May 3rd – The Festival of the Bicycle

Whilst Buentoille is rightly viewed as the cultural capital of the Seven Cities, not all Buentoilliçan traditions originate there. One instance where Buentoille has adopted the technology and therefore customs of neighbouring cities is the Festival of the Bicycle; the bicycle, much like the automobile, was not invented in the City, but was in fact an import from Canaring, where the many waterways leave little room for other road-based transport. The modern upright bicycle was invented in 1824 by Therloea Rievesdor, but it didn’t reach Buentoille until 1929.

So few people travel outside of Buentoille to the other nearby cities that the fantastic invention may not have found its way there for many years were it not for the Grand Tour of The Revolutionary People’s Army of Canaring (PRAC). Having heard of the Buentoilliçan Revolution, and of the great works being undertaken, the PRAC decided to send a contingent of their ‘vanguard’ out to learn from Buentoillitants. The bicycle had become a symbol of female emancipation and the unified working class in Canaring, where boat ownership is rigorously policed, with different types of boat being assigned to each of the city’s eight official classes. As such, the Grand Tour was conducted the long way around via bicycle, rather than across the Inner Sea.

This association with emancipation and revolution made the bicycle an extremely attractive piece of machinery for many Buentoillitants, but this cannot be held solely responsible for its rapid proliferation. The fact is that bicycles are perfectly suited to the narrow streets of the City, down which it is often difficult to fit automobiles. Public transport is very popular in the City, but many sought out the freedom which could be achieved via personal transportation, and horses had always been very expensive due to the costs associated with feeding, caring for and cleaning up after them, especially after the Human-Animal Relations Act of 1812, which placed a far greater duty of care on the owners of horses, donkeys and domestic animals.

Whilst smaller models of automobile were designed specifically for the narrow streets of the City, these were (and still are) banned by various street councils from travelling on around 40% of Buentoilliçan roads. These bans first took the form of blockades in 1918, when a report on the dangers of pollution was published by the Municipal Health Service. With few other options for the transportation of people and goods across the City (other than public rail services), the scene was primed for a transportation revolution when PRAC’s vanguard arrived.

Since that first visit, millions of bicycles have been produced in the City’s factories, and cobbled streets have been torn up and replaced with smooth tarmac cycle paths. Many of these bicycles are privately owned, but around half are jointly owned by members of the Union of Revolutionary Cyclists, an organisation founded in the wake of the PRAC’s Grand Tour which charges a small fee each year for access to its fleet. All across Buentoille you can find these bicycles, which can be ‘unlocked’ with a swipe of the Union’s membership card, ridden to the desired destination, and then re-locked for later use. Since 1962 each bicycle has had a radio transmitter attached to it, making it easy to find with a hand-held ‘bike locator’.

Today the Union of Revolutionary Cyclists will host five mass rides around the City, all leading to the Cooperative Bicycle Factory, which will clear its floor for the night to host a large party and gallery of strange cycles built by its engineers, alongside imported pieces donated by the PRAC which track the history and development of the bicycle. The sound system for the party, which usually runs into the early hours, will be powered by, what else, a number of bicycles attached to dynamos. At 19:00 there will be a short presentation by the Lobbyists for Alternative Energy.

Those who prefer more natural surroundings to their two-wheeled travels will often wake up early today and cycle as far out as they can, either over the plains to the east or along the pathways that line the coast. Wherever they reach they will camp for the night, the fire and upturned wheels of their bikes casting strange shadows across the land, and then cycle back home in the morning at first light; this is considered the rite-of-passage for a wild cyclist.

Another popular form of revelry tonight are the many ‘wandering parties’ which meander their way around the City. These take place on repurposed goods bicycles and tricycles, which have small platforms placed where they could normally hold supplies being transported across the City by couriers. Tonight these platforms will host a number of itinerant partygoers who will hop on and off at will, paying the cyclist a fee for their transportation and the alcohol supplied in a crate on each partybike. In no less chaotic scenes, a race is held down the steps of Ranaclois hill today, each of the competitors on an archaic ‘bone-shaker’ bike without tyres or suspension, possibly liquefying their brains as they tear down the ancient steps.

Other festivals happening today:

  • The Motorist’s League’s Day of Revving and Horn Blowing
  • The Day of the Dead Dove