I’ll admit that these photos are a stretch on a blog about classic bikes, but bear with me as I make my case. Consider that most classic bikes were built in factories that are now housing estates, or have been re-purposed long ago. Consider the populations that worked in factories and used the pre/post-war bikes, where are they now? The class of “worker” has disappeared, mostly in the West, we are now service providers, consumers and those with jobs are most likely in knowledge-based industries where carpel tunnel is the most frequent occupational hazard.
The infrastructure, be it industrial, personal or commercial the supported the machines we love has slowly disappeared – well at least with classic bikes. In the US the auto industry has shrunk from it’s glory (not quite collapsed). VW built a 1 billion dollar production plant in Tennessee as part of it’s plan to compete with Toyota for dominance as the largest auto producer. I think it is fair to say the big three, and specifically Detroit, have seen their day in the sun. Detroit was the heart of the American love affair with the car, the economic engine that drove post-war prosperity and culture, to see it crumbling is fascinating and a testament to the changing global realities.
These photos provide a fascinating and sad insight to the scale of change that has occurred. The movie Roger & Me gave me insight to the human costs of the decline of the Detroit auto industry, these photos speak to me an a different and powerful way. I’ll have to admit I didn’t realize the extent of Detroit’s ruination – I was there last year to buy my Puch. I can’t say it was a sight seeing trip, I drove into the suburbs at night after driving 984km to cram a second bike on my trailer at 11 pm – we then headed for a motel at the border which was another 100km away, but that’s a story for another day.
Photographs by Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre, full story can be seen on the Guardian’s site at this link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/gallery/2011/jan/02/photography-detroit?%2F%3Fpicture=370173054&index=0#/?picture=370173054&index=0