3 November 2008
The Five Cycling Senses - Sound
Listen up. It's time for the fifth sense in The Five Cycling Senses Series - Sound. Just as in the Smell post, we'll dance happily over the noise that motorized traffic produces by sticking our fingers in our ears and singing, "Lalala, I can't hear the cars!".
Bikes, by the nature of their design, are often quite silent as they roll through town. When you ride with so many other cyclists in Copenhagen, however, your ears are tuned to the sound - or non-sound - of other bikes. Your hearing adapts, dog-like, to the noise of a bike coming up from behind, even next to three lanes of cars. In the photo above, I'll bet the cyclists all know - even if sub-consciously - how many other cyclists are around them.
A recent visitor commented that the cyclists on the bike lanes don't shoulder check when overtaking. I told him to look more carefully and then he started noticing the subtle, quick head movement which seemed to confirm what the ears already knew. That the coast was clear for overtaking.
The soundtrack of urban cycling is composed by the city in which you ride. Personally, I love this symphony of cityness. Wifealiciousness and I, after a spell in the country, always remark how it's nice to be back in the city again. Not that we don't enjoy the country - one great thing is that you can hear your bike on the lanes or swishing through grass, with all the lovely creaks and squeaks. It's just nice to get back to The Big Smoke.
The Five Cycling Senses - Sound from Colville Andersen on Vimeo.
I whipped up this little film wherein I explore six or so sounds relating to bikes in Copenhagen. You'll just hear the sounds at first and then afterwards you'll see the clip with the related sound. You can stop in the middle and guess if you want.
One of the few bicycle sounds that irritates me is the sound of gears. The odd Copenhagener with a multi-geared bike may, when accelerating off the light, hop past 5 or 10 or 22 gears to get to the one they want. This dreadful clickclickclickclickclick is the cyclo-equivilant of grinding the clutch.
Fortunately, it's rare. You'll often just hear that one little click when someone gears up. Actually, one of the aspects of Copenhagen bike culture is the complete disregard for gearing up or down. A friend of mine from Norway brought it to my attention. He noticed that most cyclists don't even bother with it and prefer starting in a heavy gear off the lights, even though it requires more muscle-power.
The sounds of cycling in Copenhagen include the obvious sound of human voices. Chatting with your friend or loved one as you ride. Side by side or on a cargo bike.
Nothing beats the human voice engaged in a conversation while cycling. Even if it's a quick mobile phone chat.
Music can also be enjoyed on a bike. In this case, a concert on the City Hall Square.
One of my readers has asked me to continue with the senses and to include sixth sense and the lesser known "kinesthetic sense, balance and thermoception". Oh boy. I'll give it a shot!
A little addendum to the Smell post and the mention of perfume/shampoo. A reader posted this link in the comments. A group of students in California are pushing for a ban on fragrances in public spaces.