Saturday, August 11, 2012

Budweiser Is My Enemy

            Budweiser is my enemy.
            It’s not because they make insipid beer.  Although there is that.
            And it’s not because they prevent a far better Czech beer, also named Budweiser, from being marketed in the United States.  Although there is that.
            No, Budweiser is my enemy because they produce a sizeable percentage of the glass that ends up in my tires and the tires of many other cyclists.
            Few people understand the gnawing, daily menace that broken glass poses for urban cyclists.  A single bottle of the sort that Budweiser generously spreads throughout our city can shatter into enough pieces to puncture hundreds of bicycle tires.  And broken bottles are everywhere.
            Flat tires have been a constant during my twenty-plus years of commuting by bicycle.  Sometimes I have flats for three or four days in a row, and sometimes I go for months without a puncture, but the threat of flats never disappears.
            Over the years, I have tried all the products marketed to bicyclists for avoiding flats.  For years, I put a thick orange rubber strap, called “Mr. Tuffy,” between my tire and my inner tube.  The idea was that Mr. Tuffy would stop glass or any other sharp object that might go through the tire from reaching the more fragile inner-tube.  Unfortunately, Mr. Tuffy was not tough enough, and I continued to have many flat tires even with his help.
            I also went through a Goo phase.  Goo is a viscous, fluorescent-green product that you squeeze into your inner tube before you inflate it.  When a sharp object pierces the inner tube, Goo is supposed to rush to the site, congeal around the puncture, and stop the air from escaping, and thereby prevent a flat tire.  I found that Goo turned the inside of my tires fluorescent green, but did little to stop flat tires.   I eventually tossed Goo onto the scrapheap of failed cycling remedies, together with Mr. Tuffy.
            Steel-belted radials have made flat tires a rarity among motorists, but there is no equivalent for cyclists.  Given their narrowness, and given the need to keep weight down, it is simply not practical to line bicycle tires with steel mesh.  Consequently, cyclists will never be as impervious to glass as motorists.
            The best solution I have found is to mount Ultra Gatorskins on my bike.  These German made tires are expensive, at $50 each, but they are lined with Kevlar, which is supposedly also used for bullet-proof vests and canoes.  Even with this added protection, however, I figure that I lose two tires prematurely each year to glass, as well as 10 inner-tubes and numerous patch kits.
            Thus, I put my Glass Tax at about $150 per year. 
            My other strategy for dealing with glass is to pick it up as soon as I see it.  I have noticed that a bottle left on the street or bicycle path inevitably breaks, and, over time, fractures into more and more small pieces that can puncture more and more tires.  And glass, once broken, never goes away on its own. 
            So I always carry in my bicycle pannier a dustpan and brush, and I sweep up glass whenever I see it.  Once or twice a year, I also sweep the sidewalk along the 30th Street Bridge, which I ride almost every day on my way to work. 
            My campaign to eliminate glass from my path has brought me into close contact with much of the high-test vodka, cheap gin and rotgut wine on the market today.  But more than half of the intact bottles and broken glass I pick up is Budweiser brown.  Hence my enmity.
            Motorists frequently complain about the bad behavior of cyclists.  They ride the wrong way down a one-way street, they fly through red stop lights, and they recklessly endanger themselves and others.
            Certainly, such behavior happens altogether too often, and cyclists need to clean up their act.  But I wish that motorists were equally aware of their own transgressions, and the ways in which they thoughtlessly use their power against cyclists.
            Some of the actions motorists take against cyclists are explicit and unmistakable.  When a motorist yells at me, “get off the road,” or honks when I am riding in a perfectly legal and reasonable way, the message is clear.
            Other messages are less direct but equally pointed.  If automobiles were as vulnerable to glass as bicycles, broken bottles would not be tolerated, and motorists would not be allowed to heave spent Budweisers out their windows with impunity.
            Broken glass is just one other way in which cyclists are told that they are not welcome on our streets.


  1. Broken glass along the roadside is the most significant result of 'open container' laws.

    I travel a particular bridge over I-465 every few days and someone (presumably the same person) shatters a 50ml bottle carrying a Jim Beam label every few days on that bridge.

  2. Here, it's the green glass of Heineken that seems intentionally slammed against the rock walls of steep inclines, where cyclists frequent. But then again, I was raised in St Louis and have a sweet spot for Budweiser! ;)