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In Memoriam: James Langergaard, Bike Philosopher

On Friday night, August 14th, James Langergaard was killed by a car crossing Queens Boulevard. According to his family, witnesses told police that James ran a red light on his bike and died instantly. James was 38.

I have known James since 1997 when he and I were volunteers at Transportation Alternatives. Over the years we volunteered together for many events, went on countless rides & hikes, and in general just enjoyed talking with each other about the world and bicycling, almost always in a humorous (and sometimes absurd) manner.

It was one of those fun brainstorming sessions between us that led to the idea that James would become the official "bicycling philosopher" for bikeTV - the cable access show I produced from 2001 thru 2006. Thus I present: "What is the essence of cycling?" which we filmed in 2005 while at a Central Park volunteer appreciation party for workers and marshals of the T.A. Century. James' wit and humor are on big display here as he questions people about bicycling and why they do it, then cleverly encapsulates their thoughts.

In a world full of lots of uninteresting people, James was always had something off-beat or quirky to say. He could make you laugh, and laugh hard. Without James, the world just got a whole lot more boring.


[intro music]

James Langergaard: [00:23] Once again ladies and gentlemen, I am the bicycling philosopher on bike TV, and we’re here at the Transportation Alternatives volunteer appreciation party discussing with people who all appreciate the existence of bicycles here, now to discuss the essence of bicycling. What to you sir is the essence of all things bicycling in New York?


Speaker: [00:43] Essence of bicycling is becoming one with the bicycle. It’s about moving fluidly through space, through the people and the environment around you. It’s being like watching things happen and making things happen.


James Langergaard: [00:56] Fluidity of motion.


Speaker: [00:57] The essence of bicycling in New York City?


James Langergaard: [01:00] The first thing that comes to your mind, the most important thing.


Speaker: [01:03] You have to think and act like you’re driving a car.


James Langergaard: [01:07] You’re better than if you were driving a car aren’t you?


Speaker: [01:11] Oh definitely.


Speaker: [01:12] Freedom.


James Langergaard: [01:16] Fantastic.


Speaker: [01:18] Enjoying your surroundings, really enjoying being part of New York and getting to see different parts. Today I went up to Westchester, it was beautiful, got to ride, have a nice picnic outdoors, and come back and now I’m back in the city. It’s just a great way to spend the day.


James Langergaard: [01:33] You can be everywhere all at the same time. It’s an epicurean delight to be… to have a bicycle in New York.


Speaker: [01:39] Freedom to just go and drive where cars can’t drive and the wind blowing in your hair and all that good stuff.


James Langergaard: [01:51] Once again bicycling is about freedom. Never underestimate the value of freedom.


Speaker: [01:57] You can feel your heart beating. Your senses are engaged. You feel like you’re alive. And here we are in Central Park, we’re alive today.


James Langergaard: [02:06] The lifeblood of the universe coursing through us as we embrace bicycling.


Speaker: [02:11] I bike, therefore I am.


James Langergaard: [02:14] A courtesean answer like I never would have expected. It’s wonderful.


Speaker: [02:19] It’s the feeling of getting on your bike at 4:30 in the morning when the streets of Brooklyn are still so quiet you could hear a pin drop, and the mist slowly rising through the trees and all you can hear is the sound of your wheels and pedals, click, click, whirr, click, click, whirr, click, click, whirr.


James Langergaard: [02:47] Ominous feeling.


Speaker: [02:50] Well, it’s a great way to be outside enjoying the weather like a day like today. You can’t beat that on a bike. That’s the best thing you can do on a bike.


James Langergaard: [02:57] Bicycling, it’s a force of nature.


Speaker: [03:00] Being in touch with the space you live in. It’s getting outside of the cubicle. It’s getting outside of the office. It’s getting outside of the room. It’s getting outside of your house and getting outside of your head.


James Langergaard: [03:10] Once again, a vote for freedom, and being in touch with all things tangible of our own personal environment. It’s just overwhelming.


Speaker: [03:20] Bicycling in New York City brings different neighbourhoods together for me, cos when I take the subway I pop in one place and pop out in another place, and when I arrive it all comes together as a whole, and brings everything together. It’s makes it really beautiful.


James Langergaard: [03:37] A sense of community that you can only find through bicycling.


Speaker: [03:40] A sense of freedom. A sense of empowerment. Being able to do things the way you want to.


James Langergaard: [03:46] [unintelligible 03:48] and much better philosophers than I have debated the body of freedom throughout the ages, but today we seem to have it. Bicycling, it’s all about freedom.

Transcription Sponsored by: Transcript Divas Transcription Services

Clarence Eckerson, Jr. has been making fantastical transportation media in NYC since the late 1990s. He's never had a driver's license and never will.

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  • http://www.mickeyz.net Mickey Z.

    This is just so sad and shocking. He will be sorely missed.

  • Noah

    Thanks for posting, Clarence.

    Thanks, James. I'll miss you,

  • Louie Gedo

    The world has lost a compassionate and caring, curious, intelligent, brave, funny, and witty man. There's something terribly unfair about this. James will be missed but will always be loved forever.

  • http://www.nebulae.com Abid Hussain

    Thanks for posting this, Clarence. My heart is heavy, and I miss my friend very much.

  • http://www.friendsofbrookpark.org Harry

    attended and graduated Bron Science with him in '89, soeone from there mentioned this tragedy this weekend.
    didnt know him well then, was always a unique individual. talked a bit more at rides in nyc afterwards, from crit mass and more. life is short and precious. cool he mentions kierkegaard in that cool video, probabaly a blood brother. peace and blessings to the fam...

  • http://wetlands-preserve.org Adam Weissman

    I guess I'm the last to learn this sad news...

    James was a wonderful guy. I knew him from the League of Humane Voters ages ago. We pretty much immediately hit it off, given our shared concern for animal rights and affection for comic books. I regret that we haven't kept in better touch over the years. James was kind enough to put in a good word for me when a blogger at the Supervegan blog went on this bizarre anti-freegan crusade and lodged some fairly vicious personal attacks against me (http://supervegan.com/blog/entry.php?id=899)

    I just posted this at the Daily News site in response to some vicious comments posted after an article about James' demise.

    "Why don't these bicycle people join a gym and ride a bike there.Its safer and they can ride all day everyday and stay off the roads,their dangerous and they have killed a good amount of people walking. Let the motor vehicles have the roads."

    Comments like these are who people consider yuppies the scum of the earth.

    Let's reviews some basic points, genius:

    1- Cars cause global warming, encourage oil wars, and kill people. Bicycles do none of these things.

    2- Gyms and cars both cost lots of money. I realize that to yuppies it's hard to understand that not everyone is loaded, but we don't all lead a lifestyle filled with luxury expenditures like cars and gyms.

    Get off your lazy ass, quit your damned gym, get on a bike, and stop polluting the planet. Stop being complicit in the hundreds of thousands have died in Iraq in a war for oil.

    Know what would really prevent road deaths? Banning cars. Let the bicycles and pedestrians have the roads.
    Know what happens when you run a red and hit another bike? You scrape your elbows, chuckle "good thing I wore a helmet," and get back on your bike. No one should have to suffer the death penalty for running a red. Cars are death machines that should be abolished. They are unsafe and unnecessary, and are killing the planet.

    James was a friend -- a great guy. Just a few days ago, our neighbor's kitten was killed by a car. A door was accidentally left open and he ran out. Careless accident, yes. But it's only because of cars that such accidents have deadly consequences. Riding a car, especially in NY, puts others at risk for your needless, selfish desire to have a heavy motorized personal transport vehicle.

  • Al R.

    They do it all the time. This morning a kid on a bike drove up the street the wrong way as I was turning on in my car. Bikers must follow the same rules as motorist. I am truly sorry for the loss. Let's try to make some educational points come out of it.

  • http://bikejourneys.wordpress.com avidcyclist_ray

    It is a sad thing when someone who speaks considerably about bicycling, taking the time to share his thoughts, it is to bad, such things happen. Sadly similar chain of events had happened with http://www.kenkifer.com who was one of the first people who inspired me to take my first tour.

    I did not know James well, but I do know well that he did alot for a worthy cause and certainly may he rest in peace, it is a sad way to go, but as long as his awareness lasts the generations he will never really be forgotten.

  • http://mccarley.tk Fered

    Humor translates well internationally so we havent had that provide juice to computers contributed an impressive 86
    Pettifogger Pettifogger http://mccarley.tk/forum/wiki/blog/pettifogger.html Pettifogger

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