Sunday, May 11, 2014

Padova Bikes!

Padua is a city of bikers. In fact, shortly after I arrived I realized that, as a pedestrian in this city, I should be more concerned about getting hit by a bike than a car. Everyone rides bikes for transportation: rich people, poor people, university students, little kids, old people... I have seen business guys in suits, women in hats and dresses, and nuns in full religious outfit, riding bikes.

In general, the bikers move fast, dominate the streets in large groups, and carry everything from babies to groceries to friends to pets. Padova even had a biking festival during which everyone with a bike took to the streets at the same time (not too different from any weekday at rush hour) on a preplanned circuit of the city on a sunny Sunday morning. It was almost impossible to cross the street on foot during this, "Yes We Bike" event.

The first thing you will notice about the bikes of Padova is that, like everything else in Italy, they are ancient. Most of them look like they have been handed down in families for generations. Apparently, any halfway decent bike will get stolen, so the less appealing your bike, the better. People ride small kids' bikes, bikes without breaks, bikes with makeshift seats, and bikes that have been spray painted or covered in stickers. Also, since people do all their errands on bikes, the bikes are outfitted to carry stuff (and people, see below). Many bikes have both a basket on the front and a rack on the back (which doubles as a seat for a friend).

A typical Padova bike (I have more pictures of great bikes, but sadly cannot get them off my phone)
Also, biking in Padova is a family affair. Especially on weekends, you see entire families biking through town. I had no idea there were so many different ways to transport children on bikes. I have seen women carrying two children at the same time: with a baby seat on the front and a small, kid's seat on the back. Sometimes parents add a windshield to the bike for the comfort of the child riding in front. I love the older child's seat, which goes on the back, has no restraints, and comes with little extensions that are attached to the frame for the kid's feet. Many people take their children to school on bikes. Last week I saw a dad riding back from school on his bike (which had an empty baby seat) while also coasting his (riderless) school-age kid's bike alongside.

A family of bikes parked for another errand. Notice the wire baskets on both bikes, as well as the baby seat in the front AND the older child's black seat on the back of the yellow bike. The newest, nicest bikes are usually kids' bikes, like this pink and white one. 
At any rate, if you are not able to get your hands on one of these highly original, personalized, and practical Padova bikes, you can pay to borrow one from the Good Bike service. I have not tried it yet, but apparently they have over 20 bike sharing stations all around town where you can pick up and drop of a bike (with a basket, of course). It looks like a good deal, too. Maybe I will get brave enough to take to the streets on a good bike!

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