Tuesday, October 7, 2008

An American in Paris

I have actually never to Paris. I want to go - alas the dollar is worthless and I will remain state side for the time being.

I have spent a reasonable amount of time off and on over the last 20 years overseas, specifically in Germany. I studied abroad, I have visited friends and family. I have experienced German culture not from a tour bus but from the living rooms and pubs, with actual Germans. I went to school in German for a bit and I have just done normal daily stuff.

(Switching gears - trust me we will get back to the topic.)

I live less than a 1/2 from L's school. I have mentioned before that I walk while most of the neighbors drive. L loves to ride the bike train. She enjoys biking. So of late we have been biking. Now I happen to believe that there is biking and then there is riding your bike.

Biking is the kind of activity that requires a special work out type outfit. The point of biking is to work up a sweat, train for an upcoming event, ride for miles and miles and miles.

Riding your bike is how you get from point A to point B. Perhaps it is a distance a bit too far to walk or your mood fancies a ride over a walk. It is not speedy per se, but rather leisurely and calming and peaceful. You can dress in more or less normal every day clothing.

(Back to my topic)

In Europe and specifically in Germany, people ride their bikes all the time. I rode my bike to school. I rode my bike to the market. I rode my bike to meet friends for beers or coffee. I rode my bike to the theater once.

Women in Germany do not wear work out outfits to ride their bikes to the market, they dress nicely, in jeans and a sweater or a skirt and sweater. They wear a trench coat when it is cold and I can assure you they seldom wear tennis shoes. They will be wearing boots, heels, clogs or just everyday leather shoes whilst riding their bike. I would image they would also be wearing a fashionable scarf. Germans wear scarves all the time.

I fail to see why it is different here. I get up before the little people, get dressed for the day and then see to the little people and if my day includes going somewhere in the morning like the market or a meeting or something, I dress for that, ride her to school and then come home and continue on my day.

I am raising this issue for a number of reasons. First and foremost I can ride my bike in a skirt. As long as it is long enough and I am covered who cares. (Um yeah I have gotten dirty looks.)

I can and have ridden my bike in fashionable jeans and a nice sweater and platform shoes. It is doable. There is no reason to be in athletic clothes.

Today I even - hold on - wore my trench coat. It was cold and I was dressed to head out in a bit. I garnered all sorts of disapproving looks.

Many children ride their bikes to school. They are excited to ride their bikes. It is healthy to start the day with a bit of exercise. It is a great way to clear the mind or experience nature.

We have a well documented gas shortage in parts of the country. We are a nation of overweight people. We have an economic bubble about to burst. There is no reason, that we cannot learn to change and look to other cultures and see what may work.

We have built our lives around what is quick and easy and are totally dependent on our cars and SUVs. In Europe a drive thru is a rare site, a bike rack is always easy to find. Mark Twain wrote a charming story about a Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. We have a history as Americans as being innovative and forward thinking.

I think a bit of reflection is in order and perhaps it is high time to admit that some of our choices have not been for the best and we need to perhaps contemplate what others happen to do well and learn from their example.

We can change - if is as easy as putting one foot in front of the other - or pedaling with all our might. Just becasue we have "always" done it one way does not mean we cannot change.

I say we slow down, breath deep and think about what kind of world we want our kids to grow up in.

So I am going to head out for coffee now and yes I very likely will be driving my car, although... it is in biking distance and stranger things have been known to happen.


IHateToast said...

i love my brady bunch bike. i'll send you a photo in facebook. just 3 speeds. if you can go anywhere with 3 speeds, you're fitter than those needing more.
good on you. i'm saving up for a townie. my brady bunch bike is really from the early 80s. the foam on the seat is rock hard. that i can't do.

i need to ride more. i get stuck with it being muggy (subtropics) and not having a smooth way to desweat. ah, a project.

Susan said...

Love the pic - thanks for sharing. I think we all need to start biking more - but yeah when it is humid and gross it is a bit impractical...