Saturday, May 18, 2013

Many landscapes: report from the bicycle seat

Winter has been so long and the spring so hesitant. Finally the weather seemed warmish so I got on the bicycle. I have been riding my wife's bike because mine doesn't seem to fit me these days. I'm getting used to the feeling of her bicycle. But it does have some strange features. I guess it's got a steel frame, which feels every bump on the way and sends it right up to the rider. That's me. So these bumps big and little make me more aware of the landscape then I would have been riding a bike I was used to.

Landscape, what a full and fulsome place, potentially a falling place. For the bicycle rider there are so many landscape features that pose a challenge. Bumps and potholes and cracks in the pavement and uneven surfaces are part of the adventure. The landscape is full of more than just things that are physically apparent. Unseen processes are also part of the landscape. Car doors waiting to be flung open, pedestrians stepping down from curbs against the light, drivers on the phone whose turns are wide and not that precisely aimed.

So landscape exists on a spatial and a temporal level. Being on a bicycle, especially in the urban landscape, takes you through a different dimension than the space you share with drivers. The bicycle is at once robust and fragile, smooth and bumpy, mechanical and human. The contradictory realities of riding a bicycle in the city encourage an awareness of landscape that brings to bear an unexpected, sometimes unpleasant world.

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