Cycle anarchy.

I forgot to mention this, and seeing as how there’s a NYT story about it today, I guess I should.

My old editor Carolyn chimed in a few posts back and recommended a particular bike tour, and the next-to-last night we were in Paris, we decided to give it a try, signing up for the night ride. Nights are arriving earlier, and it sounded cool, seeing the city of lights when they were turned on. We’d start at the company’s offices near the Eiffel Tower, cruise here and there, get ice cream on the Ile St. Louis, pull off for a one-hour boat tour and then ride back to the offices by 10:15 p.m. or so. A three (and a half) hour tour, a three-hour toooour.

And it was fine, although man — it was a hair-raiser for part of it.

As we were assembling for the heading-out briefing, the guide asked if anyone had experience with group rides. I raised my hand, expecting to be one of eight or so. But I was the only hand raised. So all of a sudden, I was made the sweep, i.e., the person who rides at the back of the pack and makes sure no one gets left behind. OK, no biggie, I can handle that. However, I quickly realized, our party included a couple of older women, who’d been talked into this by the daughter of one, who was middle-aged herself. The least-experienced of the two admitted she hadn’t been on a bike in years. She didn’t understand gears. She didn’t understand hand brakes. “How do I stop this thing,” she trilled as we headed to our first turn. Hoo-boy this will be fun, I thought.

But they don’t say “it’s like riding a bike” for nothing, and Gail was a gamer. She did fine, once she figured out the brakes. I advised her to stick closer to the curb side of the bike lane (she wobbled left) and to keep her foot on the raised pedal at stops, the better to push off easily. We were following hand signals from the guide, indicating single-file, double-file or “domination,” i.e. a tight pack to assert our right to be wherever we were. (Inexperienced cyclists sometimes don’t understand that you’re safer when you claim the lane, so to speak. That’s what domination is all about.)

Anyhoo, we hadn’t gone far when we joined a bike lane along the Seine, well past what I’d consider rush hour, absolutely packed but still moving. And because of the different aims of all the two-wheelers there, it was like driving in, oh, Miami, maybe, where Dave Barry once observed the great South Florida melting pot of drivers each follows the laws of the country they immigrated from. There were cycling commuters. There were cycling tourists. There were Uber Eats riders hellbent for the next fare, and all the similar services. There was a messenger on a Euro-style cargo bike, so tatted and muscled he looked like a member of another species. There were pedicabs. And there were those fucking electric scooters, just to put the turd olive on the shit sandwich. It was utter madness, with buses and cars gridlocked on the quai road and the bike lane moving like anarchy. I saw the fall before it happened, as Gail put her leg out to push away from a bollard and went down in slow motion.

But she was fine! She scrambled up, at least as quickly as a Minnesota senior lady who hasn’t ridden in years can, and remounted. Our peloton of 15 or so stopped far ahead for us to catch up. By this point all I could think was lord give me strength, but She did, and we finally made it to the Ile for our ice cream. The guide confessed he had excised the Louvre courtyard stop, due to the bike-lane insanity. Apparently the 2015 terror trial is going on now, and the commute is even more fraught than usual. But inexperienced riders in the mix was like putting a 15-year-old with a learner’s permit on the Dan Ryan Expressway not precisely at rush hour, but close enough to it that traffic gets the way it gets – bumper-to-bumper at 70 miles per hour and you just best keep your shit together.

The NYT story is about how (allegedly) the French spirit of liberté precludes Parisian riders from following rules:

Probably the biggest challenge, though, is that Paris doesn’t yet have an ingrained cycling culture.

In Paris, parts of the 1,000-kilometer citywide cycling network (about 620 miles) can steer bikers into hazardous interactions with cars, pedestrians and other cyclists. At the Bastille, a once-enormous traffic circle that was partly appropriated from cars, a tangle of bike lanes weave through traffic. Cyclists who respect signals can take up to four minutes to cross.

“Paris has the right ideas and they’re absolutely the main city to watch on the planet, because no one is near them for their general urban transformation visions,” said Mikael Colville-Andersen, a Copenhagen-based urban designer who advises cities on integrating cycling into urban transport.

Hmm, I dunno. Funny how drivers aren’t really mentioned in this piece. And I don’t speak French, so I’m wary of making too many assumptions, but while we were riding I heard a single cyclist shouting in what sounded like very angry French at a pedicab conveying a tourist couple in the bike lane. The pedicab was electric-assisted, and nearly as wide as a Smart car, which made its presence on a stretch of pavement reserved for cyclists problematic.

It all turned out well in the end. We got our ice cream, we had our boat ride, we opened a few bottles along the way, the guide told us about Academie Francaise, where scholars gather to decide all matters pertaining to the language. Make a note of it: “Covid” is a masculine noun. And our boat passed one of those river cruise vessels, and we caught a glimpse of one man sitting up in bed, in his PJs.

Our final stop was the Eiffel Tower, lit up and glorious. “Just a three-minute ride to the end,” the guide called as we pushed off from there. At the final turn, Gail’s friend, as old as she was, wobbled and tipped over, too. But like Gail, she popped up and said it was all her fault.

For my service as sweeper, I was awarded a T-shirt. I think I earned it. And I hope your Thursday was as much fun.

My view, heading out:

Was it worth it? Oh yeah:

Posted at 12:21 pm in Same ol' same ol' |

26 responses to “Cycle anarchy.”

  1. Deborah said on October 3, 2021 at 2:54 pm

    That tour sounds both glorious and terrifying. As an oldster I would have been one that you would have been tearing your hair out over. I wouldn’t do that in a million years but I sure wish I could. You definitely earned that Tshirt, wear it proudly.

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  2. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on October 3, 2021 at 5:17 pm

    I’ve already sung the praises of that Eiffel pic on Instagram, but now I’m delighted by it for a whole new set of reasons. Great story; excellent distraction from Ohio drizzle & downers.

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  3. Joe Kobiela said on October 3, 2021 at 7:28 pm

    Did a bike tour of Nashville a few summers ago, great way to get up close and see some things you might miss on your own. My wife occasionally takes the train to Milwaukee to visit our daughter, leaves Waterloo around 6:30 am and gets into Milwaukee at 1:30 so seven hours vrs 5hr driving, cost slightly more but she enjoys the ride. If we fly our warrior it’s about 1:45 each way and the view flying the lake shore past Chicago is stunningly gorgeous, we have to fly at 2,500ft to stay below the Midway and Ohare traffic, but it’s pretty cool to see the city on one side the lake on the other and a steady stream of airliners crossing 1,000ft above you, and yes you can read what airline it is on the side.
    Pilot Joe

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  4. Carolyn said on October 3, 2021 at 9:52 pm

    Nancy, I am proud of you.

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  5. Dexter Friend said on October 4, 2021 at 1:12 am

    Nice. I just learned there is a brand new bikeway across The Brooklyn Bridge. It has made a pleasant walk possible over the bridge now as bikes and scooters are banned, but the bike path is rather a narrow drab thing. Videos are on YouTube (ActionKid).
    So, glad the ladies were OK. Falling off a bicycle isn’t always that easy to pop up from. And the scooters and motorized bicycles are here to stay. I watch many videos of ActionKid walking and biking all over many cities, and I see electric-assist vehicles outnumbering pedallers 2 to 1.

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  6. ROGirl said on October 4, 2021 at 4:16 am

    Ton tour de velo, c’est le pied!

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  7. Alan Stamm said on October 4, 2021 at 8:24 am

    Way to embrace life with both handlebars, Nance! You put the tout in total immersion.

    A two-post Sunday is delightful too.

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  8. Deborah said on October 4, 2021 at 9:56 am

    We’re having unseasonably warm weather in Chicago and it’s creeping me out. Climate change is escalating so much more quickly than I thought, or something else sinister is happening on the side. Are you folks in Indiana and Ohio having way too warm temps too? It seems like a normal fall in northern NM, from what LB says.

    We had company for dinner Saturday and the 6 year old son of our guest kept talking about torturing an imaginary pet cat, it didn’t help that the kid was a spitting image of Derek Chauvin. His mother said he was very shy and probably not say a word, but he talked the whole time. He also made tanks and guns with blocks that we provided for him to play with. His mother is a Dr and works all the time, we got the impression that she doesn’t spend much time around her son. It was a little scary.

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  9. Julie Robinson said on October 4, 2021 at 11:21 am

    The proprietress is a bad ass. But we knew that already.

    Deborah, not all doctors are tuned into those around them. Some end up in patient care when they should have gone into research. I have a feeling my new doc may be one of those, because he seemed to see me only as a set of symptoms. He didn’t ask a single personal question, such as how I was doing with such a big relocation.

    It’s wrong to compare him with my last doc, who I’d been seeing for over 30 years, and who always asked about my family and how things were going. I’m here now, and anyway, he retired around the time we moved. But still.

    Has anyone been reading the Pandora’s Papers stories? So far I’ve only skimmed a bit.

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  10. David C said on October 4, 2021 at 12:25 pm

    I only skimmed the Pandora’s Papers bit too. No need to pay too much attention. Nothing happened with the Panama Papers a few years ago and nothing’s going to happen because of this. It’s their world, we just live in it.

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  11. Scout said on October 4, 2021 at 12:42 pm

    That sounds like so much fun. I just wonder why the tour is set up without two guides, one to be the sweeper, so that all the paying customers can just enjoy the ride. But Paris at night is glorious and probably even more so on two wheels.

    My birthday was Friday and I am now “will you still need me, will you still feed me” years old. One more year to Medicare and free health club membership!

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  12. LAMary said on October 4, 2021 at 1:31 pm

    Listened to a report about the Pandora Papers this morning and I learned that the king of Jordan has lots of houses in Malibu. How special.
    And today I have new contribution to the unfortunate first name list:
    La Queera.

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  13. Dave said on October 4, 2021 at 3:28 pm

    I heard that song today, Scout. Happy birthday.

    Completely off topic but Basset, as a Subaru Outback owner, I’ve been hoping that you would give us a report of how things went when the service manager drove your Outback for three days, trying to duplicate your defects. Did he get the results that you are getting? Is anything resolved?

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  14. Suzanne said on October 4, 2021 at 3:33 pm

    It seems Facebook is out of commission today. Completely.
    All those anti-vaxx people won’t be able to do their research!

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  15. Little Bird said on October 4, 2021 at 3:57 pm

    Facebook must be introducing another change or “feature” Suzanne. It seems to always do this when they do that.
    As Deborah mentioned, I just had quite an adventure and still didn’t even manage to get 100 miles from our starting point. We ended up waiting nine hours for a tow truck because triple A is apparently a joke.

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  16. jcburns said on October 4, 2021 at 4:38 pm

    This is yet to be determined, but as this AP/NPR thingie says, it might well be a major DNS screwup, either inside or outside the world of Facebook.

    DNS is an elaborate system of taking a name (like and turning it to a number that is something like and that, kids, is the internet at its core.

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  17. Deborah said on October 4, 2021 at 6:22 pm

    I’ve been offline most of the day running errands so didn’t know about FB. Isn’t it odd that this happened shortly after the 60 mins report?

    This coming weekend is a memorial service at Uncle J’s memorial at his lake compound in northern Wisconsin. We were looking forward to driving up there and experiencing fall weather but now it looks more like late summer weather. Weird.

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  18. Heather said on October 4, 2021 at 7:15 pm

    Off-topic but my cat had surgery today to remove a tumor they thought was on her spleen. She came through it OK, but it turns out it was on her pancreas. Not sure if that’s better or worse. We’ll know more about her prognosis in a week. I’m glad I had to cancel my trip to Hawaii because $$$$. But I’m grateful I have the means to get her the care she needs. She’s only 8, so this is pretty distressing. I hope we have more time, but that’s largely out of my control.

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  19. Julie Robinson said on October 4, 2021 at 7:17 pm

    Not sure if that will make the traffic better or worse with leaf peepers from Chicago. That is, assuming Wisconsin is still destination #1 for Chicagoans getting out of the city.

    Scout, the reason Nancy’s tour didn’t have two employees is that they can get a paying customer to act as an employee for the price of a lousy Tshirt. Welcome to one more year before you start sucking at the government teat. Make sure to apply extra early. They were very slow at processing my application.

    Suzanne, good one!

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  20. basset said on October 4, 2021 at 9:58 pm

    Dave, the Outback situation went about like you’d expect – it hasn’t gone dark in awhile but we still have issues with the radio. Service guy said he didn’t see any problem, they all do that, so on, so forth. Been looking for just the right Chevy Equinox at Carmax, we rented one on a trip recently and liked it pretty well. And we got a notice yesterday that the Subaru has been recalled, the fuel pump might give out. Guess we just got a bad one.

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  21. Dave said on October 4, 2021 at 10:47 pm

    Oh dear, our screen hasn’t gone dark and the only issue we had was one day, we got in and it wouldn’t start. It did nothing when you push the ignition button. Then it started and things were fine for a couple of weeks until it did it again. We thought we’d better find out more. They found the issue and replaced a module in the starter circuit. They also told us about the recall and replaced the fuel pump. And we go on from there.

    Thank you for the update, I’d wondered.

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  22. Dexter Friend said on October 5, 2021 at 2:30 am

    Ringo Starr is a Pandora figure it appears. The whole world knew Ringo became a citizen of Monaco about 50 years ago to avoid something like a 97% income tax in England. Listen to George’s “Tax Man” sometime. 97% you say? Yeah…The Lads were in that tax bracket. Can you imagine? Elon Musk is now the richest man in the world at $203B.

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  23. Dexter Friend said on October 5, 2021 at 2:58 am

    Researched a bit…actually 83% +15% surtax, making it 98%. And so Ringo moved to Monaco.

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  24. alex said on October 5, 2021 at 7:23 am

    Yeah, Western Europe is tough on the wealthy. I seem to remember Carlo Ponti and Sophia Loren getting busted some years ago for tax evasion, so they changed their citizenship and told Italy to go screw.

    But we have the most unconscionable system in the world where our wealthy evade paying even the paltry share that’s supposedly required by law while the average person is getting ass-raped just to afford basic necessities like health care. I’d take Europe’s taxation scheme over ours without any hesitation.

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  25. basset said on October 5, 2021 at 8:54 am

    Dave, thanks for asking… I’ve been in one of those why post, nobody’s listening places for awhile, good to know somebody is.
    Ours refused to start the same way, dealer replaced the battery. Around the same time, all the red lights went on, then the whole car quit and locked up while driving – fortunately, in a parking lot. Another no start, several black screens with the car still running, radio changing settings, touch screen reprogrammed once and software replaced once, radio replaced twice, and I just don’t trust it – every time I get in, I wonder whether it’s gonna start. Time to get rid of it before the warranty runs out.

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  26. Tom said on October 5, 2021 at 11:38 am

    Glorious post, Madame.

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