Contrary to common SoCal mythology, people who commute by bike or public transit are not lowly or, the worst of all descriptions, those who just “can’t afford” another form of transportation (mainly, their own private little bubble of a car type).
This was, of course, the reason that Tom Smuts got a shit ton of press: from LA Weekly to the Los Angeles Times, KPCC to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (wait: what?): here we have one of the writer/producers of Mad Men biking to the Emmys and the press couldn’t get enough. The gasps and horrors that someone successful and affluent would—dare we say—arrive to the Emmys with a gleam of sweat because they actually, y’know, moved… It’s all just unthinkable.
“The coverage has been unreal—I’m almost embarrassed by it,” Smuts said. “I’m just a guy who rides my bike to work three days a week. I love urban riding and even with as much progress as LA has made in bicycling infrastructure, a lotta places you just get… Abandoned really. You’re on a bike lane and then there’s suddenly there’s no bike lane for three miles when you need it most.”
This is where Smuts got ditched as a ploy—or, in his words, was depicted as an activist (a mistake, he claims: “I am not an activist; I ride because I want safer roads and it’s just a part of life) and as some anomaly. Surely, he was unable to convince his Mad Men counterparts to join in; excuses of sweat and time plagued their thoughts of commuting by pedal.
“It’s about time a playful face is put on the people who commute by bikes. Just stop thinking of us as assholes.”
Ultimately, Smuts is not pulling some ploy. He’s just an avid cyclist who wants to (shocker!) inform drivers of their vast misconceptions of bicycle rights.
“I’d like to change the culture of drivers toward cyclists,” Smuts said. “I feel like its an attitude thing: drivers genuinely believe bikes don’t have a right to be in the road. Yeah, that’s some bullshit.”
The Santa Monican tends to keep his approach to altering the culture simple: he rides a modest Specialized Langster (humbling considering seeing a $5K bike in SM is more normal than an anomaly), doesn’t sport lycra, and is aggressive. Often comparing himself to an old diesel German car, he admits that cars might have to go around him—but he won’t apologize about or risk his life to avoid it. In fact, this action is something I have continually encouraged my fellow Long Beach cyclists to engage in: take a lane along Ocean because it’s not about being dangerous but being seen. The more drivers see cyclists, especially in heavy motor traffic areas, the more they will get used to them.
“If I take a lane and make you see me, you might think it’s to slow you down,” Smuts said. “But it’s so you see me.”
Though he admits that his experience in LA as a bicyclist has been overall positive—“I’ve only had one really ugly encounter and two close encounters”—he has big ambitions for next year’s Emmys. We’re talking a massive morning ride with celebrity bicyclists (and “not celebrities who ride bikes but people who are famous for riding bikes”), a lunch at his place, and then a ride bike.
“I want to make it an actually high profile ride, raise some funds for LACBC,” Smuts said.
There might even be a bike lane on the red carpet: when approached by AEG’s VP of Entertainment—y’know, just the guys who own the entirety of the Staples Center Nokia Theatre and…—asking if Smuts was the “bike guy,” Smuts was elated to discover that the VP was all about the two-wheeled life. Smuts, in his ever charismatic way, mentioned his desire to have a bike lane on the red carpet but heard that the “LA Fire Marshall had some issues.” The VP, in a mode of pure badass-ness, said he’ll take care of it.
Beyond the LA stereotypes and the glamor of masturbatory awards shows, Smuts just wants people to realize that bicyclists aren’t assholes.
“It’s about time a playful face is put on the people who commute by bikes,” Smuts said. “Just… Just stop thinking of us as assholes.”
And we all said, “Ahhhhhhmen. We are not assholes.”