Los Angeles' Fargo Street should be in San Francisco. It has a 33% grade, especially unsuited for bicycling up, which is why Staff Writer Sarah Pileggi went to the foot of Fargo Street last week with 200 members of an L. A. cycling club called the Wheelmen. What took place is recorded starting on page 22 of this issue.
In addition to hill climbs, cycling presents a variety of challenges. Checking the achievements of our own staff, we discovered that Reporter Melissa Ludtke has been riding a unicycle since the age of nine. She has also ridden a standard two-wheel bicycle in Manhattan for three years, without incident, thus meeting what may be the biggest cycling challenge of all: riding a bicycle in New York while retaining possession of the bicycle and of health and sanity. A number of Ludtke's co-workers have been less fortunate.
Staff Photographer Walter Iooss Jr. has had six 10-speed Peugeots, at $150 per, stolen in seven years, four of them from in front of the Time & Life Building. Each was locked with a 10-pound chain, whose links were simply cut. He has also had one seat, a back wheel, a front wheel and brakes stolen.
When the bicycle thieves don't get him, the cabdrivers do. Once, trying to make a left turn off Seventh Avenue, Iooss was blocked by a cab. "I sped up, he sped up. I slowed down, he slowed down," Iooss says. "Finally I stopped and threatened to wrap my chain around his neck. He screamed, 'You want a bullet in your head?' They breathe carbon monoxide all day, and it makes them crazy."
Reporter Mark Donovan has had only two bikes stolen in 2½ years of city living. He is fatalistic about theft, but does have rules about staying alive, No. 1 being to avoid cabs.
Reporter Mike DelNagro has opted out of the whole thing. On a bright May afternoon he locked his Sears Free Spirit 10-speed outside a hamburger place on Broadway and returned minutes later to find the front wheel destroyed. Bystanders told him a man had tried to break the lock, and, failing, had assaulted the bike with his truck, which he drove onto the sidewalk for the purpose. DelNagro replaced the wheel, but soon afterward the bike was stolen from the hall of his apartment house, along with six others belonging to his neighbors. DelNagro has not purchased a replacement.
Reporter Martha Smilgis has not had a bicycle stolen, perhaps because she never lets hers out of her sight, but she has experienced other problems. A truck driver leaned from his window on Broadway once and asked for her telephone number. She ignored him, whereupon he tried to sandwich her between his truck and a bus. "I got exhaust in my face," Smilgis says, "but I escaped, by three inches."
All things considered, a ride up Fargo Street sounds like a piece of cake.
OFFICE UNICYCLIST MELISSA LUDTKE