- Bicycle Culture by Design: Ferrara's Vintage Bicycle Fleet

Many things amazed me about visiting Ferrara, Italy last week. It’s a brilliant cycling city with 30% modal share. They don’t have a congestion charge, they have a congestion BAN. You pay to get into the city centre if you have stuff to deliver and you can have a resident’s permit if you live inside the old city walls. But other than that it’s a no-drive zone. There are eight locations with cameras tracking number plates and if you’re in there without a permit you get sent a €100 fine.

I've recently blogged about the amazing amount of elderly bicycle users in the city. Both the women as well as the gentlemen - over at Cycle Chic. I've never seen so many bicycle users over 'a certain age' in one place anywhere in the world.

Another thing that kept astounding me was the bicycles. Easily 80% of the bicycles ridden in the city are vintage. The bike racks outside the train station alone must be the greatest gathering of vintage bikes in one spot on the planet. Each and every day of the year. Seriously, if you're into vintage bicycles this is where you go to drool. I have no idea how to even angle this blogpost into any form of structure.

Rod brakes. Everywhere. Easily 40-50% of the bicycles have them. Brilliant.

It ain't just vintage bicycles by known brands like Bianchi. I spotted dozens of brands I've never heard of and am unable to google.

Piaggio bicycle seat. Wider than thou.

Retro (style) skirtguards and front/back racks and skirtguards abound in Ferrara.

I'm quite sure I had grips like these as a kids. I'm also quite sure I miss them terribly.

Don't even get me started on the chainguards.

The number and style of the mini-bikes in the city would have Copenhagen fashionistas sobbing into their Gucci scarves.

Like in any mainstream bicycle culture, personalisation is at a premium.

Vintage head badges. Sigh.

Anyone know what that rubber thing is? I saw them on loads of bicycles.

I found a cool bike shop - mostly a repair shop but with vintage, restored bikes for sale in the window. A 1920 Raleigh with original components anyone? €1000.

A Vicini ladies bicycle with toolbag - €450.

A second world war British army bike with original leather straps for carrying the rifle. €400. The girl who owns the bike shop was cool and we had a chat about all the bikes. I asked her - and at several other bike shops - where it was possible to buy vintage bikes like the ones on the street. Nobody knew. The girl said that it was hard to find them. "People don't sell them often", she said with a shrug. "They just like them too much." When I tried to press her a bit on the subject she shrugged again. "I don't think about bikes when I'm off work. I have other interests." Brilliant. She is a bike shop owner and mechanic who lovingly restores vintage beauties but bikes are not her whole life. I loved that comment.

Her shop was filled with vintage parts, too. Lying around in baskets. I asked if some of them were for sale but she wasn't keen. "I need them to repair the old bikes in the city", she said rather matter of factly. A few bits and pieces were on sale she told me.

Wheel locks and bells.

Dynamo motors, headlamps and head badges.

I spotted this lifting handle on one of the vintage bicycles for sale. She said they used to be normal on Italian bikes but hard to find these days. No, it wasn't for sale. You may remember this lifting handle that used to be standard on Swedish and Danish bikes back in the day. I did purchase a newspaper carrier for the handlebars from the shop... photos coming as soon as it is installed on my bicycle.

And, rather appropriately given the fact I was attending a CycleLogisitics meeting, a cargo bike selling nuts.

See the whole photo set Ferrara's Vintage Bicycles on Flickr.

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