I took this photo recently and I love it. To me it is the ultimate in cycling freedom.
The photo was captured in Paris but is a common sight in many parts of France. Aside from the recommendation that you have a bike of some sort and a good quality chain to lock it up, there are few other requirements to get yourself cycling just about anywhere.
No one cares what sort of bike you ride – as long as it gets you where you need to go. There are some bits and bobs that make the whole thing a lot more practical however. A bell makes a lot of sense – how else do you warn people you are coming behind them? A basket? Naturally. It is practical and it is surprising how much it can carry! And this goes for the guys as well as the girls. Mudguards (fenders)? Common sense, really, in a place where it rains a lot. And what about your clothes? Well, in France, it’s simple – just wear what you have on when you decide to go out. (And because helmets are not compulsory, one can wear large earrings and a fancy hairdo if the mood takes you!).
So the preparations to ride somewhere are minimal. Get the bike out, toss a few things into the basket and away you go.
Where I live, it is definitely not ‘cool’ to have a basket, luggage rack or mudguards on your bike. And few people seem to venture out on rides without their trendy cycling jerseys, knicks and clip-in-shoes. (Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind if this is the gear they feel most comfortable riding in – they are welcome!). Perhaps the difference between where I live and Paris, is that most people who cycle in Paris are easy-going cyclists like the lady in my photo, whereas the majority of people who cycle in my district are doing fitness training.
However, I do look forward to the day when I can just grab my ordinary bike with a basket on the front, a classic old fashioned bike bell attached to my nondescript handlebars and cycle to the local grocery shop without attracting looks of superiority from other cyclists.