“Where'd ya get that?” my car mechanic asked me.”From the Wicked Witch of the West?” He was referring to the bike pictured below, which I bought last year at a yard sale for five bucks. I enjoyed his teasing, partly because I was proud that I was biking home after dropping off my car to be fixed and partly because I know that this bike, in all it's rust-lovely glory, is a two wheeled sweetheart. It takes me many places I want to go with grace, strength and speed. Okay, maybe not speed but certainly the two other things.
Bikes are everywhere these days and all it takes is a fine spring day to bring out bikers all over cities and towns. Now is the time of year when kids learn to ride their first two wheelers, experiencing the sudden whoosh of freedom and balance that comes with giving up training wheels. It's a historic moment in any child's life and most of us can remember that happy moment in our pasts.
Bicycles have been with us since the 1400's when drawings supposedly appeared in the folio of Leonardo Da Vinci. The illustration below done by Da Vinci, or a student of his or even an impostor (no one is sure) is an early representation of the bicycle that we have come to know and love today.
China has the most bicycles in numbers, but the Netherlands has the most bikes per capita probably because the country is wonderfully flat, making it great for riding. The two most bike friendly cities in the world are thought to be Amsterdam and Den Haag, both in Holland. In the states, New York, Chicago, Minneapolis and Portland, OR, all vie for the title of “Most Bike Friendly City” in America.
Even though 100 million bikes are sold worldwide each year, there are those who don't want to own a bike but still want to use one. Luckily for these types a wonderful new bike sharing program has sprung up in variety of cities in North America. In New York, there is CitiBikes which allows anyone to purchase an access pass or annual membership and then to pick up a bike at a designated location, ride as much as desired and then drop the bike off at the original or other location. Toronto also boasts the fantastic the Bike Sharing Program which works in a similar way. People from all walks of life can take advantage of this wonderful, affordable way to get to work or just around town without the stress or cost of maintaining one's own bike. Plus, it's a simple way to get fit while in the fresh air at a very low cost.
Bikes offer up a simple miracle – the reminder that in our age of high technology where everything is being sent through the ether of the internet – there is still the need for a human being to carry an envelope or package through the city streets to an appointed destination. Bicycle messengers still work in a variety of American cities, where they can be seen bobbing and weaving through traffic. It's can be dangerous and exhausting work but for the young and gutsy, it's a way to make a living in the city.
Lorne Holden is an artist and author of "MAKE IT HAPPEN in Ten Minutes a Day/ The Simple, Lifesaving Method for Getting Things Done." Grab a copy of her book and dive into something new for spring.