Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Cyclical geometry

Means to an end
Shanghai, China, May 2007

Between cars, scooters, bicycles and pedestrians, there's precious little open pavement in this city of 20 million people. Cyclists take to the road at their peril, it seems. Yet the way they approach this mode of transport is decidedly different than in North America.

Back home, we ride high-tech alloy wondermachines that cost more than my first car. Here, the average bike is an old, clunky beast of burden that doesn't seem to have ever been new.

Back home, we wear helmets, spandex shorts, gloves, shades and whatever other chic gear we've picked up at the bike store. Here, riders never wear helmets, and the clothes they ride in are the clothes they work and/or live in.

Back home, we ride for pleasure. A few of us commute, but we're usually the minority in an urban center. Here, it's an accepted mode of transport, with some bikes precariously loaded with more cargo and kidlets than I can stuff into my minivan.

As I peer through the viewfinder at this ancient machine, I wonder what its owner would think if he/she saw me ride by on my pink Specialized, wearing my helmet and related gear. I'd probably get a dismissive shrug as its owner got on and quietly pushed off on yet another daily commute. So different, yet so similar, all at the same time.

Your turn: Do you ride? Why?


Anna said...

First, you know I love this image...

Second, regarding more Venice pics...there are so many more coming. That is just 3 out of about 1600 I have been sifting through! :) I am pretty sure that I have issues!

Have a good day Carmi and thanks for the comment...it really is one of the most beautiful, quaint places I have ever been.

Susan said...

I ride my old bike, for fun, had it for over 20 years. My favorite ride is on a summer evening to the ice cream shop. Or a summer morning to the coffee place where they have tables outside. I wear my regular clothes. No spandex for me. I wear a helmet on the streets, because I dont want a ticket. But most of my riding is on the dikes, flat and no traffic, so no helmet there!

Anonymous said...

Hi, Carmi! You have a very unique blog, and I love your pictures!

I am envious of your Shanghai Bund pics. The silhouette pic of the Orient Pearl Tower is amazing. I tried looking for it at the 66th floor of the Le Meridien, but I guess the smog blocked my view. :)

About this post, it's great to see a different point of view. Here in my country, people don't wear helmets either, and the bikes are pretty clunky too. Only the professional cyclists wear helmets. But the number of cyclists here are very few compared to the ones we saw in Shanghai.

sage said...

About a year ago I wrote a post about my only bike race. This was 25 or so years ago and at the time, I was doing a lot of bike touring. The town of Fair Bluff was having a race on the fourth of July and I'd been encouraged to enter. Not knowing what to expect, I showed up with my fancy bike and shorts and shoes and gloves and found myself up against farm boys on single speed bikes. My only competition came from a young African-American (maybe 16 or so) on a Murray 10 Speed. I felt like a fool winning the race, but would have felt even more foolish had I lost.

I enjoy your post from China.

Linda said...

I don't ride. I own a bike, but it has spent more time travelling than me. The last time I rode it was almost 9 years ago now...sad, but true. I REALLY need to dust it off, check the tires (to see if they've rotted dry!) and ride a bit. Alone...so that I can enjoy myself.

Susan Helene Gottfried said...

Dude, I wish I had a job so I could ride to work. I wish it wasn't so humid and hot so I could ride more. I wish I could leave the kids at home ... so I could ride more.

A lot of my rides are spontaneous, so I guess I look like a person in China -- hopped on wearing whatever.

That said, I need a few new jerseys. And shorts. And did I mention socks?

Elizabeth McQuern said...

I bike like mad, ever since I sold my car left the bucolic splendor of small-town Indiana for the delights of Chicago. It's helped me get into the best shape I've been in for years, and I feel good about putt-putt-putting a few less sky-eating chemicals into my planet's atmosphere at the same time.

Have I mentioned how envious I am at all the amazing travel you get to do, Carmi?

Rachel said...

I do have a bike. It's not too fancy but it does have gears and I could never figure it all out. Then a kid showed me how to work them and which gear to put it in when climbing hills, etc. Go figure!!

I don't ride very much. Our road is too dangerous to ride on and there are really no bike trails in this town. I wish there were.

Elaine said...

Nice shot--love the lines.

I haven't ridden in a long time, and don't even have a bike anymore. We have a lot of hike/bike trails here, so I sometimes wish I did ride. Yes, I walk, but never go as far as I could on a bike. (When I did have a bike 5 years ago it was a single speed coaster bike.)

tommie said...

another fine example of Miksang....yes we ride...my little girl is still in a tow-behind thingy....but it gets us out and in the neighborhood. I think that is whats brings us all together is getting out and just saying "hi".

Chad Oneil Myers said...

"clunky beast of burden that doesn't seem to have ever been new."

...Love that line.

Don't ride, but would like to again someday. No place to really put a bike right now. Someday when I have a house and a garage maybe. I had some adventures with bikes when I was a kid though.

I've just got done keeping up with a daily video blog of one of my favorite singer/song writers named Mark Schultz. He took a bike tour across the U.S. to raise money for "the James Fund" benifiting widows and orphans.


Holly Schwendiman said...

I love it! It's been a few years since I was on a bike...dh loves it. We keep saying we need to get some to go with the kids...maybe when the weather cools down this fall. Hope you're having a wonderful summer! Keep these wonderful pictures coming.


barbie2be said...

i ride, but only for fun. the truth is, i am too lazy to ride the 10 miles from home to office... probably because i know i would then have to turn around at the end of the day and ride it back home again.

Rainbow dreams said...

We keep meaning to get the bikes out - hubby is always fiddling with something on his and I have just got a bike with more than 5 gears :)
Think it might well be the transport of choice this summer to and from the beach... it's far too hilly for me to consider riding to work though.

Michele said...

What another beautifully written post. You have a artistic knack for doing that Carmi. You also take gorgeous pictures - some of my favourite photos are yours.

This summer I fell in love with a bicycle all over again. It is my first new one in many years. It has one speed and only goes faster if I pedal harder, to brake I simply pedal backwards and it has the all important wicker basket. I ordered it from a local bike shop and waited anxiously for it to arrive - when it did I felt the same rush of excitement that I felt when I was six and received a bike with the all important basket.

Yes, I am in bike love.

Thanks Carmi, for the beautiful post, the wonderful picture and simply for being you!

rashbre said...

The bicycle looks as if it has a story or two! Creative shot.