Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Paris Beats Berlin in Bicycle Post Elegance

Die Fahrradhaltestelle in Berlin
When it comes to style, Paris trumps Berlin in almost every category, including its public bicycle system. Public bicycle systems are a form of bicycle sharing that are available in numerous cities around the world. In general, a public bicycle system consists of a bank of bicycles, with numerous pick-up and drop-off points, available to the general public for short-term uses and for a small fee.

Simple Elegance in Paris
In Berlin, Call a Bike is the bicycle sharing system provided by Deutsche Bahn (German Rail). It's available around the clock for anyone to use. Once you've registered with the service, you have access to any bike located throughout the city. Likewise, Paris has a system known as Vélib. Both systems are automated, easy to use, and relatively inexpensive. You merely go to a bicycle pick-up point (Die Fahrradhaltestelle in Germany), key in a code, and the bike is yours. Unfortunately, there's where the similarity of the two systems ends.  

In Berlin, the bikes are locked into large utilitarian concrete blocks evocative of the dull Soviet inspired apartments built in Berlin during the cold war. By contrast, the bikes in Paris are attached to elegantly curved metallic posts, something Rodin could have created. 

This constant attention to detail and awareness of design sets France apart from the rest of the world. With the possible exception of the Scandinavian countries, I can think no other place that can match the French sense of proportion, simplicity, and beauty. Even something as seemingly inconsequential as a bicycle post is elevated to an art form in France. 

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