Saturday, February 11, 2006

The bait digger's bike

click photo to enlarge
Which form of transport did most to extend the horizons of the common man? Most people would say the car, but, arguably, it was the bike. Until the Victorians perfected the "safety bicycle" most of the population never travelled farther from their home than the distance they could walk - say 20 miles. However, the bike extended this considerably, and it was soon not uncommon for cyclists to travel 100 miles in a day. When cycle touring became popular in the nineteenth century, many intrepid souls travelled the length and breadth of Britain, camping overnight, or staying at bed and breakfast accomodation. The rise of organized riding through associations like the Cyclists' Touring Club encouraged these developments, and cycling remained very popular as both transport and recreation right through into the 1950s. The subsequent decline is much to be deplored.

The photograph above represents a typical use for a bicycle today. Whilst I was photographing on Fleetwood beach I saw a man arrive with his bait digging equipment, lock his cycle to the slipway railings, and walk out onto the foreshore. The light was fading, and as I moved down under the pier the bike became a silhouette against the graduated sky. I moved toward the bike taking a photograph every 10 yards or so. This shot - the closest - is the best, mainly for how it delineates the component parts of the machine and the broken railings. Isn't it interesting how a silhouette encourages us to look more closely than we might with a well-lit photograph!
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen