Essay: Bicycles everywhere

Essay: Bicycles everywhere

I learned to ride a bicycle at less than 4 years old. At that time, and living in a low-middle class environment, having a bicycle of your own was considered somewhat of a privilege. Which I went on exploiting:  up until almost my teens, I used to ride anytime and everywhere. It was my personal expression of freedom, I guess, much like the horse for the Hollywood type Indian. We all used doing some incredible and potentially extremely dangerous things on bikes; and, very often, I used to drive my poor mother insane with a number of near fatal incidents.

Bicycle friendly cities: this is a photo taken more than ten years ago (with a crappy compact camera) in Malmo, Sweden. This is near the underground station, where people leave their bikes to catch the train. Bicycles were huge there, and they still are: Malmo is a perfect example of a city made for riding a bicycle safely.  

What I'm trying to say is, the bicycle was, for me and much of my generation, something of a holy object in the difficult ritual of growing up. Which is why I'm quite amused by the "bicycle revolution" we are witnessing for some years now.

Everywhere I look there are bicycles; not only regular ones, used by regular people, but also as lifestyle "statements", in decorations, and such. The bicycle has become a regular pattern in city iconography.  A lot of city people have rediscovered it, as a practical, inexpensive and healthy means of transportation, as well as personal training. There are a few problems, though, since many cities are not appropriate for bicycles.     

Athens is such a city. As much as the hipster generation would like to think so, it is totally unsuitable for riding a bike safely. There is no design for bicycle lanes, let's say this can be fixed gradually. What can't be fixed, is that Athens is not built on a flat plane. There are altitude variations in the order of tens of meters between different parts of the city. Furthermore, Greek drivers are certainly not the most kind and caring in the world. The whole thing has all the credentials of becoming a bloody mess. Literally.

In any case, I do enjoy seeing people get excited about bicycle riding, especially middle aged men and women. More power to them, and all the luck in the world while on the streets. They'll most likely need it.


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