We're all alarmingly familiar with the concept of water pollution. The world's bodies of water are being filled with plastics and all sorts of dangerous toxins, causing damage to the environment and the various species living there. One component of this issue that most of us will not be aware of is that bicycles are filling rivers, lakes, and even seas across the globe. In Amsterdam alone, 15,000 bikes are removed from the canals annually. Certainly not something one would expect to find in the water; what is behind this bizarre phenomenon?
A strange social movement can be blamed for this weird influx of bikes in the water. The trend, which has people recording themselves dunking their bikes in water, has transcended across at least three continents, becoming an issue in many of the world's major cities. It has meant that bike-sharing companies in places such as South China are forced to extract thousands of their bikes from the rivers. Additionally, a bike rental company in Rome went out of business because so many of their assets were being dumped into the Tiber.
Jody Rosen, New York Times Magazine writer and author of Two Wheels Good: The History and Mystery of the Bicycle, talked to National Public Radio, helping to explain the bike-in-the-water spectacle. "When you see the bicycle go in there and slip below the surface of the water, there's just a certain satisfaction, a certain free zone in that," she noted. "This is a practice which is documented online, for instance, on YouTube quite comprehensively. So there's lots of videos that you can see where people are tossing bikes into the water and taking videos of it for fun and sport. There's all kinds of other types of vandalism that surround this as well."
She argues that the rise in bike-sharing companies contributes to this fad, as people feel less guilty tossing over a shared bike, especially one with a huge cooperation or bank's name written on it. It's all fun in their eyes; it's not personal. Moreover, Rosen insists that this act has a political dimension, as motorists are fighting back against the increased number of bikes on the streets. As for what happens when these bikes are recovered? Many of them are recycled and converted into all sorts of food and drink packaging. Well, that's food for thought...