Thursday, June 26, 2014

I like bike

Bicycles, bicycles -- bikes in every flavor. Florentines love their bicycles - la bicicletta. For good reason. It is not only cheaper to peddle, but in some parts of the city, faster than driving a car.

The classic, utilitarian single-speed
I snapped photos of bicycles wherever I went in Florence. It was a delight, as something different was always rolling around the corner. Every imaginable variation on the standard two-wheeler was there. Some were as beautiful as a Ferrari, some were ready for the scrap yard and most were in between.

Like all bikes in Europe, they were equipped with lights and bells. That gave a somewhat musical touch to walking the narrow streets. Bicycles have the right-of-way, so you had to be ready to jump aside when you heard the "ching-ching" of a cyclist coming up from behind.

Some observations from snooping for spokes:

-- Most of the bikes I saw were single speed.  Many others used hub gears. But the terrain was flat with little need of low gears.

-- Neither age nor gender discourages Italians from cycling. It was not uncommon to see a grandmother on a bicycle (or a motor scooter, for that matter) and quite often you would see a mom with toddlers in both front and back child seat.
Flower vendor's trike

-- I could easily tell at a distance if the cyclist was an American.  We hunch over, leaning on the handlebars of the bike.  Italians ride upright with their hands lightly on the bars and the weight on the seat.

-- Electric-assist bikes were everywhere.  I was impressed by the variety of brands and the variety of people using them. I have a Chinese-made electric, but it is much noisier and less sleek than those I saw in Florence

Frisbee electric-assist

-- Florentines often park their bikes against the curb, using a pedal as the stand.

-- Bicycles are parked overnight at community racks. To deter theft, Florentine cyclists use chains that could shackle King Kong.

-- Almost all Florentine bicycles have at least one basket or similar carrier. This is not a city of Spandex-clad racers.  Bicycles here fill the niche of family cars and pickups in the U.S.

My full collection of bicycle photos from Florence is in a Flickr slideshow.

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