"Having a bicycle will change your life in this city." Those were the exaggerated but true words that Linda, the Bolognese woman with an extra bike for rent, said to me as I did cautious figure eights around her driveway on the pink, men’s mountain bike she’d lent me. After ensuring the tires weren’t flat, the frame was about the right size and that I’d ride slowly, we parted ways and I rolled out onto via Massarenti to apprehensively merge with the line of traffic. It was undoubtedly scary at first, the crazy every-man-for-himself pulse of Italian roads.. I really don’t think there’s many bike traffic rules to follow (or many traffic rules in general..) Bologna’s streets are filled with almost as many bikes as cars, weaving between traffic, dodging pedestrians and avoiding cutting-offs by Vespas, and riding a bike here has definitely been a practice in self-assertion. I like the authority of venturing into a empty intersection with the flood of bikers in the moment before green lights beckons the engines behind us; the ability to get anywhere in the city in 10-15 minutes (and conversely, the frantically pedaling realization that even on a bike, l still should have left 5 minutes earlier for class. That happens often); the spontaneity of picking a new route to take home (a couple days ago I found vintage shop at the end of a portico-d street; today I found public park); and the relief of finding my Bianchi waiting for me where I locked and left it hours earlier. It’s a surprise every time, as Bologna is a dangerous place to own a bike. As a city of 400,000, 80,000 of them being university students looking for any bike that will just get them to class and back, the city is filled with as many stealers as bikes. "35€ to rent a bike?" my roommate, appalled, suggested I just do what she did and buy one for €10 from the men who walk around Piazza Verdi selling "lightly used" bikes. Same perspective from the bike shop owner I visited weeks ago, who saw me eyeing a vintage red one with a basket and provided a blunt "Unless you take that inside your house, it will get stolen in one night." 2 times I’ve walked past someone hard at work at a bike rack, hammering away at a cheap bike lock that never stood a chance overnight in the centro.
I’ve accepted my ownership of this bike is fleeting, that our goodbye will come either when I return home and receive my deposit back from Linda, or when the goodwill of the Bolognese turns on me. It’s a dangerous attachment: myself and this city.