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This biker ain’t no angel

Riding my bike in Brooklyn, I get far more honk-punctuated death threats than romantic proposals. And before last week, I never expected anything different. Then, I read in the New York Observer about the sexy, $400-boot-wearing, bicycle-riding creatures who have, apparently, stolen the hearts and bike lanes of the city.

The article, titled “The Spokes-Models,” opened with a question: “Who are these Schwinn-pumping, flower-shlepping sirens?” And then proceded to answer with a description that left me wondering if the Observer had ever observed the city’s most bike-busy borough, Brooklyn.

“Eco-conscious and ethereal, they wear flowing frocks and gigantic sunglasses, but never helmets,” Reagan wrote of these so-called Beautiful Bicycle Girls. “Their hair flutters in the breeze as they leave a trail of swooning male pedestrians in their perfumed wake.”

Wait a minute. Could Reagan have forgotten to take into account the Clinton Street bike lane, where perspiring women in Spandex and scratched helmets outnumber her biking Barbies, her TransAlt angels. Has she ever ridden up Union Street, where male drivers seem to be focused on backing up into — not charming — the female bikers passing on their right? After years of doing it twice a day, I can say the life of bicycle girl, beautiful or ugly as a deflated tire, isn’t all pretty.

First, there are always the issues of perspiration and helmet head, because many of us bike woman do actually care to protect our noggins, not just our hair. Then, of course, there are the speeding, two-ton deathmobiles with which we girls share the road, and the aforementioned drivers of these vehicles, who seem to believe that my lowly little 10-speed is an affront to the masculinity of their engines and, thus, must be cursed.

In fact, I would go as far as to say that the only semblance of romance I ever feel in the gritty, smog-infused air that perfumes my daily rides seems to come on days when my skirt or dress — yes sometimes I do wear frocks — is failing to cooperate. On those special days when my frock inches up my thigh and exposes my upper leg, some men do something that may be considered swooning, including (shockingly) those Boy Scout–like, safety-vest–wearing Park Slope Food Co-op members who yell not very liberal-arts–like catcalls over their grocery carts. I have never been impressed enough to do anything more than flick them the Beautiful Bicycle Girl bird.

Ariella Cohen, a staff writer at The Brooklyn Paper, now lives in Prospect Heights. Red Hook misses her.

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