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Romain Gerson, pictured, says cycling has brought him closer to people
Photo: Matic Zorman
In the first of our cycle stories series, Delano interviewed Romain Gerson, a cyclist who, when he switched to commuting by bike, benefited both in terms of health and socially.
When Romain Gerson’s boss at the bank where he works withdrew his parking space, in a fit of anger he said to himself he’d buy a bike. Three months later, the boss returned the parking space, but by then Gerson had caught the bug.
“Very soon, I loved it,” Gerson explained. That was seven years ago and since then the Luxembourger has cycled to work every day from Fentange to the Gare district, rain or shine.
When we met, he was riding his electric-assistance bike, which he uses to travel the 12.5 kilometre journey along a cycle lane beside the Aleztte and through the Grund. The journey would be just 7.5 kilometres if he went directly by road but that, he says, is “very dangerous”. He enjoys the time in nature, which helps him to unwind after work, but most of all, he enjoys meeting other cyclists.
“Maybe if we were driving in the car, we would sound the horn and be shouting. Here, I try to catch up with other people or when they pass I say ‘hello’. You start chatting and it’s always interesting.”
The connections that such encounters create are fascinating. I met Gerson for the first time at a comedy show he attended because he helped the host to fix a puncture on his bicycle. Gerson learned that one of the first cyclists he met on his commute had written several books. “I never read books, I have a problem with the eyes and cannot focus while reading,” he said. Nevertheless, he was inspired and bought a copy and asked the author to sign it. “I loved it […] Now I’ve read every single one of his books.”
In other surprise encounters, he has come across deer in the woods next to the Alzette. Spending so much time in nature has brought his focus on the natural environment. Gerson felt first-hand the impact of trees being felled there because the deer stopped coming but also because mud and loose earth was carried onto the cycle path.
Today cycling is not just part of his commute, it’s become Gerson’s main mode of transport. He now owns three bikes and uses them daily, reserving the car for exceptional use.
Contrary to what some may believe, however, the lifestyle switch has not saved him money. In addition to buying good waterproof clothing, lights and other safety devices, he services his electric-assistance bike every 2,000 kilometres. “With the bike I go three times a year because I do 6,000 kilometres,” he said, explaining each service costs €150. “Bikes are expensive today. They lose a lot of value, even more than cars,” he said.
And in the seven years since he began cycling, Gerson says traffic has worsened but the number of cyclists has exploded. “I cross more people on the cycle path but there are no more new contacts that I make. They don’t want to chat. That changed because seven years ago, everybody was talking to me.”