LimeBikes

Sep 15, 2017

LimeBike
Credit Sid Shroyer

I like the LimeBikes. I have the LimeBike app on my phone, so know where the bikes are are, but unlike my wife, I haven’t actually ridden one yet. Judy tells me they are big and bulky and not exactly fun to ride, but that’s beside the point to me. I like them as art. South Bend is a display space and LimeBikes are mobiles. “A decorative structure that is suspended so as to turn freely in the air,” is how the dictionary defines “mobile” and for the Lime Bike that works just fine for me.

“A decorative structure that is suspended so as to turn freely in the air.”

They remind me of the “Cows on Parade” exhibit idea that came to Chicago in 1999 from Zurich, Switzerland…300 fiberglass, hand-painted cows commemorating the stockyards that once were full of them, or maybe just the one that kicked over the lantern in Mrs. O’Leary’s barn and started the big fire. A monument to cows. Nice idea.

 

Other cities followed suit, if not species … 80 of them around the world… and the next thing you knew there were ornamented pigs in Cincinnati…. painted ponies in Sante Fe, and buffaloes in, well, Buffalo.

Cleveland, Nashville, and Austin claimed the guitar. Shang-hai, China stuck with the cows.

For me, the LimeBike is better than any of them. I like the way they decorate the town.

LimeBikes aren’t drilled into the ground in a spot strategically selected by a committee of city planners and curator consultants for maximum civic and commercial effect. People who use them move them to their next display location because that’s where they want to go. Seeing one where there was not one … is cool….”we have a visitor, dear,” not an occupant.  “Better look. Won’t be here tomorrow.”

There’s a patch of green space across from my house in the Sunnymede neighborhood where on occasion a LimeBike rests. I see a LimeBike under the viaduct and in the yard at Adams High School and down at IUSB, one day and not the next.

I wonder who rode it there and I wonder who will ride it next and I like that it all happens when I am not watching. There’s an aura, I sense, around the bike; it has a story to tell and a life of its own. When I see one on Jefferson Boulevard resting on its side I hope it is okay.

I hope the bikes make it through the winter. I’m a little worried about them in the snow, their little handle bars peaking out from beneath a snow bank, useless, sad and forgotten, like a character in a children’s book called “The Lonely Lime Bike,” threatened by the snarling grill of a giant orange snow plow that is tweeting when it should be driving.  

In then end, of course, The Lonely Lime Bike returns heroically to save the day, along with the blooming iris as the first signs of spring and the glorious warmer days ahead.  “We have a visitor, dear.” Hope. For sure, at the end of winter, the sight of the LimeBike will make us smile.

A week ago I was a tourist in Bosnia and Croatia. There, in small towns and in the countryside, I saw the remnants of their 1990s war, the “Homeland War,” three years of brutal civil war after the death of Tito and the break-up of Yugoslavia, among Bosnians, Croats, and Serbs, attacks on Muslims, Roma, and Jews, concentration camps and “ethnic cleansing,” rapes, massacres, … NATO air strikes to put a stop to it….100-thousand dead and over two million displaced people. Genocide. There, I saw cratered roofs and bullet-pocked walls. I saw young faces chiseled into many polished graveyard headstones and highway markers and old faces perhaps gripped by memory. Memorials. Tributes to war. Civil War. Monuments.
 

Coming home on Sunday, from the Sample Street bridge, a LimeBike said hello from the Northside Boulevard and Beyer corner next to the Farmer’s Market. It wasn’t there when I left and it won’t be there tomorrow. I imagine the person who rode it there and then the person who will ride it away. The LimeBike tells me that they are playing a game of tag here, the invisible signs of humanity, not to worry.

There’s a monument to us and to this wonderful community, I thought, a monument to life and a monument to peace.

I like the Lime Bikes.

Credit Sid Shroyer

Music: Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit, “Hope the High Road,”