Paris is home to existentialism, the complex philosophical doctrine about the ultimate meaningless of the universe that is in fact just a long-winded way of making France’s favourite gesturewrites Stephen Clarke:
The most extreme existentialist hero of them all was Meursault, the hero of Albert Camus’ novel L’Étranger, who kills someone for no reason then goes to the guillotine feeling little more than boredom. Head about to be chopped off? Bof.
Most Parisian cyclists I know are pretty much like Meursault, if you take out the bits about killing someone and going to the guillotine. They are very philosophical about their chances of ending up on the tarmac or of being deprived of the chance to do so by someone stealing their bike.
A story in today’s newspapers illustrated this. A Parisian man who’d had his bike stolen went online to buy a new one, and discovered his own bike for sale there. He called the police, who tracked down the sellers and found that two men had stolen and offered for sale 360 bikes in the past two months – that’s six a day. In other words, the chances of holding on to a bike in Paris are almost zero. Like Meursault, you can’t form any emotional attachments at all.
The main problem is that very few people have room in their building to park their bike. Buildings with courtyards or large entrance halls often ban bikes because they clutter up the place. My own building did this last year after people realised that half the bikes in the entrance hall were never used. Some of them belonged to tenants who had moved out months ago. It was a bike cemetery.