Friday, November 1, 2013

Pimp My Ride, Leuven-style

Leuven is a university town, and bikes are everywhere. Bikes outnumber cars, buses and people. And they have right of way. This means that as a motorist, if a cyclist stops in front of you and decides to check on her tyre-pressure in the middle of the road, you have to stop and wait patiently till she finishes. There is none of the often violent confrontation between cyclists and motorists that one gets to see in Melbourne. No tapping of windows, hurling of abuse or raising of indignant middle fingers and certainly no Shane-Warne style bike-benders. Cyclists, helmet-less and sans-lycra ride their 1950s-style upright bikes majestically and gracefully through bike lanes, and through the centre of the road where there are none.

To get into the spirit of being a Leuven-ite (or is it Leuven-er or Leuven-ian?), I've decided to make cycling my primary means of transport. Central Leuven is circumscribed by a ring road of diameter 2 km and my home and work are not too far from the ring, which makes cycling the perfect mode of transport for me.

So there is this place called Velo that will rent you a bike for a deposit and a monthly fee and I make my way there. Velo, according to the website is a place that "offers training, work experience and employment to diverse groups  in society that have difficulties to access the job market. Velo does this through bike mobility projects ( for individuals, organizations and companies ). Qualitative guidance, mostly to ensure a flow to the regular economy, is therefore coupled to an ecological, social and responsible work ethic."

It is literally an assembly line of re-cycled bikes that offers employment to people who cannot otherwise get work and bikes to people who want a means of getting around cheaply.

I put in my deposit of 70 Euro and my first month's fee of 30 Euro, and select my bike, a purple lady's-style upright bike with a dynamo powering the front headlight and rear tail-light. I prefer the slanted cross-bar because it makes getting on the bike an easier proposition with my crooked back and inflexible hamstrings, and besides it isn't a fashion faux-pass like it would be in Melbourne. I've seen plenty of well-dressed and completely eligible Belgian men ride around Leuven without a hint of a horizontal cross-bar. Tring-tring!

1 comment:

  1. Hey Jay - I'm jealous of how easy it is to cycle around there. It sounds like bike heaven! :-)