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Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Bicycle For Frugality

One of the hallmarks of the idea of frugality is the effort to save, in our daily lives as well as in the long term. It is even better if frugal behaviour can help us do good to our own bodies. It is in this respect that the humble bicycle gains our respect and attracts our attention. The bicycle, with its unassuming pair of wheels and unthreatening handlebars, its rather dull looking pedals and the never comfortable seat, looks likely to remain a feature of everyday frugal living for generations to come. 

The thing about the bicycle is that many nations have had their on and off romance with it. Before the automobile became a full fledged industry, when carriages had horses and were called carriages (and not just "cars"), bicycles were ridden around with dignity. Owners took care to polish their bicycles, keeping them shining, and making sure that the moving parts were well oiled.

The First World countries of ancient days learned to colonize foreign lands, and in the process, helped themselves to the oil, steel and rubber of those lands. The "White Man's Burden" would provide the nascent automobile industry with raw materials. The bicycles fell out of fashion as the preferred mode of transport in the lands of these colonial masters, but became popular in their colonies until decolonization. Today bicycles remain the main mode of transport in countries such as China and Vietnam.

Nevertheless the West has not abandoned its old romance with the bicycle. The bicycle has come back as a way to exercise and to travel -- at the same time. In the age of skyrocketing petrol prices, the bicycle remains an obvious solution for short distance travel. (I am aware that the price of petrol is quite low at the moment, but the concept of "peak oil" states that oil is a non-renewable resource and therefore shall deplete at one point in the future.) The need to physically exert one's strength on the pedals also help shape one's thighs and buttocks. This may be a viable alternative to the very expensive machines at the gymnasium. However, one has to watch out for crazy drivers who disregard the welfare of huffing and puffing bicyclists.

Recently, I have found a great page for enthusiasts of the humble bicycle. The Huffington Post maintains a page about "Bike Culture: Some News Is So Big It Needs Its Own Page". It's a great blog, and the layout is very easy on the eyes. Do pay the page a visit. I hope to revisit this topic soon.