Roadside Distractions

Roadside Trash; what it says about a culture, its people, and its habits.

After 25 years of staring from my bike at roadside debris, litterings, and the impact of humanity, I feel I have greater insight into several countries driving habits. Undoubtedly, America receives the award for the most plentiful and varied trash, while Switzerland receives the award for having almost zero human tossed waste.

The American litterer, like so many things American, believes that more is better. Topping the list of roadside trash are cigarette packages, Squeezies (those kid’s frozen popcicle things), plastic trash bags and of course the ubiquitous beer cans. Typically whatever beer is currently on special at the local white trash liquor store. In addition, more local specialties include shotgun shells, porn mags and of course McDonalds bags which have been ravaged by ravens who have since scattered about the contents of the fry bucket, ketchup packs, super sized coke and Big Mac wrappers. McDonalds bags occur with such frequency that I suspect that included with every meal is advice to simply toss the remains right out your window.

Included with the American trash is also environmental devastation by the drivers. Bullet riddled street signs, numerous tire screech marks, and roadside oil changes round out the cyclist’s visuals. Personally, while riding American roads I have had pennies flicked at me, “Get a car fag” advice offered more than a few times, and even had a gun pointed at me.

In Italy, the trash is a much more simple affair. Topping the list here are cigarette packs followed by plastic mineral water bottles. I am always curious how I still see McDonalds bags here in the Sud Tirol when the nearest one is 50 minutes and several valleys away. Beyond that there is little else I regularly see. However, frighteningly enough in the busy cycling areas, Gel Packs, Amino Acid vials, and Enervit bar wrappers often line the roads. Does this mean that in Italy the cyclists are the white trash? The other day in Tuscany I saw an ironing board tossed into the forest, nothing else, just an ironing board.

Austria and France round out the list with similar trash habits as Switzerland. Bravo.

In summary… why is there such consistency in what is tossed out the window of a moving vehicle, especially in such beautiful areas as California and Italy? Cigarettes, fast food trash and beer containers. What does it say about the people who consume these items? I guess it speaks volumes that if one is driving and tearing into a 24 pack of Keystone Lite, they are probably not the model citizen in the first place. One thing I do miss about riding American roads is my ever growing tool collection; screwdrivers, pliers, socket wrenches, etc… Here in Europe, nothing. Maybe I need to pay more attention, or no,  I am probably paying a little too much attention to these things.


Comments 9

  1. “Does this mean that in Italy the cyclists are the white trash? ”
    Yes, the majority of italian cyclists are … assholes (I don’t find a “nicer” word for people that throw away trash) … but there is one thing I like to do when I’m riding with other people.

    Cyclist “AH” throws away trash, you stop, take it up, chase Cyclist “AH” and you tell him …. you lost something!!! That’s priceless!!!

  2. I came across a REAL nice Bosch jigsaw once…. still in the protective case. It fell out of someone’s truck. Much better than the dirty “nappys” described above.

  3. You left out Africa. I was amazed at how much American-looking trash lined the streets in the Ivory Coast. I don’t think it’s because they litter more than we do, but that no one picks it up.

  4. dont ask me why
    but once I found a used condom, and just as you thought america couldnt get weirder.

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