BikeSnob: A Dick About Sandy Relief UPDATED

Normally I don’t pay a lot of attention to Bike Snob anymore, he sort of jumped the shark a few years ago and devolved from funny bike culture critique into self-unaware parody when he started writing for the biggest cycling magazine in the world.

But as a resident in one of the states hit hard by Hurricane Sandy, I was trolling for news on relief efforts and found that Bike Snob is still a dick.

The locally loved Bicycle Habitat (which has a shop in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn) is organizing a cargo-bike ride to bring needed supplies to the Rockaways and asking anyone who is available on Tuesday November 6th (Election Day – when many have off) to help them caravan supplies.

Seems pretty wonderful to me (especially since gas is in short supply here) but Bike Snob thinks it’s uncool to help people who have lost their homes, their possessions and their livelihoods and asks instead…

After voting tomorrow, do you have a bunch of time to kill? If so you can head over to Bicycle Habitat in Brooklyn and help portage (“portage” is pretentious for “schlep”) supplies out to Far Rockaway, and here are the details:

He then goes on to refer to a Gran Fondo ride in Miami as being less “smug” than helping people who quite literally are dying from the cold.

My grandparents lived in Brooklyn all of their lives. Before my grandfather died and my grandmother moved nearer to my home town to be close to my mom they lived in the Rockaways. And they’d have been thrilled, touched and possibly kept alive by people bringing supplies on bikes.

Look, I don’t like to curse on a blog like Bike Hugger, but I’m so disgusted and sickened by the thought that a pretentious dickhead who has made his living lambasting the very same culture that’s provided that living is now making fun of people for helping out. F bombs are going off in my head as my vision turns red.

Here’s hoping that lots of “smug” people show up at the Bicycle Habitat ride and move tons of supplies to the Rockaways, and here’s hoping that Snob never finds himself in need of salvation from someone with a bike. Because the smugness of the help might be too much for him.

UPDATE

A few days ago I wrote this post calling out Bike Snob for his comments on a bike ride designed to help out people in the Hurricane-struck Rockaways. Since then, we’ve got some great (and some not great) feedback from readers. I just want to address a few things.

First, I’m fine with what Snob does. But the character he’s chosen to play is one that takes a negative view on many aspects of bike culture. Bike culture deserves to be lampooned. I’ve been reading BSNY since he started and I’ve laughed out loud at much of what he’s written. However as is often the case of a writer with no editor, sometimes he goes overboard, as did I in my reaction.

In a climate where partisanship seems to be tearing the country apart (even after the election) I just wanted to say some things about my reaction and about Bike Snob.

It was likely not Snob’s intention to upset readers, yet to gently chide them for being smug for having cargo bikes. I think that his post could have been better worded and more sensitive to the cause, but that’s his style.

As someone who spent a week without power and who knows several people in Brooklyn that lost their houses, I was perhaps not the most receptive audience to his caustic humor the other day. But that’s the danger of writing something with the veil of sarcasm—it’s often only funny to those who aren’t affected by it and incredibly offensive to those touched by it. Again, I think that’s the downside of the writing style of Snob, he’s purposefully knocking things down, even things he supports, to maintain the character he’s created.

In a related note it’s also been pointed out that Bike Snob went on the ride and helped out, and for that I’m grateful. He did NOT say in his original post that he would be on the ride, helping out. I’m sure I’d have had a different reaction had he simply encouraged people to attend and to pitch in, and had added that he would be there. (And I think that many Snob readers would have come along just to meet him.)

When it comes to tragedy, my first reaction is to help. When our village lost power and my coffee shop was one of the first places to get power back we immediately offered people our electricity for charging and WiFi for surfing the net and gave discounts to anyone who showed up to buy snacks for the utility guys some sustenance. When we noticed a lot of people coming in to buy coffee for the guys we started to offer free coffee to any utility worker or DPW guys.

That action took me very little effort relative to getting on a cargo bike and pedaling stuff to the Rockaways, so to hear that anyone was calling those altruistic folks smug, even in jest, drove me mad.

My neighbors and I have been through a lot during Sandy, and we weren’t even the worst hit. Snob’s post rubbed me the wrong way, and I reacted to that.

However, that’s my prerogative to do. Snob’s entitled to his style of writing and commentary—and I never said he isn’t entitled to his schtick. But the flipside of the coin is that sometimes he’s going to offend people, and I was genuinely offended.

As a reader of his site, and as a resident of a state hurt by Sandy, I’m going to react to him based on my experiences during the Hurricane.

That’s also true for the people in the Rockaways who couldn’t respond to his post because they don’t have a house in which to have the internet with which to read his posting.

Snob’s entitled to his opinions and his editorial choices, but that means so am I. And my reaction to his post was very, very negative. If your reaction wasn’t negative, cool. But the fact that it got me very pissed off means that it had the power to piss people off.

Not everyone reacts the same, but please realize that if you’re not upset by his writing in this case, it doesn’t mean I don’t have a right to be upset. It just means that you and I took different things away from what he wrote.

Now, when I read Snob, it’s because I generally enjoying seeing him lambasting the industry but in some cases I feel he crosses the line. Usually those cases aren’t directed at those trying to help out my friends in the aftermath of a storm. In this case it was, and I took offense at it.

I’m sorry if my reaction upset you more, but please keep in mind you’re having the same reaction to my words as I had to his. We’re both entitled to being offended and to responding to that, so I appreciate everyone who took the time in comments to tell me to piss off or to get over myself. Really, I’m not offended by any comments and I’m glad so many people had the desire to be part of a conversation about this.

I’m glad everyone is passionate about freedom of speech and about these two blogs, as I think they represent different ways of looking at the same subject matter. I’m genuinely thankful for all the comments that pushed back against my post. I’m really happy to see that the amount of offense I took is likely colored by my last week and not as widely representative of the amount of offense intended.

Bike Hugger is a positive celebration of the bicycle and bike culture and I do admit to sullying that a bit by bringing up a negative topic like this. I’m sorry that it caused such dissent in readers, but again am grateful that so many people have a stake in cycling and want to share their views.