May 22, 2009

Of Bicycles and the Bhutanese Men

There have been talks of Thimphu going to be the country's first bicycle city, which obviously means that the office goers of Thimphu are going to resort to riding bicycles to office rather than their SUVs and hatchbacks.

Well, dream on, because for a country like Bhutan where we still are so much concerned about the preservation of our culture and traditions, it would encounter a major obstacle. Has anyone imagined riding a bicycle wearing the gho (or kira for the matter) and that also in the freezing temperatures of winter or in the monsoon downpour?  OK, some are grumbling that they have seen some do so but were they going to office? If we can't, then what are the alternatives?

Cycling for pleasure is a different matter, it can be done. People will be willing to make allowances to that matter provided they are protected by the RSTA rules. There must be some protections for the cyclers from the dreaded SUVs of Thimphu. And there should be bicycle lanes demarcated along the roads, else the cycles donated by the Japanese would be in vain.

There is another alternative, which I am afraid to mention because the readers would deem me unpatriotic. The Japanese people don't wear their Kimonos to work. It is reserved only for special occasions. For work, they have their business suits (two piece) as I think it would be very comfortable to cycle to work in them. But Bhutan is too young to even think of such alternatives.

Then what can we do? There are smaller energy efficient alternatives like electric three wheelers within the city limits. There are some electric cars in town but we, being very image conscious, would certainly love to have cars (electric or non) that not only perform energy-efficiently but are beautiful to look at too. The few electric cars in town fail in the latter category.

I am straying away from my intended topic. The time has not come for the Bhutanese men to ride the bicycle to work. So instead of going after a wild goose chase why don't we think of better things to do like developing better public transportations? I am not talking about the city buses in Thimphu. I mean the cleanliness of those buses. I am not talking about the number of taxis in Thimphu. I mean the uniformity of the taxi fares. I also mean the availability of taxis in the off hours.

Bhutan did away with the traffic lights because Bhutanese were not ready for them. Are we ready for bicycles on the road?