Saturday, November 22, 2014

The Orientation Visit - Chapter 3 - For the Love of Bicycles

I know that other cities outside of San Francisco are bicycle friendly.  I even know that there are other cities where the basic mode of transit is something other than the automobile.  I wasn't prepared for how much the bicycle has permeated Basel.

Bicycles are everywhere & everyone is riding them.  From families out for a junket to the park, to grandparents cycling to the grocery store, to the speedster off for an extended tour of the countryside.  The amount of people riding to and from work blew my mind as well.

Frankly, I felt like I was visiting bicycle heaven.  There are bike shops every where. They even have dedicated parking areas both inside and outside for bikes. The lanes are striped on just about every major roadway. 

And, get this. Perhaps the most astonishing thing was the way that people drive their automobiles in Basel: with care, courteousness, and fully aware of the cyclist and other pedestrians.  Pedestrians simply walk out into a cross walk and it's against the law for an automobile not to stop. I was a bit floored when I noticed people not even looking before they jumped into a crosswalk.  

In San Francisco, if you don't look both ways, twice, you never know if it's safe to cross, and even then, you could be surprised by some driver plowing into you from another unexpected lane.  The kind of riding I'm used to doing is very, very defensive.  I always assume that cars are NOT going to stop.  Basel will be a serious adjustment for me - in a good way.

There are plenty of electric assist bikes, which are fine if you like them. I can understand why you would like one in San Francisco because the hills can challenge even the most seasoned rider.  Basel is relatively flat, which one not from Switzerland wouldn't guess.  That makes it even more bicycle friendly. So, you can find just about every kind of bicycle ever made in this town.  Fixed gear hot rods for the hipsters.  Old school three speeds, for knocking around town.  You name it, they have it.

I think my ACB RS Special is going to be right at home here, but I'm pretty sure, I'll need to scrap together a knock around bike for short trips around town. They even have bike parking at homes where there's a cover over the location to keep the elements off their trusty steeds.

On a final note, there must not be a big problem with bike thievery in Basel either. The kinds of locks used on most hitch-ups would make even the most novice SFO bike thief laugh out loud.  You could just lift them into your truck, hack saw them off at your shop, and then do whatever you do with a stolen bike.  

Of course, this is Basel, and it it Switzerland. There are stiff penalties for many things. Even so, I'm betting the very idea of stealing a bicycle from grandma or junior is antithetical to the Swiss way of thinking; they can't imagine why any one would do such a thing let alone (sinking to the bottom of the cesspool) buy a stolen bike.  

In a city where every one rides, everyone already owns a bike, or two, or three. So, effectively, there's zero market for the bad boys inclined to rip off the unsuspecting cyclist.  Grandma and junior are not only safe on the road, they know their bikes are safe where every the leave them (even if they forget to lock 'em up).

In fact, for the above and many other reasons, cycling is one of the things I'm most looking forward to in the coming year...because I already know I'll be in great company.

Ride on, All!

- The trailing spouse.

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