Graveyards of wheels or why so many bikes end up under water? – Earth – Science and technology

Every ten years, the city of Paris drains the St. Martin Canal. The nearly three-mile-long waterway that runs south across the right bank of the Seine was originally built to keep Paris clean and supply fresh water to a city plagued by cholera and dysentery. During the two centuries of the channel’s existence, however, it often performed a different – ​​actually the opposite – function.

It’s a dump, a big flowing garbage can. Therefore, regular discharge is also a revelation. The water will recede and things will be revealed that fell into the canal by accident, someone kicked them there or deliberately threw them under the cover of night. When the canal was drained in 2016, crowds gathered on footbridges and along the waterfront to watch clean-up crews wading through mud and scavenging for rubbish. There were many of them.

Mattresses, suitcases, traffic signs and cones. Washer and dryer, tailor’s mannequin, tables and chairs, bathtubs, toilets, old radios, personal computers. Several cars were pulled out of the mud. There were baby carriages, shopping trolleys, at least one wheelchair and several mopeds.

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The streets around the canal in the 10th arrondissement of Paris are currently among the most fashionable in the metropolis, lined with elegant cafes and restaurants. Late at night, however, the area retains the grim atmosphere of yesteryear, when it was a seedy working-class neighborhood and often served as a backdrop for film noirs and detective novels, in which no less dark secrets emerge from the darkness of St. Martin’s Canal.

The murder mystery in George Simenon’s novel Maigret and the Headless Body is set in motion when police fish out a dismembered body near the Quai de Valmy. No human remains were discovered during the 2016 cleanup, but workers found a gun in one of the northernmost sluice gates. Officials later announced that a rifle was also found.

However, apart from wine bottles and mobile phones, there were most bicycles in the canal. Nine years earlier, in 2007, the Vélib’ bike-sharing system was launched in Paris, with 14,500 bikes spread across the city for people to rent. After the water was pumped out, the skeletons of dozens of Vélib’ bicycles were in the mud at the bottom of the canal. There were also dozens of other bikes of various makes and years, some of which had apparently been damaged before people sent them to a watery grave.

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Bicycles with or without bent and twisted wheels, with intact wheels and frames but missing forks and handlebars. Some bikes got into the canal perhaps by accident. There are several scenarios that can lead to a bicycle being inadvertently deposited into a water tank.

Cyclists lost in the dark or disoriented by the fog descending the embankment into the canals. Drunk cyclists falling off bridges. Thieves running from the police on a bicycle, who go down into the river. The luckier victims manage to get themselves – and sometimes their bike – back to land, but these accidents can have disastrous consequences.

Sifting through newspaper archives from around the world, horror stories emerge with colorful headlines: “Boy drowns in canal: bike found with him.” “Cyclist drowns: falls over bridge railing.” “Goes into canal during power cut: Gloucester cyclist drowned on the way to work.”

Some desperate souls pedaled towards the water on purpose. In the fall of 2016, a thirty-eight-year-old woman left a goodbye note in her apartment in DeWitt, New York, near Syracuse. She then headed to a nearby conservation area where she strapped on a mountain bike and rode down into the lake. Her body and bicycle were found a week later.

As for the bicycles in the St. Martin’s Canal, it can be assumed with a high degree of certainty that most of them did not end up in the water either by accident or under tragic circumstances. For people prone to random acts of hooliganism—perhaps relieving the urge to do violence to sentient beings by destroying inanimate objects they come across—the bicycle is a tempting target.

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With the development of shared bike systems such as Vélib’, more and more bikes are appearing on the streets of the world’s cities, which can seem like a convenient toy for vandals because they seemingly “do not belong to anyone”. And this opens up the field for them to do a whole range of self-expression, such as smashing wheels, damaging frames and cutting brake cables. Some people take a slightly more whimsical approach to this vandalism hobby: they hang bikes on fences, on traffic lights and bus stops, or lift them high into tree branches.

Throwing bikes into water is a specialized sport that brings a special satisfaction. Videos are appearing on social media of pranksters rolling bikes down banks into lakes, tipping them over embankment railings and tossing them into rough water. In one clip, a teenage boy stands in front of the camera with a blue BMX, which has obviously been through a lot.

“Mike, this is your bike,” he says. “It’s sitting in my garage and I don’t really want it. So I throw him from the diving board into the pond. I hope it doesn’t bother you.” Then the bachelor with a start sends the riderless bicycle somersaulting off the wooden plank into the water. In the background there is a whoosh and laughter as a shaky camera captures the rapid demise of the wheel, its rear wheel bobbing briefly above the surface before disappearing, swallowed by the voracious pond. Why lie – it looks like fun. And apparently it’s fun for many.


Source: Pravda – Veda a technika by vat.pravda.sk.

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