27 September 2018

Ghost bicycles, the bicycle
blues, bikes on the beach,
and nine million bicycles

Ghost bicycles have become popular tributes to cyclists who have died in traffic … at Harold’s Cross Bridge in Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford; click on images for full-screen views)

Patrick Comerford

If there are nine million bicycles in Beijing, then it seems there are nine million bicycles in Amsterdam, Berlin, Cambridge, Dublin, and many other cities and towns I visit.

My reflection last week on the death of Paul Nelson, who had developed the Phoenix Bicycle in Dublin in the 1980s brought me to reflect on the way white bicycles or ghost bicycles have come to be used as tributes to cyclists who die tragically in traffic, but also awakened me to how I have built up a collection of photographs from my travels throughout Ireland and England, and further afield.

Bicycles in Cambridge:

A chained bicycle defies the sign on the railings at No 12 Portugal Place (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

A sign placed on railings on No 12 Portugal Place in 2015 upset many classicists in Cambridge. Reports said the owners of the building were so perturbed by the number of bicycles left chained to the railings by students that they erected an angry sign in both classical Greek and Latin.

The notice was intended to warn cyclists that all bicycles would be ‘removed or destroyed.’ However, it seems the sign-writer might have benefitted from some further tutoring. Despite appearing to be the work of a well-educated person, critics quickly pointed out that the wording includes a number of mistakes.

Dr Rupert Thompson of Selwyn College, a classics lecturer, said: ‘It’s trying to say, “bicycles left here will be destroyed”.’ But he pointed out that the second word on the sign, ληφθεντεσ, actually means ‘taken’ not ‘left.’ In other words, bicycles taken here will be destroyed.

‘It’s definitely trying to be ancient Greek but it’s not quite,’ he told the BBC. He said both lines of the Greek inscription use the wrong letters. ‘I don’t know what to make of it really, but it’s very amusing and it’s absolutely great to see this in the city.’

Professor Mary Beard of Newnham College, a leading Cambridge and international classicist, said the Latin – Duae rotae hic relictae perimentur – may be correct, but she pointed out that it translates literally as ‘two wheels left abandoned here will be removed.’

Students were critical too and said the sign was pompous, elitist and patronising. Bicycles continued to be chained to the railings in defiance – or in ignorance – of the intended meaning of the sign.

Others might have pointed out that Greek speakers are available in plentiful supply in Cambridge: Saint Clement’s hosted the Greek Orthodox parish for many years, while Sidney Sussex College, the annual venue for the summer school of the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies, is just two or three minutes walking distance.

Bicycles parked in front of an ATM at a bank on Sidney Street, Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

A sign at a bank on Sidney Street, Cambridge, says: ‘Cycles, Motor Scooters Etc must not be parked in front of this night safe machine.’ Obviously, it has little effect, and parked bicycles make the sign difficult to read even in the day time.

It seems there has been more than one owner, although not necessarily one careful owner … bicycles piled up between Mong Hall and South Court in Sidney Sussex College (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

This bicycle on Sidney Street was locked … but the bags were left open and accessible (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Bicycles against the railings of Great Saint Mary’s Church in Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Black bikes in the centre of Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The front wheel is missing, but this bicycle in Cambridge was worth keeping under lock and key (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Smokeworks … but does the advertising work? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Recycling words of recommendation in Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Praying in cycles … a bicycle outside Saint Bene’t’s Church in Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Everyone knows where Bill’s is … outside Sidney Sussex College this summer (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The snow comes in cycles … winter weather at Sidney Sussex College (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Cycling along Trinity Street in Cambridge (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Seen in Dublin

Barista Bike … especially for coffee lovers at Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Bikes, bags and bottles in Howth (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Reserved Parking … at the Royal Hospital, Kilmainham (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Oh I do like a bike beside the seaside … at an ice cream parlour in Skerries (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Tangled bikes in the snow in Temple Bar (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Bicycles for hire in Temple Bar (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

This bike on the Quays in Dublin seems to be made from wine bottle corks (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Say it with flowers on Strand Street in Skerries (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Only bicycles like this may be parked here in Baggot Street (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Outside Dublin

Matching wall and bicycle in Bray (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

The Bicycle Blues in Bray (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Advice from the gardai in Bray (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Searching for Hen’s Teeth in Wexford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Bill Hassett ran a bicycle repair shop near Matt the Thresher’s in Birdhill until he died in 1973 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

A colourful bicycle near King John’s Castle in Limerick (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Well-matched on High Street in Kilkenny (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Plenty of opportunities in Abbeyleix (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

By a tree at Mount Usher Gardens in Co Wicklow (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Up, up and away … did ET find a home in Adare? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

In the heart of Bellewstown (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Sean’s Bar in Athlone is the oldest pub … but is this the oldest bike? (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Bikes for Greeks

I find myself photographing this house near the Fortezza every time I am in Rethymnon, and there is always a different bicycle outside (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

A blue bicycle in Rethymnon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

A blue bicycle on Arkadiou Street in Rethymnon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

A red bicycle on Arkadiou Street in Rethymnon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

A red bicycle and a wire model in Rethymnon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

A bike outside Julia Apartments and the Garden Taverna in Platanes, Rethymnon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Is it really a bicycle … seen in Rethymnon (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

A bike by the beach at Platanes in Rethymnon this summer (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Air transport? Seen in Thessaloniki (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

And travelling further afield:

The Anglican Cycle of Prayer? A bicycle by a font in a church in Leicester (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

A bicycle in a courtyard in Berlin earlier this month (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

No cars are allowed in the villages of Cinque Terre in Italy … but I spotted this bicycle (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Bicycles under an arch in the Italian city of Lucca (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Seen in the Jewish quarter of Krakow in Poland (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

A pair of two-wheelers at an hotel in La Carihuela near Torremolinos in Spain (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

There are nine million bicycles in Beijing … and that’s a fact (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

And if you think it difficult to imagine how someone could cycle on the beach at Platanes on that bicycle in Rethymon, I have actually seen people cycling on the beach in Bettystown, Co Meath, in winter weather:

Cycling alone on the beach in Bettystown in winter (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Cycling on the beach in Bettystown in winter with the most important family member (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

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