Over vacation I read Ronald C. Rossbottom’s When Paris Went Dark: The City of Light Under German Occupation, 1940-1944, which is a great read for anyone with an interest in World War II and the experience under occupation.
The dependence of the population of Paris on bicycles during the occupation was what really stood out to me. Go figure, since I am a big proponent of bicycles and am amazed how little attention this resilient transportation method gets during disasters.
One of the first major adjustments for the people of Paris was that private automobiles were stolen by the German occupation authority. Buses were converted to wood gas and the Metro service was curtailed for various reasons—security, increasingly intermittent electricity, etc. Bicycles filled the mobility void.
Despite being used in activities to harass the occupation authority “there was no way to forbid them, or Paris would have ceased to function.” [Page 113]
As the war continued and the European continent under German occupation was increasingly isolated supplies of rubber and metal necessary to maintain bicycles became scarce. The loss of a bicycle through disrepair or theft was devastating to the average Parisian who depended on the quaint transportation method to travel to work and procure food.
If history is prologue, not to say we are under the immediate threat of occupation from a hostile government, then we need to consider the value of the bicycle as a tool for emergency preparation.