Anyone who commutes down Valencia or Market on the regular no doubt has come across this fellow at one time or another. How could you possibly miss his grey grizzled flowing beard and locks, or his duct-taped battletank of a Schwinn Sapphire that he pedals around so furiously?
This morning I finally decided to say a little more than “what’s up?” and managed to have quite a nice rolling conversation with the guy (I’m sure the fact that I was wearing the exact same jacket helped too), starting on Valencia at around 17th and lasting all the way to the end of Market. Here’s a paraphrased transcript of our “interview” while in motion:
On how long in the biz:
I’ve been a bike messenger in SF for 35 years. The last 28 of those years have been on this Schwinn Sapphire, except for about 3 months when it was stolen in the Mission. Luckily, a friend spotted it about 3 months later at Bay and Gough. The jerks couldn’t even get the U-lock off (they had cut through a skinny pole to which it had been attached to get it), so they just dumped it!
On Critical Mass:
It all started when a bunch of drunk bike messengers got tired of SF police handing out $20 tickets to cyclists all the time for bullshit minor offenses, like not putting your foot down at a stop sign. $20 was a big chunk of your take home pay way back then, so they decided to shut down some key intersections around the city and show the cops they couldn’t just fuck with them. Seems to have gotten their attention.
On the new green bike lanes and separators sprouting up all over the city:
I’m kind of worried that they are a precursor to beginning widespread bicycle ticketing around the city. You know, like back before the Critical Mass days. I’m all for cyclists obeying the rules of the road, but the interpretation of those rules is at issue, and the price of those tickets has increased to around $300 nowadays, which can be the same as a paycheck! But I try to stay out of politics . . .
On the craziest thing he’s ever seen on the road:
A bike messenger was rolling by a parked car just as the lady inside suddenly opened her door. Predictably, the messenger crashed into the door and wound up partially inside the driver’s side of the car. The women freaks out and starts to scream “RAPE!” at the top of her lungs. The dude is obviously injured, but she’s yelling at him and hitting him with her purse and still screaming at him. Even the fact that his bike was right there did nothing to dissuade her accusations. It took a few police cars and the paramedic’s arrival to finally calm her down. I dunno, anything to get out of paying hospital bills I guess.
RIDE ON, BICYCLE MESSENGER WARRIOR!