31 October 2008
The Five Cycling Senses - Smell
This Five Cycling Senses is an aesthetic series so I won't dwell too long on the obvious 'smell' factor regarding urban cycling - exhaust from motor vehicles. I'll just hurry up and link to this post over at Copenhagenize.com about how studies have shown that the level of polluting particles is higher INSIDE cars than next to them on a bike. So while we have to live with exhaust, we can pity the motorists.
And this post highlights how traffic [meaning pollution and noise] kills ten times more people than traffic accidents, so cycling is a fantastic, safe way to stay healthy.
And as with the cyclist on the lovely, wide bike lane above, we can just zip right past the cars anyway.
Meanwhile, back at the poetry...
For me, when considering Smell in relation to urban cycling in Copenhagen, one thing pops instantly into my mind. Perfume.
Not a single day passes without perfume wafting up my nose on the bike lanes, and I'm not exaggerating. Cycling here is a fashionable affair [as if you haven't noticed that already] and perfume or cologne are second nature.
Whether having a fellow Copenhagener overtake me or just following in the slipstream, perfume adds aromatic colour to the urban landscape. Even waiting at the red light downwind of another cyclist, the scent of their perfume, or even their shampoo, often drifts your way. Nice aromas but it also heightens that sense of being close to your fellow citizens. It's personal, somehow, even if you're strangers.
I can't honestly remember any negative smell experiences involving sweat or body odour.
Certainly during the summer, the scent of suntan lotion is everywhere in the afternoons when people are heading home from the beaches.
Like in the post about Taste, I'm quite convinced that I can smell the seasons. The most strikingly aromatic season has to be autumn. The sweet organic smell of fallen leaves, intensified after the rain. The cooler air somehow sharpening the scent.
Surely we can taste sunlight? Whether in high-summer, mid-winter or in the early days of spring?
We can certainly smell the woods and the fields when we take shortcuts to work, and the seasons possess each their own unique combination of odours.
I'm quite sure we can agree that we can smell the rain.
I have this thing about water. Wherever possible I like to ride past it. Riding over the bridges in Copenhagen you'll always see people glancing to their right at the harbour. I suppose it's an addendum to the post about Sight, but the harbour has changeable scents, too. The salt water smell is vague and suggestive in the winter and richer in texture in the summer. The above film is comprised of stills that I took over six months on my way to work. I can smell the sea water just looking at the film.
A few years ago I rode in another direction out of town to work, past a lake outside the city limits. The scents were just as remarkable and rememberable - the latter word was not a word until just now - as on the harbour.
In the post about Taste, coffee was mentioned, and that applies to Smell. Whether your own coffee on the bike or someone next to you. Not a bad aroma.
What you do smell or like to smell on your ride?