Notes On Two Wheels: Stupid Laws, Stoned Burners & Public Transportation

BicycleAs I mentioned autonomous vehicles (self driving cars) in a previous post, I felt it was only fair to discuss one of the other issues that ties San Francisco, New York & Black Rock City together: Drunk people on bicycles.

DzrsqldpTGy9rmx4Mze3_Popcorn BallgameNow that I’ve got your attention! Whether it’s the deep playa, SoHo, or any of those insane hills you Frisco people shoot down on the way to work, we’re all pleased that bicycling is catching on finally here in the United States. After being a niche for the well-to-do & granola among us in the 90’s, out East, the trend started picking up speed in the 2000s & now NYC has bike paths, while you get odd looks if you show up with an SUV anywhere outside of LA. As we all know, biking is better for the environment, can save you cash & gives you those crazy calf muscles. However, we’re starting to see something unnerving here on the East Coast that I know SF & Black Rock City has had to deal with for some time. And that would be biking under the influence.

As more and more parties move to Brooklyn, you have Burners attempting to solve a couple of problems at once. Moving from neighborhood to neighborhood in Manhattan is easy, but next to impossible in Brooklyn. Therefore, your options usually resolve to dropping $20+ on Uber or spending a good hour getting home while maybe possibly still intoxicated. So, in the DIY spirit we’ve grown to love, Burners are now locking their bikes up outside the party, rocking out, then heading home. Even Manhattanites have started taking their bikes to parties, sometimes even over the Brooklyn or Williamsburg Bridges.

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While that might seem crazy, asking a couple of them (Warning: The plural of anecdote is not data, this should not be construed as actual journalism), their reasoning seemed pretty solid. They were daily riders, confident in their skills & not really trying to party too hard these days. The wind feels good at 4am & some have even reported stopping in the middle of their rides home to Manhattan on the bridge to watch the sunrise.

This seems like an amazing idea until you remember a couple of things. First, that bicycle laws are notoriously bad at protecting actual cyclists. No seriously, SF riders staged a “protest” in which cyclists just obeyed all of the rules of the road they’re obligated to, and it broke the traffic system pretty easily. From the San Francisco Weekly:

Riders arrived at every stop sign in a single file, coming to a complete stop and filing through the intersection only once they were given the right-of-way. The law-abiding act of civil disobedience snarled traffic almost immediately.

Remember, each state has its own laws on drinking & riding your bike (this chart here for info on all 50), so do your damn research before drinking & peddling.. Burner culture & party people have the additional concern of doing drugs & biking home. Let’s not for a second think that I’m advocating for taking Molly & riding your bicycle, but I’m not going to hallucinate that it doesn’t happen thousands of times on asphalt & water truck tamped down streets every year. If you’re comfortable on amphetamines that’s one thing, but let’s not pretend that Hoffman’s Bicycle ride was “safe” for anyone on that street.

Stylize your helmet however you like, but please, wear them. On playa & at night, wear something reflective, light emitting or in some way visible in darkness? If you’re not wearing a decent amount of light & you bike the deep playa on drugs, I hate you, even if I don’t slam into you at 20 mph at 3am on Wednesday morning. If you enjoy the party, have a couple of drinks & bike home at a reasonable pace, and get home over the Brooklyn Bridge without whizzing by someone wearing your pornj helmet? I love you. OutsmartBK is working on getting the word out on bike safety, because unlike SF, NYC has a long way to go. And just in case you can refresh yourself on Cali laws hereOn playa, I expect it to be even more Mad Max Fury Road now that the new movie is out, and expect some terribly efficient upgrades to the archetypal ones we saw. Tally ho, but safety third!

17 comments on “Notes On Two Wheels: Stupid Laws, Stoned Burners & Public Transportation

  1. One year a guy in our camp rode fast and hard into one of the lamp posts on the causeway while totally wasted drunk at night. Concussion. Burn over. Bike safe and for petes sake make sure its your bike you are riding away on!

  2. “each state has its own laws on drinking & riding your bike […], so do your damn research”

    Wonder what percentage of readers of the blog this statement applies to (since it wouldn’t when not living in USA…)

    • Note noun country-neutral definitions 7, 10 and 11, in contrast to your presumed definition 9.


      the condition of a person or thing, as with respect to circumstances or attributes:
      a state of health.
      the condition of matter with respect to structure, form, constitution, phase, or the like:
      water in a gaseous state.
      status, rank, or position in life; station:
      He dresses in a manner befitting his state.
      the style of living befitting a person of wealth and high rank:
      to travel in state.
      a particular condition of mind or feeling:
      to be in an excited state.
      an abnormally tense, nervous, or perturbed condition:
      He’s been in a state since hearing about his brother’s death.
      a politically unified people occupying a definite territory; nation.
      the territory, or one of the territories, of a government.
      (sometimes initial capital letter) any of the bodies politic which together make up a federal union, as in the United States of America.
      the body politic as organized for civil rule and government (distinguished from church).
      the operations or activities of a central civil government:
      affairs of state.
      (initial capital letter). Also called State Department. Informal. the Department of State.
      Printing. a set of copies of an edition of a publication which differ from others of the same printing because of additions, corrections, or transpositions made during printing or at any time before publication.
      the States, Informal. the United States (usually used outside its borders):
      After a year’s study in Spain, he returned to the States.

  3. I’ve biked around on the playa while pretty well drunk, but anything other than alcohol and I’m walking. Aside from safety concerns, I know I’d lose my bike.

      • Nomad, your logic defies, well, logic.

        I get that you have an axe to grind. I get that your contempt for Burning Man and the BORG is absolute. I get that you despise anyone who exhibits even a smidgen of support for the event or is able to extract any degree of enjoyment from attending. I get that you’re basically a curmudgeon that’s probably two clicks away from being a full on misanthrope. I get all that. I mean, it’s not like your obvious (and often odious) contempt is anything new in the canon of human disenfranchisement or anything.

        But to the point: how do you arrive at the statement that LE or the BORG give tacit approval to bike theft – or theft of any kind. If I go to the event (or anywhere else) and leave my car unlocked or my bike unattended and someone comes by and pilfers my car or steals my bike how is it there’s a tactic approval on the part of LE or BM? Seriously, I’m just trying to understand the logic tree you’ve climbed up into with your baseless statement of fact.

        • The BOrg takes rhetorical positions on many things, sometimes rising to the level of new rules. However, over the past 10 years, BRC has changed from a place where you can leave your bike and expect it to be there when you come back, to a free-for-all (literally) where bike theft is expected.

          I had a friend who was particularly upset about this development, as he continued to go after I stopped. The last time, he locked his bike every time he left it, except once when he stopped to participate in a trampoline. When he came back, his bike was gone.

          The BOrg takes an attitude, like many nuveau burners, that you should just ock your bike and theft is what you get – the same attitude taken if you leave your bike unlocked on the street in Brooklyn. But that was not the Burning Man that I went to years ago. Ever heard the therm, “Going Home?” Well, people at home, or in my town for that matter, don’t take things that don’t belong to them. That is part of Burning Man.

          But rather than outrage and condemnation of the erosion of the Burning Man culture, the BOrg have taken the “lock your bike” attitude. Buyer beware. Don’t trust anyone… except us.

          And the priorities of LE are heavily influenced by the BOrg. The BOrg could certainly push the theft issue with the Rangers and LE, but they don’t – because they fundamentally don’t care about the burners. They are peasants to be exploited, not the people who create the burn. They would rather support LE in their underage entrapment than pursue simple theft. And you know what has happened? There are now professional burn thieves, who go to these events specifically to take advantage of the “going home” culture to steal from tents, RVs and all the opportunities the trusting open culture.

          So what you have is LE “protecting” us from underage drinking, while overlooking the opportunity to entrap thieves – an unquestionable victim-based crime. The result is you getting fewer burners having open bars, and more thieves – amateur and professional – on playa.

          The BOrg have given away this any many other facets of what made Burning Man special such that many of us no longer find it at the NV burn.

          As to your other claims as to my character and comments, I have rational logic to support those that are true, while support for your mischaracterizations are best found in the eye of the beholder.

          But as you can see, fleeing on a stolen bike is not only advisable but expected. Bolt-cutters optional.

        • But let’s parse some of this crap you posted here…

          “I get that you have an axe to grind.” Yes, and that is the lathe of truth. In short, the BOrg should do what they say, or damn well stop preaching things that are said only for effect.

          “I get that your contempt for Burning Man and the BORG is absolute.” You have not read my posts and comments for meaning, and conflate “Burning Man and the BORG” to only enlist support for your side. I consider the BOrg and Burning Man two ENTIRELY DIFFERENT THINGS.

          *Burning Man* is a world, a space, a culture, a meeting of people who like to create and enjoy. It can happen anywhere the right people are together. You can find it at Figment, Transformus, Night Market and many other art/creativity/experience-based events.

          *The BOrg* is the cabal that has expanded the overhead of running an art event from less than $1 million to over $20 million. They take advantage of Burning Man for private gain and dysfunctional emotional supplies. They completely reply on the “stone soup” that Burning Man is, and the burners that come together to make the soup. Not only have they started charging the burners for a bowl of the soup that they make, but the BOrg have also turned it into a private party, pretending that they have the secret recipe for the soup – soup that they largely have no involvement with. They think that securing the space and the kettle makes them a master chef, utterly ignoring what they burners contribute and make.

          “I get that you despise anyone who exhibits even a smidgen of support for the event or is able to extract any degree of enjoyment from attending.” Care to support that hyperbole?

          ” I get that you’re basically a curmudgeon that’s probably two clicks away from being a full on misanthrope. I get all that. I mean, it’s not like your obvious (and often odious) contempt is anything new in the canon of human disenfranchisement or anything.” Again, you are confusing my outrage of the twin exploitation and disenfranchisement of the burners from their own event. In spite of the increase in size, the depth and quality of Burning Man found at the NV burn is getting ever thinner. The BOrg is on that slippery slope of cashing in while expecting the magic to be undisturbed.

          The NV burn has already changed from a space of community responsibility of respecting private property, to a place where blaming the victim is used instead. I don’t like it. Not at all.

      • For what it’s worth, when I said I’d lose my bike if I rode it while on anything other than alcohol, I meant that I’d forget where I’d left it, not that it would get stolen. But I do take your point that bike theft has skyrocketed in the past 5 years. I attribute that to the bucket-list yahoos, not necessarily the BMORG.

        • “Control?” How would you propose to do that? Proof of attendance in previous years to qualify for tickets? You must admit that any kind of increase in top-down directed tickets would be met with much resistance from people like you. Burning Man reached mainstream consciousness 5 or 6 years ago. Yahoos are gonna come. That’s just the way it is.

          • First, the tickets are now by invitation only. The BOrg has their profiles and DS tix. They decide who comes. Are we clear on that? The result is the increase in “bucket-list yahoos” coincident with the increase in bike theft and erosion of the Burning Man culture at the NV burn.

            Second, have you ever gotten a ticket? Did they call you to confirm? No, they sent you an email. Their records, or Clinton’s server, show who has bought tickets over the years. (JEEBUS, I can’t believe I am describing this for the umpteenth time…) They select the universe of ticket buyers before the sellout. Then they send invitations to those non-bike stealing burners. They can start with 10-yr vets, and work their way down as appropriate. This then empowers the veteran burners to come, or forward their invitation for use by others, not unlike the current invitations sent by the BOrg.

            Keep in mind that empowering the burners, those who actually create the event, to choose a significant portion of those who come (like the underground invites in the good ‘ole days) reduces the number of “bucket-list yahoos.” Such empowerment also causes several members of the BOrg to dissolve into a pool of water. Unavoidable consequence.

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