Serious playtime – bikes, bike share and smiling

Photo by Kevin Mayne

When I am doing speeches and presentations about cycling I am usually concentrating on the serious benefits and economic arguments for cycling. But I often get to remind my audiences that there is a little bit of magic about cycling, there is just no other mode of transport that can bring people out in smiles like a messing about on a bike.

And that’s even more true when we go out on our group rides, our study tours of other people’s cities. There is so often a moment when we just have to have a bit of larking about and smiling, something I could not imagine if we were a bunch of bus experts or driving cars. No danger to anyone else either with a bit of unplanned spontaneity.

Nowhere was that more true than a fifteen-minute interval of pure playtime on my trip to Ukraine a few weeks ago when our conference took a ride around the cycling infrastructure of the city.

As we were cycling though one of the main parks in Kharkiv we passed a skate park. Some of the group passed by sedately, but a form of silent communication passed through the rest of us and without speaking we engaged silly grins and swung left onto the park.

Photo by Kevin Mayne

OK, we were on sturdy bike share bikes from our friends at Nextbike, but within a few moments we were swinging up and down the ramps and some even attempted some min-jumps, laughing and joking all the way.

Photo by Kevin Mayne Photo by Kevin Mayne

And then round the corner we found what must be the world tiniest velodrome, a little oval with a slightly banked track. Don’t all children say “race you to the corner” at some time in their cycling lives?

Photo by Kevin Mayne

As an aside I sometimes wonder why more of our enterprising bicycle manufacturers who also make bike share bikes don’t insist on having their brand on the otherwise anonymous frames that equip bike share schemes throughout the world. There should be a simple slogan “the bikes that can survive anything”. If I knew I could buy a machine that can reliably deliver 9-12 city trips per day and handle all sorts of rider behaviour then I would be first in the queue, can there be a better testing ground?

Serious playtime.