My parents must have been keen cyclists at one time, I have the grainy black and white photos of their summer holiday in 1953: a cycling tour of Normandy. That must have been an adventure.
My very first bicycle memory is of bring taken to primary school every day balanced on a floral cushion on the crossbar of my dad’s bike – he was a teacher in the same school, and we didn’t have a car, so it was very convenient. When it rained, I was kept dry under his yellow rain cape.
This must have gone on for some time but stopped abruptly when we were pulled over by a policeman, who asked to see what I was sitting on, and told my father that the floral cushion would not do.
I was hysterical by lunchtime, thinking that my father would be whisked off to prison, and it was all My Fault.
There wasn’t an awful lot of cycling going on in Hemel Hempstead in the 60s, or on the Isles of Scilly in the 1970s. I had bikes, second hand or cast off, but actually riding them was unusual. That changed when I arrived in Bremen in 1977; the city is full of cycle paths and lanes:
And so I bought myself my first new bike, at the Karstadt department store in downtown Bremen. That bike became my trusty friend, and when my daughter was born two years later we fixed a seat on the front and off we went. I loved those rides. By that time we lived in extremely flat Lower Saxony; I didn’t have a car and so I pedalled to the supermarket and around the lake, and to visit my friend who lived in the city, all the while chatting and singing with my dear little girl.
We now live in Thedinghausen, which is a small rural village, part of the Landkreis (Municipality) Verden – and a very flat part of Lower Saxony.
There is really no excuse for not cycling: we have plenty of safe and beautiful cycle paths.
Often I look out of my window and think it’s too cold or too rainy or too windy to cycle, but for the last five days (on one of which it rained all day) I have been clocking up the kilometers as part of our village ‘Stadtradeln‘ project. In English this is called “City Cycling”. It’s a movement all over Germany (and in other countries too) and you can read about it here, in English, of course:
“CITY CYCLING is a competition that involves completing as many daily journeys as possible in an environmentally-friendly manner using your bike over a 21-day period. Whether you ride every day or cycled only rarely until now. Every kilometre counts – and even more so if you would have completed the journey by car otherwise.”
My husband and I have entered as a Team – “Pinguinis” – and (let me just check) as I write we are in position 25 (hmmn) out of 44 village teams with a total so far of 221 kilometers.
Some teams already have got thousands of kilometers to their names; for many people here in the north of Germany, cycling is not only a way of getting to the shops or popping to the Post Office but also a sport and a hobby and they will happily cycle (fast) all day.
Many people spend their holiday cycling for days, along a river – the Weser, for instance, or the Danube, or the Elbe. People even cycle over the Alps!
Maybe something to think of for the Pinguinis…
Dear old Freddie.