Monday, March 05, 2007

This bike is rubbish!

click photo to enlarge
The first two-wheeler bicycle that I ever owned was assembled by my father. He took an old steel frame, stripped, it painted it, then fixed all the other components to it. A few parts he bought: some he re-used. There was a time when bicycles were repeatedly recycled! But no more. Today bicycles seem to be "use once" consumer items, much like electronic goods, furniture, and virtually anything else you care to name.

How did this situation come about? Why is a machine that has the potential to last a lifetime, with occasional component replacements, now something to be thrown away after a few years' use? I suppose the fact that western societies are richer is part of the answer. The days when a bicycle was an expensive item are (enthusiast machines excepted) long gone. Manufacture in low-labour cost economies has also had the effect of reducing the price. The use of shorter life alloy components and frames means that they wear out quicker. Furthermore, the increasing complexity of gears, and the introduction of frippery like suspension has made them less user-serviceable. Put all that together, and a scuffed, broken, or otherwise non-functioning machine is thrown away rather than repaired! And that's sad. The bicycle is an environmentally-friendly form of transport that becomes an environmental problem if its life is short. It can also become litter, like this bicycle revealed by the receding tide at Cleveleys, Lancashire.

I took this photograph just as the water had flowed away from the bike, and placed the image in the middle of the frame, knowing that its shape and the background would introduce considerable asymmetry. I used a wide zoom lens at 22mm (35mm equivalent), with the camera set to Aperture Priority (f7.1 at 1/200 second), ISO 100, with -0.3EV.
photograph & text (c) T. Boughen