Not a Vacuum Cleaner

A bicycle may be only a useful tool to the Danes and the Dutch, comparable to a vacuum cleaner, according to Mikael Colville-Andersen of This may be true for a population riding old clunkers in a sea of other old clunkers, for short distances, at a slow pace, on a protected infrastructure, and parking them amidst thousands of other bicycles which look pretty much the same, in a culture where bike theft is rampant. But that’s not us, and why we keep paying Mr. Colville-Andersen to tell us Americans how foolish and backwards we are when it comes to transportational bicycling is beyond me. We have our own challenges and issues, and we need to work on solutions specific to our situation. Orlando is not going to become the Copenhagen/Amsterdam of the great American South.

We love our bicycles. I took the above picture last week. This bicycle, with it’s pattern of Mexican Day of the Dead skulls, is clearly not a vacuum cleaner to this pretty young woman with the tattoos and pink streaks in her hair. It was decorated for her by one of her friends, and she clearly treasures it. And who wouldn’t? The technique for the decorations on this bike is decoupage!

It’s clever, original, and just perfect for her. And she does ride it for transportation.


11 replies
  1. Tom Armstrong
    Tom Armstrong says:

    On one hand, I would be happy for >some< of our bikes to be considered simple tools on the order of vacuum cleaners–who steals vacuum cleaners? It would be great for cycling to be considered so commonplace that an individual cycling instead of driving would not be considered remarkable by the public at large. Just think–people would not be as attracted to magic paint!!

    I fully agree that our bicycles are reflections of who we are, though. Personalization of the bicycle gives us a way to show who we are, just as how we dress. I have four different transportation bikes, and which one I choose depends heavily on a series of variables, including but not limited to how far I'm going, what errands I'm running (and thus what payloads I'll be hauling), whether I need certain lighting systems, and what-not. Each bike has its own character, as well (yeah, people call me a character).

  2. Matt
    Matt says:

    Sweet bike and a great point about the bike culture in the USA.
    Perhaps if American smugness about ‘greenness’ extended to hybrid bikes instead of just hybrid cars, then the bike parking situation would be ameliorated. In my experience, the single greatest barrier to making regular trips by bike is the lack of secure indoor storage at my destinations.

    • Eric
      Eric says:

      “the single greatest barrier to making regular trips by bike is the lack of secure indoor storage at my destinations.”

      For me, it’s the heat.

      • Matt
        Matt says:

        Heat is seasonal and I feel your pain, Eric. Lack of parking is year-round. To me, carrying a lock that weighs 1/3 of the bike’s weight and still leaving it exposed to the elements feels medieval (to borrow a good word from Steve A.

        • Eric
          Eric says:

          I ride bikes nobody wants work hard to steal. When I was in college, I used to ride a 3 speed with a big basket in the front for my books. I had a hardened steel chain for it because thievery was famous.

          One night, thieves hit the rack. The whole rack was wiped out even though some people had very strong locks. All the bikes were taken except mine . . . and I had forgotten to lock it that night.

          I wouldn’t call the heat here this year “seasonal.”

  3. Elliott @ Austin on Two Wheels
    Elliott @ Austin on Two Wheels says:

    We listen to Copenhagen because it is a success. I’ll start listening to Americans with a different strategy when they get over 40% (Hell, over 10%) of the population riding a bike. The enthusiast’s approach you suggest is great for building a niche market, but not for mass market adoption.

    • Mighk Wilson
      Mighk Wilson says:

      If you’re not listening, why are you reading here?

      Orlando will get to 40% when our elected officials tear out most of the free and cheap car parking, tax gasoline at European rates, force citizens to move into higher density apartments (probably where the parking used to be)(Copenhagen’s density is more than three times that of Orlando’s, so their trips are roughly a third as long), and put a huge dome over the city and air-condition it.

Comments are closed.