Friday, November 8, 2013

Strasbourg's bicycles

Strasbourg, France, is surprisingly flat.  There are gentle slopes descending to the river, and one notices a slight rise as one heads toward the cathedral, but the overall impression to someone from Canada's west coast is that Strasbourg is quite flat.  It is also a city which celebrates its pedestrian streets and trams, especially in its historic core.

All of this makes bicycling in the heart of the city a very attractive option, as is also true in Holland and Paris.  I enjoyed watching people--most students, young adults and their elders--pedal to the next part of their day.  I did not see any cyclist wear a helmet (this would be illegal in Vancouver).  The October weather was ideal for biking.  I wonder what happens when rain comes.

These two lads were heading home from school.  They had just swerved fairly radically when attempting to start out, and they both had a chuckle over it.

This lady has a very sturdy, more modern bike.  She slowed down to watch a woman demonstrate how to use the hoola hoop.

More than one cyclist got caught up on phone calls while slowly cycling through the streets. 

I wish I knew what this young lady was searching for in her bag--while biking on cobblestones.

You seldom see a rider able to bike and bring another bike along.

Cyclists skillfully weave they way through pedestrian traffic, and in my experience, were invariably polite.  It helps that the main routes have clearly designated bike lanes.  In the following photo, you can also see the 'ditch' in the middle of the cobblestone road.  This efficiently leads the water away, without unduly disturbing the visual aspect of the city's pedestrian roads.

One nice advantage of biking is that one can stop very quickly in order to talk with a friend or consider a purchase.

In the next photo, you can see the bright green bike basket and back fender.  This instantly tells people that this is a Velhop (velo = bike), the kind of bike you rent by the minute or, in Strasbourg, longterm.  These are catching on throughout the continent's major biking cities and are even in Montréal and coming to my Vancouver.  The advantage is that you need not invest in a bike, they are often free for the first 15 minutes, and there are thousands placed throughout the cities.  You register with your credit card (with a magnetic chip . . . which the US cards still don't have), and thereafter you can rent whenever you wish.  Marvelous system.

This lovely bike was part of a film set.  Even so, it lets us see some of the bicycle features favoured by Strasbourgians:  a wire front basket (almost never seen in Vancouver), upright position for the cyclist, saddlebags and a rack over the back wheel, and multiple gears (often 10-18).  All in all, a very sensible type of city bicycle.