Ode to Kine Fahrrad

· 607 words · 3 minute read

The word “Fahrrad” reminds me of King Fahd, of Saudi Arabia. But no. It’s not about that. Ein Fahrrad just means “a bicycle.” And this long overdue blog post is about my bicycle, and what it’s like to use it around town. Woah. Calm down. You’re too excited.

Last fall I bought a used bicycle for €170 from B7 Cycling Center, which hires former inmates and trains ‘em as mechanics. The brand name, printed on my frame, says “Heavy Tool.” Literal translations are hilarious no?

My friend Florian, who has the same name as a trillion other Florians, taught me an alternative name for Fahrrad. The word is “Drahtesel,” which means “wire donkey.” Man that’s good stuff.

Here’s my donkey:

My Bike

The bike isn’t fancy, it’s just a little commuter guy. But it does have a few tricks up its sleeve. The light on the front is powered by kinetic energy, which is common in Europe, but in America this contraption disappeared decades ago.

How it works

Oh! There’s a tail light connected to the same circuit too. I’m excited to use it again in the fall. No need during summer — since the sun sets around 9:00 PM.

I commute on my Fahhrad a few times a week. It’s only a 15 minute ride. It’s also flat and streamlined for bicycles.

My Commute

Austria is a bicycle country. They take it seriously. Children under the age of 12 have to take a test to ride their bicycles on the street. It’s like a driver’s license. Drunk driving rules apply too — if you’re drunk on your bike, you lose your right to drive a car.

Bicycle riders are not allowed to ride on sidewalks, unless the sidewalk is marked for it. I haven’t seen die Polizei enforce this, but I’ve heard about it.

Many sidewalks are split in half. People go on the right, and bikes on the left.

Bike lanes

Bicycles also get their own traffic lights! Here’s a sidewalk traffic light, with a little picture of a walking guy, and a bicycle guy, next to one another.

Bike traffic lights

The crosswalk button has a little bicycle picture on it.

Bike traffic lights

Here’s the more common sign, marking a split sidewalk, along with ones on the ground showing which lane to stay in.

More bike lantes

Most stores have bike racks — and they’re heavily used. You also see older folks riding around — way more than in America.This guy looks like he’s in his 70’s. Loading groceries onto his trusty steed. Er braucht nicht auto — verstehst?

Bikes at the store

There’s a bike rack outside my office building. Most folks have locks, but if you look closely, you’ll see two aren’t locked. Very trusting. Never heard of a stolen bike. I see unlocked bikes in the city center too, but it’s obviously more of a risk.

Bikes at the office

The building has six floors. Signs by the elevator show the garage has a bike room. It’s still funny to me - calling the first floor “zero” and the basement “minus one.”

Elevator sign

The bike room opens with a key card.

Bike room

If you visit the minus one underground basement parking garage place, you’ll see it’s all nicely marked and color coded. Yellow for bikes, blue for cars.

Bike lane garage

The bike room opens with a key card. Here’s what the interior looks like. Spacious! Before COVID-19 it was hard to find a spot. Now it’s practically empty.

Bike room interior

Ok. Cool. So now you know all about bicycles. First class Austrian transportation. It’s funny that this word, “Fahhrad,” reminds me of King Fahd, since Saudi Arabia is the world’s biggest oil producer. Bikes are an answer to our oil addiction — something Fahd wouldn’t appreciate. Maybe my subconscious likes the irony.