Liberty

08
Nov
2013

Liberty-soozed SizedThey’re on almost every block in my neighborhood. Abandoned bikes, stripped of usable parts. Laying on their side with rusted and broken chains. Wheels long gone.

But why? Why are they left to die a slow death, chained to lamp posts and fences, parking meters and bike racks?

Did the owner lose the key to the lock? Move away? Wake up hung over and forget where it was left the night before?

And why was it left outside to begin with? Left to be picked apart like a carcass on a desert road. Do these owners not feel about their bikes the way I do mine? Unfathomable.

So I pass these lonely bikes, noticing what’s left. Often they have ironic names like Free Spirit, Destroyer, and Roadmaster. And this one, bearing the name Liberty.

And I stop to take photos, because even in this deteriorated state, there’s something about these skeletal remains that appeals to me. Road miles and Midwest winters mar the surface and give these once vibrant frames character. I try to imagine how it once was.

Unfortunately for this bike, the owner chose death over liberty.

I shall never understand.

 

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  • Gerry

    High Suzanne

    I have just been reading your article on abandoned bikes and thought I would post this true bike story from my early teen years.

    Regards

    Gerry

    BICYCLES
    AND HAND GRENADES

    The Scene

    My story has its beginnings in Northern Ireland during the
    1970s. This was a time of civil and political unrest described euphemistically
    by commentators as “The Troubles.” For a 13 year old this was quite an exciting
    time as my cousin Bobby, his friend Christi and I weaved our way around riots, burnings
    and hijackings; holding our collective breath as convoys of armoured vehicles roared
    across the city, the wine of their huge Rolls Royce engines triggering rioters into
    a frenzied panic as soldiers spewed forth from the great beasts in hot pursuit.

    Ah….but we had to leave all this behind and quickly picked
    our way between the burnt out buses and cars still radiating intense heat which hurried us on our way. We
    had no intension of going to school that day and had made secret plans to meet
    behind the old bicycle shop; that’s if we could get there without being
    spotted. It seemed that everyone and his dog was out and about and those who
    weren’t where peeping from upstairs windows. All of these activities threatened
    our covert operations but we did manage to make it without being stopped by
    soldiers, police or parents which was in itself was a major achievement. We
    give a cheer in celebration as we reached our destination and where quickly
    spotted by workers on the roof of a nearby bakery, we rushed up the steps of an
    old derelict building and crashed in through the rotten door collapsing onto
    the floor shushing each other to silence.

    BICYCLE MOUNTAIN

    We didn’t notice it at first, still catching our breath but
    our heads lifted in unison, in acknowledgement of this huge pyramid of
    bicycles, that looked (on reflection) like a Picassoian monument to all the
    bicycles that had ever been ridden, a grave yard, not of skulls and bones but
    handlebars, frames, seats and tireless skeletal wheels towering ominously above
    us, wow…..I said in a long whispered tone taking in as much as I could and
    seconds later, I couldn’t contain myself, “ let’s build a bike” I shouted
    racing forward before the others managed to get the best bits for themselves.

    THE TANDEM

    The was much laughter and banter as Bobby sat behind Christi
    on their home made tandem even lifting their feet out of range of the imaginary
    chasing dogs as they flew down hills and streets cat calling to their friends
    and neighbours. Meanwhile, I was taking things a little more seriously. I was
    determined to put a good bike together and so began to pull huge sections of
    the bicycle mountain down spotting the odd rally frame as I did so. Something
    caught my eye in the avalanche, something which didn’t quite belong in a
    bicycle graveyard…a chest of drawers.

    THE CHEST OF DRAWERS

    “Look at this I shouted” and the others hurried over. “Pull
    the bikes off it” After a short while I was able to pull out one of the drawers
    and gaze upon it’s contents. I was unimpressed at the sight of a large plastic
    bag with what seemed to be thick white sausages and a brownish liquid trapped
    in it’s corners. I punched a finger into one of the sausages which appeared
    like putty. But the smell, the smell was wonderful. It was like marzipan and I
    just loved the stuff but this was certainly not the icing one might find on a
    cake.

    We began to pull the heavy cumbersome bag from the drawer
    only to discover that another one lay underneath. (This was indeed a crucial
    moment in our young lives but we weren’t to know it then; the bags between them
    contained over fifty kilos of gelignite which was in a very unstable condition.
    The brownish liquid was in fact nitro-glycerine which had leaked from it’s
    stabilising compound and now in it’s pure form could explode during any form of
    physical contact.) We grabbed the second bag between us and began to swing;
    one,….. two, ……three…… and up we go, ……..bang !…..it landed on
    top of the other. This was heavy work and as I began to rub my head Bobby
    shouted, look!

    THE GRENADES

    I quickly turned around to see him pick up a hand grenade.
    Bloody hell I thought as the fear gripped me. “There’s more!” he shouted and
    Christi and I scrambled to get one. But we need not have panicked there was
    three. We sat down on the floor holding them out like trophies, like treasure
    that had just been uncovered. I allowed my fingers to caress the squares of metal
    which reminded me of alligator skin, it was greased in oil and was really heavy
    for an object that needed to be thrown a safe distance from the person left
    holding the pin; still…..bloody hell.

    I turned and launched mine at the wall, it bounced back
    nearly taking my head off. “Jesus go easy” Christi roared but Bobby had already
    sent his flying through the air shouting as he did so, “bite the dust!” as they
    say in the movies. Our play now took us out side and I found myself crouching
    behind an old stone wall my eyes searching for the enemy then launched a
    grenade to clear a path for my advance. After a time we huddled together and I
    remember asking the others, “are they worth anything? They have got to be old,
    surely they are not real?” The leavers
    and pins seemed to have been welded down to prevent…..the obvious I suppose.

    TO MUSEUM

    “Let’s take them to the County Museum they buy old stuff” I
    declared. We jumped to our feet and headed off forgetting that we were supposed
    to be at school, taking cover at every street corner and rolling the grenades
    after each other as we headed for the museum. Turning the corner we walked
    straight into a foot patrol of soldiers; “where are you lot off to?” one said
    in a humorous tone. We are taking these to the museum I said and threw my
    grenade along the ground towards him and he managed to trap it under the heal
    of his army boot. On taking his foot of the grenade his smile disappeared along
    with the other soldiers as he shouted “grenade!”

    I became very frightened as the soldiers took cover shouting
    and screaming at us to put the grenades down and move back. In a flash fear
    left me and greed appeared as I thought they wanted to sell the grenades and
    keep the money for themselves. I ran forward and grabbed my grenade shouting
    back at them; “ It’s mine, I found it fair and square so I should get the money
    for it.” The screaming of the soldiers nearly knocked me over as they demanded
    that I put it down and move back. I was really afraid now and we each put the
    grenades down on the footpath looking very sorry for ourselves.

    The questions came thick and fast, “where did we get them?
    Was there anymore? We huddled together frightened and bewildered by all the
    commotion as the police cars pulled up and took us in to custody. I remember
    thinking during the journey to the police station that my dad would really be
    mad that I bunked off school.

    As the police questioned us about the grenades I went to
    great lengths to describe the work we did on the bicycles and how we weren’t
    doing any harm. We did so much anxious talking that we had to be separated in
    order to make sense of what we were talking about. To help us along we were
    given Cokes and Mars bars which steadied the nerves somewhat. After a while, lots of police entered the
    room speaking softly between themselves and nodding their heads in disbelief.

    Then one of them asked, “did you notice any bags in the
    bicycle room? “Oh yes” I said, “
    they where on top of the grenades, the marzipan stuff?” They turned to look at
    each other smiling. “There was enough explosives in those bags to blow up the
    whole street and you lot along with it” Of course back then this meant
    absolutely nothing to me, I was still worrying about my dad finding out that I
    didn’t go to school and he could be quite explosive that’s for sure.

    Looking back over these days of our lives I wondered about
    our innocence in the midst of such violence; How we had chosen to ignore the in
    your face reality of conflict which had become the normal currency of everyday
    life in Northern Ireland. How we had swung death by the hair with no regard for
    its station, and thus insulted; perhaps death chose to ignore us. Our world of
    creative play protected us from the most dangerous of situations; we became
    witnesses instead of participants, creating spaces between life and death choosing
    instead our own reality, laughing all the while.

  • Andrew Bedno

    I’ve been methodically photographing “Lonely Locked Bits of Bikes” for years. Go see http://massup.us/llbb/c

    Public submissions welcome. Simply email a photo straight from your smartphone to llbb@massup.us
    Add a description as email subject for the caption, and the system automatically plots the location.

    • suzanne deveney

      cool. will check that out

  • AmandaGaleKotyk

    I see beauty in that bike….and know she was once very loved. Beautiful.

    • suzanne deveney

      I do too Amanda. Maybe it will be again….

  • http://www.cyclelicio.us/ Cyclelicious

    The typical story is people are naive about bike theft. They locked the bike to a post but didn’t realize some opportunistic thieves will strip the bike of everything they can. Once the bike is stripped, the owner doesn’t see the point in retrieving the frame.

    • suzanne deveney

      Yeah, you’re absolutely correct. I don’t understand why they are left outside to begin with! My bikes are spoiled : )

    • http://www.texasmountainbiketrails.com/ Shawn McAfee

      Interesting. That really sucks that people would jack your bike like that. Some people are just crappy :(

  • http://www.stevevance.net/ Steven Vance

    In Chicago, at least, they are reclaimed. The city removes them and donates them to Working Bikes Cooperative in Pilsen. Working Bikes then rebuilds them and sells them to Chicagoans, or sends them to people in Africa and the Caribbean.

    • suzanne deveney

      Yes, I’m glad that happens. I support Working Bikes for that reason. Too bad so many are abandoned, but glad they have a second life.

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