Thursday, September 3, 2009

Bicycles and Bicycling in Poland

I had been in Poland for the past week, and while not exclusively engaged in bicycle research, I have noticed a few things.

Firstly, there are plenty of bicycles and people riding them. This is no doubt due in large part to the excellent bicycle lanes. Next to most roads—and certainly all newer roads—there is a dedicated bike lane. Generally this is on the other side of the sidewalk from the road—it's doubly separated from traffic, in other words. With all the excitement I've been reading about at home, this car/bicycle segregation doesn't seem like such a bad idea. (On the road outside my girlfriend's grandmother's house, where I'm staying, there was a fatal bike accident yesterday, when a truck driver turned right into a 50 year old cyclist without seeing him. It's an old road, and there's no dedicated bike lane.)

Secondly, the bicycles are generally "practical" rather than sporty. While Poland is an increasingly wealthy country, and car-ownership is certainly the norm, many people seem to use their bikes as "second cars"—for example, my girlfriend's aunt, who uses her bike for grocery shopping and errands when their car is in use. The example photographed is fairly typical, if somewhat newer than average (I'm afraid I haven't seen any weird Soviet-era bikes; they all have English names). I have yet to see a single drop-bar road bike. Mostly you see 1990s-style mountain bike with flat bars, V-brakes or cantilevers, and knobby tires. (Yes, the disease has spread!) But almost every bike I've seen does have a bottle generator-powered headlight, generally attached at the fork crown. The bike photographed, which I saw at the seaside town of Rewal, is distinguished by its neat internal routing.

Another notice, while I'm on the internet: Clive, my Cicli Polito randonneur, is now en route from Cleveland to Toronto, where it will be painted by Noah Rosen of Velocolour. My friend Olivier will be taking lots of photos when it arrives. God bless the internet—I'm dying to see it!


alex said...

Hello Alan, if you're by any chance going through/near Berlin on your Poland trip, it would be great to have a visit from you here. I follow your blog occasionally and most recently asked about the color of your blue bike.

i have no way of getting in touch, other than this! i'll check back.

at any rate have a lovely trip. Alex.

AH said...

Ah, sorry, I didn't see this until now! In any case, we were in a rush and headed straight to the airport. I do hope to get back to Berlin for a proper visit in the next month or so...