Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Fuel scarcity? Rent a bike.

The Netherlands is quite an interesting country in many different ways, but what has captivated me most about this country is the bicycling culture. I was so amazed on a recent trip to Amsterdam to see the huge bike "flyover" in front of the central station that I had to take pictures. I have never seen so many bikes in one place in my life. And its the same picture all over the country.

Biking(and I don't mean Okada o!) would be a great way out of all the difficulties faced by Nigerians during the regular as a clockwork fuel scarcities in Nigeria. And before you rush to say that its unsafe biking on Nigerian roads and especially in Lagos, I recall reading various reports that likened Lagos to a ghost town due to a dearth of cars on its streets because of the inavailability of fuel.
Infact, this could even be a good business opportunity for some people. Imagine buying several bikes to rent out for a certain amount of money. Minimal maintainance, maximal profit. Almost every damage can be fixed by oneself. A friend of mine once said she had to ride Okadas in her estate because taxis and buses dropped people at the entrance to the estate and it was to far to walk in the blistering sun. Just visualise Mr. X owning a bicycle rental at the entrance to the estate. He would have railings to lock up the bikes both at the estate gate and nearer to the houses so people could return bikes they had borrowed from one end to the other "depot". Please go ahead, steal my idea. I'm eager for you to. The benefits would be great, no more environmental pollution, free exercise, no longer being at the mercy of Okada drivers, bicycle accidents are less fatal, I could go on and on. My people, the pure water business is so out, the new craze should be rent-a-bike. At least this one, it won't leave the roadsides littered with polythene bags.

In fact, I'm thinking of starting a Bike for survival initiative :)! The only obstacle I can see to it is our bigmanism culture, where some people would rather ride in death trap "taxis" or buy resurrected 30 year old Tokunbohs to cutting their coats according to their size and buying good old Kekes. But sha I have faith in the good old younger generation. Infact I think one of those wildly popular people just needs to take up biking in Lagos, and you will see how people will follow. Abeg, bikes are the new Jags.


Shola said...

keke ke? oh girl if na joke, stop am!
bicycles dont have the stamina to cope with the roughness of nigerian roads and drivers, except its just for leisure in some reserved neighbourhoods.

April said...

Marin, Lol!

'Bike for survival initiative', I like that!:->

Seriously though, I agree with what you say about all it takes is for someone to start the fad. You know how good naijas are with following the crowd/keeping up with the Jones's...that kind of thing!

Well, let's see what happens.

Akin said...

I have to laugh about the bicycle thing in front of Amsterdam Central Station.

A few years ago, I had to pick up my uncle and aunt visiting from Nigeria at Schiphol airport, then told them I had to get my bike.

What do you need with a bicycle? He asked - I told him that is how we get around.

You could see their faces and read their minds - how can a man have been in Europe for over 10 years and only have a bicycle? - in fact, I had 3.

Then they saw the bicycle park 3-storeys of thousands of bicycles and like a show had been put on for them, eevery kind of contraption was attached to bicycles as we walked back to my place.

When they were leaving, my uncle said, if he had not seen the bicycle park and the pervasiveness of that means of transport he would have been speechless about what to tell my people back at home.

Bicycles are a way of life and a reckless traffic nuisance in Amsterdam, though I am hardly an all-weather rider, I prefer the warmth of summer.

Atala Wala Wala said...


I'm afraid that I don't agree with you when you say that "Biking ... would be a great way out of all the difficulties faced by Nigerians during the regular as a clockwork fuel scarcities in Nigeria." And I say that as a fanatical cyclist who even rides in sub-zero weather.

For one thing, in Lagos, drivers aren't used to seeing cyclists on the road, so they don't make the necessary allowances that they need to make when passing by or approaching you on your bike. Toss in the fact that most cars aren't roadworthy and that most drivers have terrible driving skills, and you arrive at the conclusion that you really need both hands free so that you can clasp them in prayer to God for survival.

Then there is the terrible state of the roads. Bicycles are no less immune to damage from potholes than cars are - in fact, some potholes are so bad that they can not only take out the cyclist's tube, but his tyre, his wheel and even (in some exceptional cases) his frame. A cyclist who valued the state of his bike would find himself spending most of his journey wheeling his bike along than sitting on it.

And then there's status. Which sane aspirational Nigerian would be caught dead on a bike? How would he ever survive the gossip? In fact, I think that this aspect is the BIGGEST reason why cycling to work will not become popular anytime soon.

And I haven't even talked about convenience... who wants to arrive at work extra-sweaty because they've been cycling under the hot sun? Or because they've been so drenched inside out by torrential rain?

Having said all this, I laud you for thinking of the rent-a-bike idea. I will say that I have come across bike rental places in Lagos, even though they are few and far between. And the main motivation to rent (from what I gather) seems to be for mostly recreational purposes (i.e. riding around locally or for exercise), but definitely NOT for transport.

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