This morning, while sitting on my favorite chair, reading the Sunday paper, sipping my coffee and thinking about bundling up for a day of cross-country skiing, I came across a short article about the history of cycling.
One paragraph from Pedaling Through the Bicycle’s 200 Years by Elizabeth Alice Austin in the January 26, 2017 edition of the Wall Street Journal reminded me of a time when I was cycling in Eastern Turkey in 2011.
Austin writes, “The idea of women on bicycles enraged certain conservative elements of society. Cycling was said to make women oversexed, ill-behaved or infertile. “Have you ever seen anything more off-putting, uglier, meaner than a wench on a bike?” asked the German magazine Youth in 1897.”
Austin’s paragraph reminded me of a time I was admonished by a father of a colleague of mine in Eastern Turkey. “You will be the first and last women to ride a bicycle in this town,” he said.
I remember wondering if his comments were 1) a threat, 2) a joke, or 3) translated incorrectly. However, after he made those comments, I made sure I covered head-to-toe including wearing dark glasses and gloves and always cycled in heavily populated areas.
Several months later, while sipping a cup of Turkish coffee and sampling fresh Turkish delight at a lovely apartment, a woman in her mid-fifties told me that she watched me ride my bicycle every morning on my way to the school where I taught English.
She said, “That bicycle represents a LOT of freedom.”
Her words propelled me to keep cycling….