Capturing the meaning of the bicycle

“In Asia people see bicycles as a way to help them earn a living. Indians turn them into market stalls and modify them into kitchen bikes. Chinese women love cargo bikes because they are lighter and easier to maneuver than cargo motorbikes,” said Paul Jerurissen, bicycle adventurer and author of a new photography e-book, Bicycling Around the World.

Paul grew up in Amsterdam, where he said he was “surrounded by two wheelers.” “They were just everyday objects that Dutch people used to go to the shops or school… [but] in Belgium, cycling is the national sport and bicyclists dominate the sport pages. People will stand for hours alongside a cobbled road just to watch their hero pedal by,” explained Paul.

It was these disparate cultural meanings attached to the bicycle that initially intrigued Paul and inspired a global bicycle tour with his wife and fellow bicycle adventurer, Grace Johnson, to capture the cultural meanings of the bicycle in photographs.

Grace, a Seattle native, started bicycling on the Burke-Gilman Trail and with Cascade, the only two places you could meet other people who bicycled in the 80s, she said.

The pair met while Grace was pedalling cross-country on the Trans America Trail in 1981.

Paul and Grace hope their free ebook inspires appreciation for the bicycle and bike culture around the world and inspires others to bike tour.

“We learned that cyclists around the world love to check out each other’s bikes– the Indians thought our two wheelers looked a bit ‘plain’ but were impressed with the quality of our Schwalbe tires. And everyone loves racing with Western cyclists,” said Paul. “Sometimes the ‘contest’ would go on for 20 kilometers [12 miles] or more, even when they were carrying an extra passenger on their back rack.”

Even while on the road, Grace and Paul said they are already dreaming about new touring destinations like Argentina, as well as countries they want to revisit.

“Combining a bike culture photo project with a multi-year trip turned out to be a great idea plus a lot of fun,” said Paul.

Paul and Grace have been traveling for 10 years. They are still enjoying their travels, and at the time of this interview, were writing from Thailand.

Bicycling Around the World ebook is available to download for free online at www.pauljeurissen.nl.

Photos courtesy of Paul Jeurissen.