Thank bike

I see you, fellow motorists. Snickering at me. Laughing under your breath and gesturing rudely as I ride my bicycle, Lycra-clad and forced by legislation to don a ventilated piss-pot as head gear in an attempt to not to get my melon squashed under your tyre. You jeer at the swollen pockets on my back, bursting with energy jellies and multi-tools, perhaps a spare tube or some mint sweets. I dodge your attempts to usher me into a taxi and I wear your rooster tails of rain water and gutter tripe in proud defiance. I feel your scorn and ridicule and if I’m honest I understand. I get it, because first and foremost I am one of you.
Cycling. It’s only a recent interest of mine, but I’m still an as-avid-as-they-come petrolhead, so I too regard the asphalt as my own personal plaything, and like everything else I’m partial to, I can get quite possessive about it. Now, two things. Firstly, some of you lot are bloody scary! And secondly, here’s why I think we need to change our attitude about the humble bicycle. Having said that, with carbon fibre composites and lightweight aluminium construction, single plus double suspensions, ventilated disc brakes, 30 speed derailleurs and so on, they’ve become about as humble as your average Japanese supercar. In fact it was at the event of a Japanese car manufacturer when I first noticed that even the car companies were starting to acknowledge the importance of the simple two wheeled commuter. In fact it happened on at least four occasions just this year. First at the launch of the Lexus IS350, where a R100 000 carbon road bike was unveiled to the oohs and aahs of several of my peers who had been keeping their affliction for bicycles quiet up until then. Then, at the international track drive of the Mercedes Benz A45 in Bilsterberg, Germany, AMG had an over-engineered mountain bike (MTB) for the journalists to test out, which several of us promptly did. Till our clothes were very muddy and we were forced back into the cars. Then again at the launch of the Opel Corsa OPC Nurburgring we were alerted to the existence of an Opel MTB bike, which you’ll be able to see up close at the Johannesburg International Motor Show. And why not? The firm built a good reputation for itself as a bicycle manufacturer long before they started oil-staining the garage floors of its future car-buying customers, and I should know, I’ve owned several of them. Then finally, during the opening presentation at the launch of Kia’s New Cerato Koup in South Korea, the company’s origins as a hand-crafted bicycle manufacturer in the early 1940s was touted greatly, eventually evolving in 1951 into the country’s first mass producing bicycle plant. Thereafter it became cars. Evolved, really. The rest is history.

They’re not unique. The list of car makers for whom the wheel started turning as a bike manufacturer is longer than your imagine, perhaps you’ve heard of Peugeot, Rover, Daimler and Triumph? All guilty. A couple of car manufacturers have even attempted to go the other route and tried their hands at crafting two wheeled counterparts – BMW, Mercedes-Benz and AUDI, I am looking squarely at you.

Basically, almost all of car creation started out as bicycles, it’s on the same timeline, a sort of ancestral patriarch and yet we’re loath to share space with it on the road today. Same as the motorcycle really, a similarly hated species whose protagonists have upgraded from Lycra to leather and sport significantly bulkier headgear in their pursuit of two-wheeled thrills. Shame on us. Shame, shame, shame! People. I say. Where’s the diversity?  Look, I have a plan to right the wrongs, to cross the divide, and bring unity to all us road users. The solution is cycling of a different sort. It’s very ambitious. So listen.

I propose a new piece of legislation. It’s actually dreadfully simple, but I will need your buy-in for it to be successful. And it boils down to this. In order for us to better appreciate each other’s mode of transport, we need to formulate a swapping system. What will this cost you? Absolutely nothing, in fact if you’re a motorist you might even save some money and a bit of the environment too. It’s like this, car driver. Enjoy your car on a Monday, swap it with a cyclist’s pride and joy on a Tuesday. On the Wednesday morning you can swap that for a motorised bike, before your returning to your four-wheeled whip on a Thursday. Repeat. You following?

The benefits are obvious; experiencing your favourite roads in a new way, a growing tolerance for other types of road users, gain better health and even pick up a new skill or two. The same goes for cyclists and motor bikers who will consequently get to experience our metally, four wheeled chariots of doom and smog, and who knows… perhaps they’ll eventually share our love of all things petroly too. They might even join us in the long run. Either way, I bet you’d be looking at a remarkable conversion rate from one tribe to the other, and with all that public awareness running rife it’s bound to improve the respect we have for each other. What do you think? Have I solved it? Yes, I realise this leaves those with school runs and long distance commuting in a bit of a pickle, but surely we can find a way around that too? Yes? No? Not interested? You cold bastards…

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