Wednesday, July 24, 2013

il traffico Romano

as the title suggests, a funny photo of a nun riding a bicycle

In economically depressed Italy, bicycles have outsold cars by as much as a quarter of a million in the past year. Though as you can tell from the video at this link, my guess is that helmet sales are in a slump.

I wonder if Italians, like Americans after World War II, saw bicycles as a sign of poverty rather simply a pleasurable and practical mode of transit. As their affluence grew after the War years, did they turn their hopes and aspirations to automobiles and abandon cycling? Think of The Bicycle Thieves where the father's fate depends on a bicycle and anyone seen as a bike thief was practically lynched. Or is this more of a Roman thing, where the frenetic pace of traffic simply made cycling too hazardous or intimidating? It's so strange that countries with a great sport cycling traditions such as Italy or Belgium could have cities like Rome and Brussels that lack cycling infrastructure. Of course, it's all relative. I've been told by people who lived in Rome they never saw a cyclist or it was rare or only someone decked in Lycra. I was told a similar thing about Brussels but when I was last there, a new bike share program was in place and cyclists seemed common enough. Compared to Toronto's streets, London seems like a vision of Hell's Outer Ring Roads yet cycling continues to grow there. While I probably don't agree with Boris Johnson on too many things, I do agree with the need, as he puts it, to "de-lycrify" cycling.

Enjoying cycling for sport is great. Enjoying cycling for just everyday life is important. Additionally, I've only just discovered that Lycra is a product of Invista owned by Koch Industries, Inc., owned by the notorious big-business-small-taxes-pro-oil Koch bros. So, you know, it's sort of ironic that a product so closely linked to sports such as cycling is produced by a company much more interested in the success of the automotive sector.

Not that a ban on Lycra from cyclists would put a dent in Koch Industries bottom line, but it seems pertinent to at least recognize the irony. The stretchy, comfy, stinky, easily-laundered, non-ironing irony.