle Courier Championships, May 25-28, various locations in S.F. Bike messengers are a unique and secretive species, and one of their holiest events is this annual weekend of competitions and merrymaking. Over the Memorial Day weekend, the streets and bars of San Francisco will fill with bikers from around the world as the best of the best slug it out in alleycat races, hill climbs, stunt-riding, and track competitions, along with all the assorted frivolity involved whenever the far-flung messenger diaspora gathers...

Face it dudes, not many of us are actually lucky enough to be bike messengers, but we can at least buy the right accessories and pretend that we're cool:

Best Bike Bags: Chrome Transport, 1086 Folsom (between Seventh & Moss), 503-1221, There's something gratifying about buying a bike bag that's been, as the Web site attests, "created to endure biking 10 hours a day in the rain, mud, snow, and grit," even if the most cycling you ever do is from the front door to Muni...And, of course, they're incredibly cool-looking---but we won't tell anyone that's actually why you bought one.

But where can we actually see these paragons of coolness? SF Weekly tells us that, too:

Best Place to Spot a Bike Messenger Sitting Still
One Post St. (at Montgomery)
The sunny steps of the Montgomery Street BART station may not seem like the hub of one of San Francisco's coolest scenes, but depending on whom you ask, they are. Bike messengers of all persuasions relax here between delivering tags: young, old, crazy, sexy, male, female (but not many of the latter). Hand-rolled cigarettes are smoked, coffee is drunk, crosswords provoke furrowed brows, and the scene is constantly in flux, as radios crackle, summoning these fleet-wheeled Mercuries to all corners of San Francisco. What is it about bike messengers that give them such an untouchable air of cool mystique? Shouting obscenities at passers-by (especially if they're female, and/or on a bicycle), drinking cheap beer in the early afternoon (or the morning), and an undeniable sense of utilitarian fashion all combine to give bicycle messengers a top score in "street cred." Watching them in action on the street is inspiring; watching them in repose at One Post could be a lesson in coolness.

Reread the above item looking for even a trace of irony, and you'll come up empty. Shouting obscenities at passing women! Drinking beer in the morning! How cool is that?

One of our leading weeklies is evidently written and edited by adolescents---backward adolescents at that.

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At 10:46 PM, Anonymous Tyrell Shoji said...

I agree there's nothin' cool about Bike Messengers, but who are the lemmings?

At 12:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wish I would have known you as a twenty- or thirty-something, Rob.

Were you out there telling everyone that their muscle cars were just a political and cultural fantasy?

Or are you still pissed off about voting for Nixon when you turned 18?

I'm not sure, but I think somebody may have a problem with the youth of today.

At 1:16 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rumor is that the bike co's membership increased by 10% on bike to work day.

That kind of reminds me of when Da Mayor tried to crack down on critical mass in 1997 and the public spoke up for bicycles causing a membership surge of 50%. It was during the cycle courrier championships, if you recall correctly.

Oh, hey-- would you look at that! Critical mass is friday and the cycle courrier championships are here once again!

Too bad there's no immanent crack down on CM this time around. Maybe you could manufacture one, eh Rob? It would be the least you could do for the bike movement. Oh, that's right-- there is no bike movement; I forgot.


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