CITY HALL — In the Bugs Bunny cartoon featuring Gossamer, the red furry monster with no facial features but two menacing eyes, our hare hero has a signature phrase.
“Have you ever had the feeling you were being watched? Like the eyes of strange things are upon you?” Bugs says. “Look, out there in the audience…”
Gossamer, looking out into the heretofore unseen audience, screams, “PEOPLE!” and flees the scene.
Dmitry Shapiro, a web technician from Venice by way of Russia, finds that when he goes out in full fur, people can’t take their eyes off of him, either.
Shapiro and a group of like-minded people, including girlfriend O’tilia Garcia and friend John Halcyon Styn, cruise the streets and bike paths of Venice and Santa Monica on bright pink fuzzy bicycles.
Fittingly, they call themselves the Fuzzy Bike Cooperative (www.fuzzybike.com).
The one and only purpose of these eye-catching forms of alternative transportation — to bring joy.
Cheers, gasps and startled exclamations follow the riders as they pass by. Cars stop and honk, occasionally spilling their passengers out into public streets for impromptu photo ops.
“We caused a traffic jam right here,” Shapiro said Thursday, pointing at a nondescript section of Venice Boulevard heading west from Abbott Kinney Boulevard toward the Pacific Ocean.
A single look at the bikes supplies the reason why.
Each is wrapped from handlebars to fender in hot-pink furry fabric. They are not otherwise adorned. They don’t need to be.
The bikes take approximately an hour to wrap, carefully and on a diagonal, Shapiro said, although more like three for the uninitiated.
There was one attempt at another color — an electric turquoise creation of the same material — but it wasn’t quite the same, Garcia said.
Pink is, after all, totally benign, possibly the most non-threatening color that exists.
“It’s the one color that law enforcement doesn’t wear,” she pointed out.
Certainly, images of California Highway Patrol officers pulling someone over on the side of the road decked out in hot pink uniforms doesn’t carry the same weight as the severe tan actually worn.
On a more philosophic note, “We’re all pink on the inside,” Shapiro said.
Of the six-bike fleet — Shapiro actually prefers the term “gaggle” — there are no two that look exactly the same, despite the muppet-like fur.
Each bicycle was rescued from auction, online sites or anywhere the group could get them for cheap. One was bought at police auction, having been seized in a gang raid.
The group successfully repurposed them for a happier life spreading good karma through the beach towns, and rechristened them with playful names like Rascal, Dustdream and the Monkey.
Inspiration for the gaggle came from Burning Man, an eight-day art festival and temporary village created in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada every year.
While furry bikes still aren’t common there, Shapiro said, the concentration is certainly higher than in one’s day-to-day life.
Styn, also referred to as “pink-haired John,” introduced Shapiro to the concept at one of the massive festivals.
Since, the group has been bringing the bikes to Venice and the surrounding areas, to the delight of denizens of the boardwalk.
“It takes a brave man to ride a pink bike,” called out one panhandler in a light southern drawl.
Actually, it doesn’t, Shapiro said.
The bikes give as much to the rider as they do to the observer.
Consider. You’re having a terrible day. On the way to work, another car sideswipes your vehicle, causing enough damage to be expensive, and putting a damper on the rest of your morning. There’s an illness in the family, and your dog looked at you funny when you got home.
Get on the bike. Ride around. Watch people’s faces change almost like a montage out of a 1980s teen film, and hear calls of “Nice bike,” surprised laughter, and the click of surreptitious shutters as people snap photos on the sly.
It’s as if all the happiness of the world is focused squarely on you.
“Even if you’re having a bad day, it changes your view of the world,” Shapiro said.
He’s found it useful, even for things like planning meetings. Fellow employees in the company he works for jump on the bikes to clear their minds when the crush of the office becomes stifling.
Perhaps the success of the bikes works better in the beach community, which Garcia described as similar to the Burning Man vibe. It’s hard to know.
What’s clear is that the bikes resonate with people, who get a quick shock that jolts them out of the banality of their problems and concerns to appreciate the fleeting beauty of the moment they’re in.