Monday, 14 November 2011

skirt vs. bike

Our reflections on skirts and biking, earlier on in this blog, took an interesting extra development for me today when my skirt took a run-in with my bike.

The moment itself conformed to certain damaging feminine stereotypes: me, in a flowing purple skirt, carrying home lots of groceries on a bike (on a crisp autumn evening in Paris, I could go on); the only jarring aspect in the picture being my turquoise racing Bianchi (perhaps it should have been a Dutch shopper with hand-painted flowers). Slightly wobbly on my aluminium frame with a carton and pannier full of organic vegetables, tofu, bread and yoghurt saved from the bin, I was steadily making my way across the city back home. Nearly at destination, I felt a sudden whirring, smelt a burning smell and noticed a sharp break on my back wheel. In a narrow street of parked cars with cars rushing by my elbow, I pulled suddenly to a stop. Struggling to get off the frame, my front wheel lifted up with the weight of vegetables on the back and noticed I was somehow attached to the bike. Craning round, I found that the end of my skirt had become completely trapped between the rear brakes and the wheel and no amount of tugging could pull it loose; that is, without letting go of the precariously-balanced bike which was placed in a line of rushing traffic. I tried to inch forward; that didn't work either, as the rear wheel was completely blocked, and there was no chance of me lifting my frame and myself, with 30 kilos of vegetables on the rear, without toppling into the traffic. I realised my only release from this perilous situation would necessitate removing my skirt. It's November, so I had leggings on, and I awkwardly began unbuttoning my skirt and lifting up my right leg from its billowing folds while holding my loaded bike between my legs with one hand. I struggled one leg over, then released the other and stood holding my bike, pinned in by the evening rush of vehicles. I then hauled it onto the pavement, somehow or other, and grabbed the skirt with both hands, giving it an almighty tug to free it of the bike. The material was wrenched free, leaving a trail of dusty, ripped threads along the skirt, but no holes. I considered the wilted purple garment in my hands a moment, then tucked it under the bungee cord holding down a bottle of milkshake on the back. I made the rest of the journey home in leggings, vowing I'd think twice before wearing that skirt again.

I've been mulling over my discovery of possessing a bike-unfriendly skirt. What place has it in my wardrobe, despite its five years of loyal service, if it can't get on with my bike? Because my bike and I are always out together, and long purple skirt won't be coming between us.

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