I may be unable to cycle right now due to being broken, but that doesn’t stop me from being able to observe cycling habits, especially since I am away from home. Indeed, I’m in Strasbourg, in the Alsace, department 67 of France. And yes, they like cycling here.
So the point of this set of ramblings is merely to comment on what I’ve seen in the past 5 days, related specifically to cycling.
First of all, they don’t mind cycling in the cold, which is just as well because it’s as cold here as it is back in Scotland – indeed, colder on Monday and Tuesday, where it was a good couple of degrees celsius beneath what it was in Edinburgh. So they are not softies.
That said, the terrain they cycle on is unbelievably easier than in Edinburgh, for two major reasons. First, it’s flat. Second, they have better cycling segregation.
The first point – the flatness. It’s unbelievably flat here. Indeed, I might have to go for a run, because despite the fact that I have not run for many, many weeks, it’s going to be really easy in comparison to back home. If you try going for a run in Edinburgh for more than a mile, you’ll change altitude more than you would in an entire marathon in Strasbourg, I’d guess, because I have yet to see anything that closely resembles an incline. This therefore makes the cycling really easy.
The second point – the segregation. There’s loads of it, where cycles get nice clear lanes on the roads, or the pavement is split in two for cycles and pedestrians. It’s fantastic. And what is even more fantastic is that the cyclists all quietly cycle around pedestrians without batting an eyelid. Amazing.
I was in the centre of Strasbourg this lunchtime and the number of bicycles parked in the green grassed area directly outside the Gare de Strasbourg (the main train station) was frankly in the territory of what you’d see in London – flipping crazy amounts of bicycles. Stunning.
The main things that I have been surprised about, though, is the speed these guys cycle at and the types of bikes they cycle. Speed is slooow. Types of bicycle – crap. But the same was true in Amsterdam, where the bikes looked like they were all 30 years old, and people were in no hurry. It’s bizarre. But then, this is a city (or maybe country, I don’t know) where they think nothing of taking two and a half hours (yep, 150 minutes) for a lunch break, so why hurry, when you have time to eat, sleep and play 7 games of squash before returning to work, with a leisurely half marathon run thrown in for good measure? But it’s the bikes I’m most amazed at. I’ve only seen one bike so far that I would consider remotely acceptable, and tbh I still wouldn’t ride it… it was a Specialized (good start) mountain bike (ouch) with disc brakes (ok) – it went by too fast to see any other detail, other than the fact that the rider was dressed like a prick (fitting nicely with the colour scheme of the frame). All the rest are truly old bikes. Still, it means theft is less of an issue, I suppose, and who needs a higher-specced road bike with wide selection of gears when there are no hills? So I suppose it does make sense.