Aspects of Abandonment
In late 2017, a strange phenomenon started to appear in a city state renowned for its strict laws and cleanliness. Technological advances led to the invention of a new kind of bike rental scheme, which made it possible for people to locate bikes with a mobile phone app and without the need of a central docking station. Bike travel was revolutionized within a few months and for a short period of time it seemed as if personal bike ownership was soon to be a thing of the past.
At about the same time, usually well behaved and orderly citizens started to act in rather odd ways and began to discard those bikes all over the small island’s territory. The city state, so well run by its dutiful civil servants, suddenly took on aspects of anarchic abandonment, prompting a public debate of massive proportion.
Bikes were discarded in all sorts of places and every position imaginable. Some were vandalized and there were even reports of them being thrown down from the upper floors of the pastel colored public housing estates, of which the residents of the affluent city were so proud of. The bikes could be seen on empty fields, along deserted roads, or at the entrance of solitary jungle tracks; their temporary owners vanishing into thin air, as if groups of people simply had enough of 21st century life and decided to walk away from our civilization.
Over time, my imagination became increasingly fascinated by those deserted bikes and each of them took on the personae of their vanished owner. I started to create stories, about the men and women who left their bike in a particular location; about their passions, hopes, fears. The more I paid attention, the more I noticed certain patterns and behaviors. But there remained mysteries, which my imagination could not solve, but served as further evidence of mankind’s enduring lack of respect for communal property and tendency for irrational decision making.
One year after dockless bike sharing companies started operating, the industry already seemed to be on the verge of imploding. Having grossly overestimated demand and underestimated the fierce competition and costs involved (mainly for removing indiscriminately parked bikes), Ofo, Mobike, GBike, oBike, and the likes, saw their business model in jeopardy. When the city state’s tireless government introduced an amendment to the so-called Parking Places Act, requiring companies to track and ban users for discarding their bikes at non-designated parking spots, the short lived period of anarchic abandonment came to an abrupt end.
Order was restored.