Still life with Bicycle

I want to talk about the bicycles in Amsterdam. We all know about bicycles in Amsterdam. Everyone rides them, all the time, everywhere. But it isn’t the sheer mass of them, or the variety of riders, or even the casually suicidal way they tear through town that struck me – it’s how they are constantly falling over.

Left to their own devices, these bikes seem to spend most of their time lying down. Ostensibly, when no one is riding them, they are left propped neatly against railings, fences, trees, or other bikes. In actual fact, whole swathes of sidewalk become impassable: the indicipherable crush of chains and gears and metal bars takes up any and all available space like the dilapidated inner workings of some bizarre and rusty clock. And then, presumably when the boredom of being stationary gets to be too much for them, they fall over – sometimes one by one like dominoes, sometimes en masse like lemmings. I can only assume that this brief descent from vertical to horizontal breaks up the monotony of immobility.

No one seems to mind. Bikes are routinely left lying on the ground, anywhere and everywhere. Bicycles fall over: this is just a fact of life. Which, in a way, is comforting. No matter what else is going on there will always be a bike falling over in Amsterdam and that’s okay.

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