Brave new bike world

June 23, 2008

A modest wish for a better world popped in my head Sunday during Portland’s six miles and six hours without cars event (photo slideshow here). I was taking a break on a bench at Arbor Lodge Park, enjoying the people streaming past, many with kids in tow, headed for food or hula-hoop lessons.

But I wasn’t relaxed: my bike, my wife’s, and our little boy’s bike trailer were parked against a tree behind me, sans locks. Paranoia from several bike thefts over the years was desecrating the event’s life-is-great vibe. Then my wish came to me.

Given the power, I’d turn back the clock to the 1960s, when as a kid my friends and I never locked our bikes. And never worried they’d get stolen. We left them everywhere, parked at school, thrown down next to the street, up against the drugstore wall, on the beach at the lake. None of us owned locks. Didn’t know anyone who did.

Maybe that freedom had less to do with the times and more with small-town living in Central Florida. It was before the Walt Disney World tourist stampede trampled Maitland, Winter Park, and other small towns around Orlando.

The only other time I’ve not worried about bike security was 1998, during our honeymoon bike trek across Tuscany. And those bikes were much pricier than the beaters we had as kids.

Imagine a world in which bike locks aren’t needed. If through some miracle it happens and the Portland event returns next year, maybe The Oregonian will also shout: THEFT-FREE!