Monday, 27 June 2011

A Ride through Cycling History

Postponing this exhibition until my fellow bicycle fanatic friend Helen arrived, I was not disappointed.
This exhibition called Voyages a Vélo, is located in the heart of the Marais and is not very obvious to the public being located up a small side street in a generally unremarkable building.
After a quick snack of excellent falafel and a coffee, we felt the time was right to go for a spin into check out these bicycles. The exhibition costs €3-€6, and after asking for the “tariff reduit” we quickly viewed the small section upstairs before making our way down to the main exhibition space downstairs.
I took one photo without any flash before being told that all photography was forbidden. However you can still take more in secret without the flash as there are not too many security people.
The exhibition chronicles the development of the bicycle through time, and starts out appropriately enough with the “hobby horse” style bicycle before starting to explain the popularity of this type of transport as well as its development. While the exhibition is all in French some of the funniest parts were the posters and articles in English from England which clearly demonstrates the type of stuffy upper middle class people that would have been able to afford a bicycle at the time.

The exhibition is overall interesting enough and has a great selection of bicycles as well as bicycle paraphernalia from different eras. Having read up a little on the history of the bicycle before going I especially enjoyed seeing the development of ladies and cycling. Originally the ladies bicycle was a giant cumbersome beast of a contraption kinda like a giant 3 wheeled tricycle, the ladies eventually  saw how pointless these were and instead of developing the bicycle decided to develop their clothing to be more suited to riding “men's” bicycles. Hence ladies trousers or “bloomers” were born and women started to develop “rational dress” . All joking aside the bicycle was credited to have greatly effected the women's rights movement and this can clearly be seen in the fact that most of the posters in the exhibition have a woman in the foreground. Including the poster for the exhibition itself.

What was also really impressive to see was how organised cyclists were back then and you could view old cycle lane maps for around the greater Paris area as well as leaflets telling you how to defend your rights on the road as a cyclist.

Overall the exhibition takes a look at the development of bicycles and bicycles as a hobby and I really enjoyed it. The Exhibition also has a great book that accompanies it but it sadly costs €20 and is only in French. If you have any interest in bicycles get on your bicycle and head over to this before it ends. Ironically though its central location on a small street in the Marais means that bicycle parking is not easily available and you will have to walk a bit to get there.

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