Even if people don’t set out to customise bikes, they often acquire various forms of decoration along the way. Here are a couple of examples of stickers – above a slogan, below a reggae club night.
As in my previous post, it’s not necessarily the nuts, bolts, and bits of a bicycle that matter – or rather, they might matter because they embody friendships and relationships, as well as forms of connectedness to the world. An interviewee yesterday told me that she’d started cycling but had the second hand bicycle she was using stolen. Her friends realised that she was miserable without her bike, and clubbed together to buy her a new one. The bike matters because it’s her way of getting around and of knowing the city, but also because it reminds her of her friends and that they cared enough to get her a new bike.
On a less happy note, several Hackney interviewees have recently spoken to me about sexist verbal and physical abuse experienced while cycling. The subject has also been covered in the Guardian Bike Blog. Cyclists can be vulnerable in a society where harassment of women is common, and where cyclists in general are too often seen as “out of place”, illegitimate road users, as Dave Horton describes. Interviewees have spoken about changing the way they dress or the times they cycle (early morning instead of rush hour) to try to avoid harassment. Despite this, cycling is also described as potentially opening up areas and travel times associated with problems of personal safety (for example, through parks, which interviewees would avoid at night on foot).