Steven FlemingSteven Fleming is director of Cycle-Space International. He lives and works in Newcastle, Australia.
I didn’t have the money, when I was a student, to get around by any other means. These sprawling Australian cities can make a transport cyclist quite fit, without trying, so when I gave bike racing a try (against guys who didn’t use bikes for their transport) I found I was really good at it. Actually, within six months of starting, I was a local champion and thinking about going pro.
This is my daily commuter bike, except if it’s raining when I use a similar bike that I own that has mud guards. But this one is just a little more suited to zipping around trails here to get in some exercise before and after work. I still race on the weekends, and commuting is still the way I keep fit.
It’s from the early 1940s and was built in the town where I’m now living and where I picked it up as a replacement for a poorly made modern replica. For the first part of the twentieth-century here in Tasmania workers used bikes to access farm jobs in the region, which made them so fit they would just drop their handlebars on the weekend and try to win money in handicap races held at velodromes that were in every small town. I know old racing cyclists who started as kids in those days. They were mercenaries—and still are. Crowds would pay to watch races, and they were there to win as much of that money as they possibly could. And people act surprised about cheating in cycling today!
I believe in ideas, not in the classically Platonic sense that would say they are transcendent, but as a small-r rationalist thinks of ideas, that is, as irreducible compound solutions to real problems we face as a species. If you take occam’s razor to the question of urban transport, you don’t end up with a driverless car or a monorail system or anything like that. Those are Romantic solutions. You end up with a bike. The rational thing then, is to design an irreducible city to compliment bikes.