Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Crippled Bicycles Of Brighton and Hove

As a keen cyclist, I guard my bicycle jealously and am grateful that I have a little space in the lobby to keep it safe and protected from the wind and the rain.

Sadly, many cyclists are not as fortunate as I and have to leave their trusty steeds chained to cycle racks, railings or lamp posts where they rust and decay amazingly rapidly in the pernicious sea air or, worse still, fall prey to bicycle thieves.

In my view, bike thieves are among the lowest of the low.

They mindlessly steal from a group of people who you would hardly classify as jet setters or the super-rich.

Many cyclists are like me: non-owners of motor cars and reliant on a secondhand bicycle to get around Brighton and Hove or to get to the station in the mornings.

Yet all over the city you see evidence of the thieves’ malfeasance: cut locks or broken chains where bicycles have been or, more commonly, bicycle parts that have been left behind.

This latter situation is particularly common and puzzles me.

I asked my friend Malcolm at the excellent secondhand bike, G-Whizz Cycles, one of my neighbours in Hove.

He explained that modern bike thieves go about their business like apple scrumpers, regarding racks of bicycles as orchards from which they can "scrump" the parts to complete bikes to sell.

Having taken half or a bit of a bike, they feel assured that the owner will leave the rest there, to be stolen at a later date, if required.

What an utterly cynical approach!

The situation is not helped, I suspect, by the habit of some cyclists simply to forget or abandon their bicycles for weeks or months on end.

I was chatting to one young chap who freely admitted that he abandoned three good bicycles in the past few years because he had moved cities or forgotten where he had left them.

This is possibly also indicative of a strange phenonomen: a carelessness with possessions coupled with a binge drinking culture.

Deliberately jettisoning a perfectly good bicycle strikes me as a selfish act.

If left on a public cycle rack, such as the one at the front of Brighton Station that is irritatingly always full, it is highly inconsiderate to active cyclists.

But, regardless of where it is abandoned, it could be given to someone who currently does not have a bike or sold to and renovated by a bike shop such as G-Whizz for recycling (excuse the pun) to a new user.

I bought a mountain bike in 2003 which deteriorated to a great degree in the back garden of my former home.

But I traded it in at G-Whizz where they changed the bearings and brakes and various other part and sold for a small sum it to a new user. 

So my rusty old wreck received a new lease of life. Marvellous!

This blog posting is illustrated by images of abandoned or part-stolen bicycles of Brighton and Hove with one from London for good measure.

I had suspected that Oxford had a similar problem but, on closer inspection, found this did not seem the case. 

If any bikes have been abandoned on the streets of Oxford, they have been removed, at least when I looked.

          The New Year has got off to a quiet start: nights in, very moderate drinking, not much to report.

However, I did attend a farming conference in Oxford in the first week of January, and as part of it visited the Oxford Union for the first time.

The conference staged a Union debate on renewable energy which proved very entertaining. 

The Greens won, although largely because of a very funny and creative speech made by an Essex farmer.

Back in Hove, my National Union of Journalists branch put on a packed meeting in support of the No More Page Three Campaign.

I helped out on the door and our speaker was Caroline Lucas, Britain’s only Green MP, who spoke very well. I photographed her (above) with a young woman from the No More Page Three Campaign. A charming pair.

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