Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Bike Heaven

Looks like this did not come through on my original attempt to post via email on December 25. As such, I am trying again.

As a cycling enthusiast, I have a deep appreciation for a city in which bicycles are the primary mode of transportation. Every road in Amsterdam is a bike lane. There isn't a railing or pole to be found that doesn't have a bicycle chained to it. People of every age bustle around on two wheels. Women in skirts and pantyhose roll around with baskets full of personal effects. Young men wheel around with their women sitting on the back rack. Elderly couples joyfully pedal through the park together. Families carry around as many as three children at a time in various retro-fitted and DIY home-made cargo carriers.

Amsterdam is sort of like bicycle heaven. This is not to be confused with cycling heaven, which (as far as I'm concerned) is located in Girona, Spain. The bikes here look like they've had better days; squeaking and rattling with every pedal stroke and smothering the cobblestone with the rubber of underinflated tires. There's a charming element to the idea that there isn't an embedded signal of status in the bikes that people ride. They all look and sound junky.

The lack of emphasis on the aesthetic is understandable; if bikes here are valued because of their practical merit, I can see that it would be unworthy of expending ones resources on appearance. But, for this same reason, the seeming epidemic of flat tires and squeaky chains is surprising. Maybe they don't know about lube here? Or maybe the supply/demand dynamic for lube is thrown off by the thriving red light district. As a Christmas good deed, I feel like going around and pumping up everyone's tires.


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