01 May 2016

May Day And Bicycles

Today is May Day.  In much of the world, it's celebrated as a sort of Labor Day--which, in this country, has become mainly an occasion for shopping or taking an end-of-summer trip.

It's also been celebrated, particularly in the British Isles and Scandanavia, as a spring festival marking an end to the long nights of winter.   To some, it might seem paradoxical that this day was chosen to honor labor.  Well, that tradition started with the Haymarket Massacre, which took place during the first week of May in 1886.  

But, even if there were not such a tragedy to observe, I think that it would make sense to pay homage to labor at this time of year, as spring is flowering.  Many see hope at this time of year; others think about what could be--and what isn't.  It's no coincidence that so many uprisings take place around this time of year:  Think of the Easter Rising of 1916, and the Paris and Prague Springs of 1968, for example.

I am struck by how many people participate in May Day processions--or go to them--on their bicycles.  That makes sense, too, as this is the time of year when many people end their winter hiatuses and begin cycling in earnest--or begin cycling again for the first time in their adult lives, or ever.  Not for nothing does Bike To Work Week come in May.  
Also, in much of the world, bicycles are the transportation of working-class people.  As Sheldon Brown point out, those English three-speeds manufactured by Raleigh, Dunelt and other companies for a century took millions of British workers to their shops, factories, schools and other places where they worked or studied.  The bicycle is still the main way people commute in many areas; in some places, mainly northern European and North American cities, people--especially the young--are  becoming bicycle commuters (and cyclists in general) by choice rather than necessity.

At the May Day Parade along Bloomington Ave, parader who gave his name as "Carlyle" helped set the fire-breathing float in motion driven by bicycles .

Who knows the meaning of May Day--and the importance of bicycles in it--than this man, who gave his name as "Caryle" and helped to set in motoion a fire-breathing float powered by bicycles in last year's Minneapolis parade?


  1. Ah yes...

    Our May Day up here included a march in the town center by the Social Democrats and the Left Coalition that included rows of big red flags and the crowd singing The "International". Bicycles? Yes, lots of them. The most common one is a light city bike called a Jopo. That is an acronym for the Finnish "JOkaisten POlkopyora": "Every Person's Bike". And champaign and Prosecco passed all around.


  2. Leo--I would expect no less from the Finns. Congratulations on emigrating to such a conscious nation!

  3. Mr. T's bling paled by comparison.

  4. MT--I agree. What is Mr. T doing these days?