Breaking news: Invaders are in our midst. They have arrived in the form of two-wheeled, brightly-colored bicycles bearing a gentle message for everyone stuck behind the wheel of a car or other motorized vehicle: Hey, it’s time to use some simple smartphone technology and jump on a bike for a ride back into those carefree childhood memories or onto the path of fitness and a lifestyle not dominated by hurrying to get here, there and everywhere along with everyone else.
OK, the invasion of Ants, ofo bikes, ride-and-parks — whatever you want to call the new additions to streetscapes and neighborhoods — is not going to suddenly alter the transportation and commuting mindset of everyone who has to go to a job, school or somewhere else everyday.
Truth be told, the stripped-down, sturdy-looking conveyances are bound to rile up cynics intent on branding the bicycles as annoying clutter ripe for vandalism or mishap. On the other side of the coin, alternative transportation fans are already praising the bikes as energy-neutral, healthy alternatives to motorized transportation.
The bikes arrived in Lynn, Swampscott and Revere with some publicity but little fanfare. City leaders did not sign public pledges to leave their cars in their driveway and garages and commute to work on two wheels. Ambassadors from the Netherlands and Malaysia did not descend on Lynn and Swampscott and extol the virtues of living in a land where bicycles are a principal and preferred means of conveyance.
But the bikes are obviously getting used. Some remain lined up in the central locations where they were initially based. But others are showing up on street corners, parked next to a fence on a side street, or by a park bench on Lynn Shore Drive.
Spotting one of the bikes around town is an invitation to a brief daydream about abandoning traffic, chores and all other cares of the world in favor of peddling to one’s heart’s content, meandering at will from street to park to ocean front and back again.
It’s hard not to catch a glimpse of one of the bright-green or yellow bikes and not embark on a quick trip back to childhood and the summer days when jumping on a bike and meeting up with friends dominated the day and fun was the only objective.
The bikes are also an invitation to ponder other transportation and commuting possibilities beyond the options available behind the wheel of a car. It remains to be seen what will happen to the public bikes in a few months when another New England winter descends on the region. Will they go into sort of a mechanical hibernation, succumbing to a snow-covered or ice encrusted dormancy until spring renews them along with lawns, gardens and trees?
Or will they be adopted into local homes for the winter, cared for and oiled in anticipation of warmer weather? Maybe some will be used during the winter by hardy souls determined to debunk the foolhardiness of two-wheeled transport during the weeks of snow and ice.
Like it or not, the bikes are here and with them comes an invitation to discuss alternative transportation and a downloadable opportunity to have fun.