bicycles: They make the world go round

Photographer Bruno Sananes freewheeled around three continents to celebrate the triumph of the humble bicycle
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Unlike cars, bicycles might have been invented by Egyptians or ancient Babylonians. It's a speed thing: most bikes still have an antiqueness about them, like donkeys or ox-drawn millstones. In places like India or Bangladesh, the experience of dodging cattle on a high seat without brakes could have been told in a Sanskrit epic.

I love those heavy, gearless things with enormous braking distances. They epitomise the spirit of improvisation. I've seen bikes with trailers, with overhead awnings, with side-cars, with cradles, with cages, with umbrella stands. When you've got pigs, gas canisters, large families and paying guests to ferry about, you need them.

In Europe, I suppose, we were hit by the age of the car before we ever got to mass bicycle transport. What a pity. There is a bizarre grandeur in the spectacle of a vast, fused mass of metal tubes and raincoats sedately but relentlessly advancing on (say) the Forbidden City whenever the traffic lights change. But bikes are not just about displays of power or industry. In Vietnam, the bicycle is a style device for women in trouser suits. In countries like Germany and Holland, bearded men with babies use bicycles with trailers to declare their political affiliations. While hardened youths on mountain bikes power through red lights in rainy Manhattan to assert their freedom to ride, in cities like Seville or Milan any attempt to ride a bicycle at all is a declaration of insanity. Give me a bike and I will show you an indispensable part of human civilisation.

Cycle jams, Bangladesh

In Third World countries, the cycle rickshaw is in decline - it's too miserable hauling a corpulent businessman around in the heat. However, pedal-powered rickshaws are still used in Bangladesh (top). In Nepal (right), cyclists are forced to acknowledge that there are places where even the mighty bike cannot go.

Tourist rickshaw, Malaysia

Malaysia is another country where the cycle rickshaw is in decline, especially in the capital, Kuala Lumpur, where they are little more than a tourist gimmick. The increasingly wealthy locals have switched to using taxis.

Rush-hour rider, New York

Americans have a reputation for being unable to go anywhere unless travelling in a very large car, but this fails to do justice to the legions of firm- calved, Lycra-clad New Yorkers. More journeys are made by bicycle here than in any other US city. There are approximately 75,000 daily cyclists and an impressive 8.6 per cent of all mid-town traffic is made up of bicycles. This is also the city that invented the cycle courier.

Baby carriage, Indonesia

In the Indonesian city of Bandung, passers-by gather around two tiny, abandoned babies who have been discovered on a humble carriage constructed from old bicycle parts.

Luxury wagons, Vietnam

There are no official statistics for bicycle ownership in Vietnam, but in the cities, the average family will own two to five and use them to go absolutely everywhere. In the poorer rural areas they are considered a luxury and many people are forced to walk long distances. Adaptations of the humble bicycle are used to make deliveries, carry produce to market, and transport children.

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