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Old 05-15-07, 10:48 AM   #1
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Cultural Anthropology and (Folding) Bikes

Having bicycled in the US and around Germany, I mentioned to a colleague that the way people ride bikes differs radically between different places, and he agreed, noting it "sounds like a job for cultural anthropology." He went on to say "In Japan, one of the things I've noticed that differ from US cycling attitudes is that students tend to sit lower so during an abrupt stop, both feet can be used to stabilize the bike. This is for safety and is considered proper etiquette."

This reminded me of the recent thread ("Most ridiculous folder ever?"), which began as follows:
Quote:
Originally Posted by gbcb
Actually, it's not even a folder... I've seen a few of these being ridden around the streets of Shanghai (very awkwardly...). I can't believe that someone would spend RMB 600 on one of these, when a basic 16" Dahon can be had here for about RMB750. Anyone else seen these before?


Edit: Here's a picture for those of you too lazy to follow the link



Edit 2: Is this one even more ridiculous??
The bike in question looks like a fiasco to me, and I would never ride it. It is totally unsuitable for the way I ride. But it may be pretty well suited to the streets of Shanghai. I know some of you have been to some pretty exotic places... want to fill us in?
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Old 05-15-07, 12:57 PM   #2
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In crowded cities of Brazil like Rio de Janeiro and So Paulo (both listed on top 10 biggest cities in the world, with 6+ million people each) as as well some remote country areas, the "Barra Forte" model ("strong tube") is very popular for small business delivery. Most drugstores, pizza places, etc use this bike. I remember when it the early 80s the Brazilian Postal Service ordered several million of these bikes.

The most up to date model does not use cable for brakes: in the front it is a direct metal rod and in the rear wheel it's a "contra-pedal" brake.

They cost the equivalent of US$ 80.00 brand new, up to US$150 if you go for the 6 gears version.

Interestingly, there is a "tribe" of low income bike riders, most of them from the Northeast region of Brazil, that really take care of these bikes as if they were cars, featuring chromed wheels, loud radios and some other bizarre items like little dolls as mascots and stuff








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Old 05-15-07, 01:39 PM   #3
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It is.

It is for all practical purposes their car. It makes more sense than the lowrider craze in bicycles.Where can I get Un Barra Fuerte?
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Old 05-15-07, 03:33 PM   #4
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My partner was thinking of buying one of these, which has the same sort of aesthetic appeal -functional near cargo bike, but strong german tubing rather than brazilian...

but I have to say that I prefer the look of Kempers "Lori"

Strangely, this sort of bike seems more popular in Germany and the Netherlands than in the UK, where you end up having to trawl biking oddity shops like Velorution if you fancy buying on. I wonder what it says about our respective cultures (or bike cultures)?

Now if either of those came in folding form...
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Old 05-15-07, 03:52 PM   #5
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Wow! That Lorri's a beauty (can anyone say "F-frame")! Now you have me scheming to get one...
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Old 05-15-07, 06:06 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by matt52
...same sort of aesthetic appeal -functional near cargo bike, but strong german tubing rather than brazilian...
The Kempers Lori is my favorite so far, but that strong German tubing is probably made in Brazil since a lot of the steel used for MBenz and BMW goes from there lol...
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Old 05-15-07, 11:50 PM   #7
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That's an interesting point, rhm. I think the ridiculous bikes I posted are actually reasonably practical for very short distance rides in Shanghai, where most cyclists ride very slowly. Plus, they fit into the "cute" aesthetic that's prized in this part of the world.

The thing that's always surprised me about China is how badly people take care of their bikes. I recently travelled to North Korea, where even bikes in the countryside were in significantly better shape than their Chinese counterparts. And I don't entirely buy the argument that the North Koreans take care of their bikes better because bicycles represent a larger investment in a poor country... I'm sure that's part of it, but I doubt it's the whole story.
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Old 05-16-07, 02:04 AM   #8
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In Copenhagen they have a cycle lanes everywhere, but relatively few people overtake one another. At first this surprised me, but after a while I quite enjoyed just sitting back and enjoying the sites (it's very easy to draft at 12mph or so as most people have sit up and beg roadsters). If I had been commuting though, I am sure my patience would have run out, and I would have ended up slaloming.

It is also nice to see lots of women on bikes in Denmark - in the UK the majority of cyclists are male. What's more, most people wear everyday clothes when cycling as bikes have become integrated into their daily routine. It was also great that quite a few people did not bother to lock their bikes when they went into a coffee shop or store.

My only complaint was at some points there were almost too many cyclists for the facilities (and cyclists not taking this into account) however, a friend said that they monitor the conditions for cyclists regularly and will make changes to the network if necessary.

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Old 05-16-07, 03:21 AM   #9
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In developed countries most people can afford cars, so bicycles are just recreational vehicles. People use it for exercise or leisure. In less developed countries, car ownership is a luxury only a few can afford, therefore it is a status symbol. Nobody who can afford a car would want to be seen riding a bike.
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Old 05-16-07, 06:41 AM   #10
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Skidurts, I would tend to agree with you. I will add, though, that often you'll see scooters and bikes in those European cities where nearly everyone can afford cars, however driving/parking is just too much of a hassle. In these places it seems, people just want to get where they are going so they can get their chores done quickly and efficiently and meet up with their friends and family to relax (maybe with some nice tapas, wine and cheese etc.).
Damn, I miss Italy.......
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Old 05-16-07, 08:23 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Skidurts
In developed countries most people can afford cars, so bicycles are just recreational vehicles. ...Nobody who can afford a car would want to be seen riding a bike.
I beg to differ, and find your last statement very ill considered. Bikes are for more than recreation - they're the smarter way of getting around. I could afford a (nice even!) car, but why the @$#% would I want one? I'd only be stuck in traffic all the time! Riding my bike, and combining it with bus or train on longer journeys, is far faster and less hassle. Coming from Europe, my impression is that cars have ruined America, covered the beautiful land with acres of concrete, made the cities congested pits instead of nice places to be and made Americans fat.

Cars are so 20th century.. get over it!
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Old 05-16-07, 08:48 AM   #12
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above statements coming from somebody who lives in San Fran where there actually is some kind of public transportation ........
dont be to tuff on folks who need a car to get to work, go shopping and so forth .... A lot of folks would love to use the bike if it was only safe to do so and the distances halfways manageable

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Old 05-16-07, 09:50 AM   #13
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segundo Bicycleto

I like the second one it looks quite rugged and has a large luggage capacity.
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Old 05-16-07, 10:26 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brakemeister
... A lot of folks would love to use the bike if it was only safe to do so and the distances halfways manageable.
I kinda thought that was his (yangmusa's) point. Cars have made our distances too long and our roads too dangerous for utilitarian bicycling.

But let's assume, for the sake of argument, that he's right: the day will come when cars, in retrospect, are seen as a 20th century phenomenon. When that happens, many of the changes that the car has wrought, including our landscape (urban sprawl), the shape of our bodies (overweight), and even the way we smell when we get to the office (clean, like we never exercise), are going to start to revert to status quo.

It would seem the discussion is been getting away from folding bikes; but hold on. In the US we have invested too much in our sprawling infrastructure to abandon it all, even if cars become prohibitively expensive to drive. As cars begin to disappear, the roads will become safer for bicyclists. Multi-modal commuting, i.e. public transportation + folding bikes, is going to be an increasingly common solution.

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Old 05-16-07, 10:36 AM   #15
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Yup, once again I must also agree with the b.meister AND rhm on their points........I also live, work and socialize in a city where public transportation is phenomenal, in fact, it's the preferred mode of transportation over a car. And the folder, for me , really is the perfect answer...it integrates nicely into the public transportation equation (on many of the related threads here and on Dahon's site, it seems to work that same way in the UK).
But consider cities like LA and Miami where p. transportation is nearly non-existant or extremely spotty. Yang, if public transportation was unavailable in your city and you were unable to make it to work or out socially by using a bike, wouldn't you use a car unless you were simply unable afford one? I agree that skidurts last sentence does come off a bit presumptuous, but I do know many people who, albeit, unfortunately, actually do feel that way.
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Old 05-16-07, 11:03 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rhm
It would seem the discussion is been getting away from folding bikes; but hold on. In the US we have invested too much in our sprawling infrastructure to abandon it all, even if cars become prohibitively expensive to drive. As cars begin to disappear, the roads will become safer for bicyclists. Multi-modal commuting, i.e. public transportation + folding bikes, is going to be an increasingly common solution.
He he, you're right - we're straying close to the "Car Free" thread here. But I thought it was still valid under folding bikes, since - as you say - they are perfect for multi-mode commuting.

It isn't all doom and gloom in the US though - all the transit around here (and in other cities I've visited: Houston, Austin, Chicago) has provisions for bikes. The buses have bike racks, the trains have bike cars. Not to at home! Though the roads are friendlier.. You win some, you loose some.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Skidurts
Nobody who can afford a car would want to be seen riding a bike.
Ok, I probably shouldn't have risen to the bait. I was just amazed that someone could honestly feel this phrase is true. Who said bikes are inferior? Why on earth would you not want to be seen on one? That's just crazy talk..

Quote:
Originally Posted by brakemeister
above statements coming from somebody who lives in San Fran where there actually is some kind of public transportation ........ dont be to tuff on folks who need a car to get to work, go shopping and so forth ....
Which is PRECISELY why I chose to live in San Francisco, rather than other US cities. No kidding! This is a blatant quality of life issue. I wouldn't dream of living somewhere where I had no choice but spend hours in the car every day. They made their choice to live somewhere where driving is the only option - fine, that's their choice.

I think a lot of the issues that rhm brought up (sprawl, obesity) will eventually iron themselves out, despite all the investment in the status quo (lots of interesting psychological traps around sunk cost, but that's another discussion..) and I see several reasons for optimism. At least around here, I feel a growing will to change things, a growing understanding that the current state of affairs is not sustainable and certainly not the most pleasant way to arrange our lives. New York look like they'll do the right thing too, finally, with congestion charging. And the continued rise in oil prices will help dissuade people from commuting large distances by car. So a little bit of the carrot and the stick.
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Old 05-16-07, 11:07 AM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by keithnyc
Yang, if public transportation was unavailable in your city and you were unable to make it to work or out socially by using a bike, wouldn't you use a car unless you were simply unable afford one?
Of course - if I had no choice, then I would drive. We've all got to eat, right? But I believe we do all have a choice, and like I wrote above - I chose to live in SF precisely because it has good transit.

Gandhi said we need to be the change we want to see. I think that's as good a motto as any..
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Old 05-16-07, 11:17 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yangmusa
Ok, I probably shouldn't have risen to the bait. I was just amazed that someone could honestly feel this phrase is true. Who said bikes are inferior? Why on earth would you not want to be seen on one? That's just crazy talk..
I don't think that "Nobody who can afford a car would want to be seen riding a bike." is actually Skidurts' personal opinion. I think what he wanted to say is that in countries where cars are very expensive (compared to personal income) and only few people can afford cars at all, owning a car is often seen as a huge status symbol. In that case the people that can afford one would most likely not want to be seen riding a bike, but driving around in their car. Sad, but often true.
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Old 05-16-07, 02:35 PM   #19
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My gosh, Yang, have some empathy........("....which is precisely why I chose to live in San Francisco...."). Believe it or not, some people do not necessarily have 100% personal choice over everything that happens in their life, especially where they end up living. I mean, I would LOVE to choose to live in SF but if I did, I'd be living on the street (well, not really but that's not my point...). Some people don't have the same opportunities afforded to them to make such a choice. Yes, everyone in life has choices, but some people admittedly have been placed in better situations than others and therefore have a better selection of opportunities from which to choose.

I mean, I chose to live in Manhattan (as opposed to say, uhhmmmm Newark, NJ) but the $1.6MM I had for my apartment certainly afforded me the ability to make that choice..... Now you can say that I made good decisions in life that gave me the money to then be able to make that choice, but whose to say I made that money in a way that say, Ghandi would have approved? My parents and teachers gave me a good educational background to make good choices, but what of the person that wasn't born into a structure that provided him with good parents or a good educational system? Yes, they have choices, but they are very different choices than those I had. I had great parents, but suppose I had to choose? And suppose my choices were between Lana Turner and Joan Crawford? Well, I guess I could always write a book about them, but still.......

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Old 05-16-07, 02:48 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by keithnyc
My gosh, Yang, have some empathy........
Ok, stepping off my high horse.. You definitely have a point, housing here is expensive. Apologies.. Yet another example of how capitalism only affords choice to the rich etc etc..

On the other hand - if you consider that society is the aggregate of all our actions and choices, then you could say that the American sprawl landscape was created by the choices of the majority living in a given place. And if enough people want it to change, it can. Granted, I guess the key thing there is "majority", and any change is bound to be frustratingly slow...
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Old 05-16-07, 02:57 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yangmusa
Ok, stepping off my high horse.. You definitely have a point, housing here is expensive. Apologies.. Yet another example of how capitalism only affords choice to the rich etc etc..

On the other hand - if you consider that society is the aggregate of all our actions and choices, then you could say that the American sprawl landscape was created by the choices of the majority living in a given place. And if enough people want it to change, it can. Granted, I guess the key thing there is "majority", and any change is bound to be frustratingly slow...
Exactly, and what confuses the issue even more is that sometimes people (and that means groups of people, as well....) don't truly understand the longer term consequences of their actions (e.g., sure they'll support cheap cars and having a Walmart come into their neighborhood, but they don't realize that this may have longer term affects on world prices and world labor markets). But I appreciate the commentary and thoughts here.....
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Old 05-16-07, 03:00 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Rincewind8
I don't think that "Nobody who can afford a car would want to be seen riding a bike." is actually Skidurts' personal opinion. I think what he wanted to say is that in countries where cars are very expensive (compared to personal income) and only few people can afford cars at all, owning a car is often seen as a huge status symbol. In that case the people that can afford one would most likely not want to be seen riding a bike, but driving around in their car. Sad, but often true.
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Old 05-16-07, 05:23 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yangmusa
I beg to differ, and find your last statement very ill considered. Bikes are for more than recreation - they're the smarter way of getting around. I could afford a (nice even!) car, but why the @$#% would I want one? I'd only be stuck in traffic all the time! Riding my bike, and combining it with bus or train on longer journeys, is far faster and less hassle. Coming from Europe, my impression is that cars have ruined America, covered the beautiful land with acres of concrete, made the cities congested pits instead of nice places to be and made Americans fat.

Cars are so 20th century.. get over it!

yangmusa, why did you snip off most of my post?? you ended up getting the wrong context of my last statement because you removed the context of "in less developed countries".
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Old 05-16-07, 05:51 PM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Skidurts
yangmusa, why did you snip off most of my post?? you ended up getting the wrong context of my last statement because you removed the context of "in less developed countries".
err, so we all agree? Oops. But anyway, it was an interesting conversation today. Hope y'all thought so too..
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Old 05-16-07, 06:57 PM   #25
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Riding an expensive, usually imported bike is a sign of status just as high as riding a car in "less developed countries".
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