Saturday, January 15, 2011

Are bicycles children toys?

Every time I ride my bicycle around the town of Manokwari, I can see that most of the cyclists or bikers are elementary school children and teenagers. I seldom see adults riding their bicycles. We all know that riding bicycle is good for our health but we don't do it regularly or we never do it. The pro-car or pro motorized vehicles policy from the government is the main causal factor which makes cycling not a popular lifestyle in this country anymore. In one week, I could only see one or two adults riding their bikes. Because cycling around the town center is not favorable due to the traffic condition, I prefer to paddle my bike to Pasir Putih beach area. Cycling was introduced in Manokwari town and the whole West Papua region by the Dutch. This environmentally friendly lifestyle has been replaced by the use of motorized vehicles particularly motorcycles and cars in the last 40 years of the city's development. Yet, I still see a small number of people who ride bicycles in this town.
Back to the discussion of the above question whether bicycles are toys for children and teenagers? I see that most of us who live in Indonesia do not realize how important bicycles are for our health, environment and economy. We all are used to living in a country whose fuel is subsidized (even now!). When Indonesia entered its worst economic crisis in 1998, the subsidy was gradually reduced. People began to protest the government for this unpopular policy. We did not realize that the price of fuel oil is expensive in the international market. We did not invest enough money in renewable energy either. We have enjoyed cheap fuel for years and reluctant to teach our children how to ride their bicycles to school. The government also did not give enough pro-cycling policy in its national development strategy. Now most children in Indonesia do not go to school buy riding bicycles. They depend on ojek (motorcycle taxi), bus, or their parents to pick them up from schools. Only in rural areas children walk to school. When children in Indonesian cities go to school by ojek, children in the Netherlands and Denmark ride bicycles.
People in Indonesia might think that riding bicycles is only a kind of training before somebody rides a motorcycle. They think that bicycles are slow, and only old fashioned means of transport. Because there is no serious pro-cycling policy from the government, the promotion of cycling as a lifestyle or culture in Indonesia had not been aggressive enough until after the fuel crisis some two or three years ago when university students began demanding the democratically president of Indonesia to step down.
In the efforts of living an efficient life, maintaining good health, and fighting global warming, some people in Jakarta begin to revive the cycling lifestyle again. Bike to work community was established and now has branches in several cities and towns in Indonesia. In Manokwari city alone, as the newly established capital of West Papua province in the Republic of Indonesia, some people began to ride their bicycles to work. But this spirit is not fully supported by the government especially the department for transport and town planning agency through the creation of facilities and lanes that support bike to work campaign. As a result I can see that cycling or mountain biking in Manokwari is still considered as sport only.
To change people's paradigm of bicycles as children toys, a lot of efforts have to be done. Some of them are through the writing of articles both on the internet and on printed media about the importance of riding bicycles as ways to save money, maintain good health and preserve the environment. National TV stations haven't created special programs for promoting cycling culture.  There are a lot of benefits that we can get from cycling. Bicycle manufacturers in Indonesia have to respond to this new movement by producing bikes that are suitable for working class society. The prices of bicycles have to be reduced to levels where they are more affordable to the whole population of this country.
In the eco-tourism sector, I personally am planning to provide cycling tour in Manokwari as a strategy to raise awareness among the local people that cycling is a healthy and environmentally friendly lifestyle. I also have planned to establish a special web-portal for promoting cycling in two languages, i.e. Indonesian and English. The content will consist of stories from cyclist in the streets, study or discourse materials about cycling, bicycle reviews, technical or manual articles and other contents that are related to cycling, sustainable development and environment. I am sure that this human powered vehicle will one day be seen as an important means of transport in Indonesia again, someday in the future. by Charles Roring
Also read:
Dirt jump mountain bike
Mountain biking in the Table Mountain

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