Go Bicycle!

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This picture summarized my experience of bicycling in France.  For a country to take the time to put up traffic signals like this, in order for you to ride a bicycle safely while interacting with auto traffic says a lot!  

It means- “We value you!”  

 

Everywhere we went there were bicycles.  Not just because we followed the Tour de France either- there were grandmothers cycling home with breads for breakfast, kids cycling with parents on their way to the stores, women in heals riding home from work, and 1 father with 2 kids on the bike- one in the front basket!  It was indeed a bicycle culture!


WOW!  For a minute there, I thought it was heaven!  Bicycle lanes were abundant.  For a while they would go along with traffic on the road, then they would switch up to the sidewalk to safely avoid difficult intersections, roundabouts or bus stops.  They were marked well with painted lines and very clear labels, even on the sidewalk sections.  Everywhere we went, we were obviously and generously welcomed, cycling.


Perhaps the biggest testament to their cycling culture was when we were parked at Annecy for the time trial day.  We rode across town with our bikes, and joined thousands of others in the park that day.  We did not have our bike locks.  We were concerned about the safety of our rental bikes even though there were 1000s of other bikes around.  We had stashed them, leaning against a truck where we could see them, as we waited for the Astana men to emerge from their bus.  The crowd grew around us, and the truck was opened up for more equipment.  In the process, they moved our bikes around to the side of the truck that we could not see, thus sending a streak of panic through our minds.  But, the draw of having a front row seat, should someone unbelievably famous emerge, was too much for us to worry about the bikes long!  And after about 2 hours of being right up in the midst of the crowd, sans knowledge of the fate of our bikes, we left our post and hoped to gather our bicycles and move on to other race action.

 

There they were!!  Leaning neatly up against the truck, carefully balanced as if to acknowledge the dignity and independence of the bicycle itself!  Even in the midst of a Times Square kind of crowd, the bikes appeared to never be in danger.  The people gathered there that day revere bicycles and their riders!  It’s as simple as that. 

 

The Parisian “Velib” system is also another testament.  Here bicycles are available at about 1000 “stations” around the city for very cheap rental to residents of the city.  Very cheap means- 29 Euros a year (that’s like $41 for the whole year!)  You can get them anytime, virtually any place, and ride them wherever you need to go, then return, or drop them off at a station near your destination!  A huge testament to the importance of bicycles in such an amazing city!  They want you to ride, and they are going to make it darn easy to do it!  Of course this also reduces the amount of cars on the road, especially those making shorter trips.  Boy did we see a ton of these Velibs, even into the night since they are well equipped with headlights and taillights!  They were everywhere, and again, ridden by all kinds of people.  

 

What would it be like if we had these kinds of amenities that say to cyclists- “Welcome!  We want you here!”  Most of the time it’s the honk of a horn, or the heavy acceleration and exhaust that say- “Dude, You’re totally in my way!!!”  I know, I know, perhaps high on exhaust myself, I dream of a world that is only achievable in some European country.  But, I have to wonder, if it works SO WELL there, don’t you think that we might do well to try something!?!  After all, I believe our obesity count was up to 4 people when it was time to leave France, and that’s just the health issue alone!  (Note here–because I pride myself on noticing things, I keep all kinds of mental stats!  You don’t want to know what all is in my head!  It’s a strange place, no doubt!) Think of the environment, the care and respect for others, even the idea that slower might indeed mean more enjoyable….

Hmmmm….I wonder….

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