This is why the Bible teaches us to live like there will be no tomorrow for us for we do not know what tomorrow holds. We all agree that life is never the same all the time. Who knew that petrol scarcity would reach the level it has today?Â There is no other alternative left before us apart from responding to the situation. The bicycle is the only mode of transport that does not need petrol or a tarred road. Neither does it know potholes.
A bicycle does not cause air and noise pollution. I have heard that vehicles are a reason behind many ailments, including, hypertension, high blood pressure, hearing disorders, respiratory tract infections, obesity, and many other health conditions.
I wish we took bicycles more seriously as an alternative transportation mode for light goods and passengers. The biggest hiccup is that there are so few places with legitimate space for bicycles on the roads of Malawi to make cyclists feel safe and enjoy the ride.
I am here to inform people of Malawi that the revolution in personal mobility did not begin with the automobile.Â It started in America about two decades ago based on a combination of an electric railway and the bicycle.
The bicycle offered the middle and working classes the level of mobility previously reserved to those wealthy enough to afford a carriage. With the advent of cars, bicycles disappeared and became toys.Â Cars drove out bikes because a cyclist became endangered on the road.
Even if we turn a blind eye and death ear to this call, nature will take charge. The revolution has already set in. We have witnessed the flourishing of the bicycle invention in major road joints leading to rural places of the country. Cycling has made a significant comeback. But the incompatibility of cars and bicycles remains a major obstacle.Â It may be the primary reason most people are reluctant to use a bicycle as an alternative to the car.Â They would rather spend days and nights at a fuel station.
Like everywhere else, we have had fuel supply crises and we are likely to have more in the future.Â To prepare better for such situations, we need to prepare a lasting solution by making the roads, especially those leading to and within urban centres, safe enough for bicycles so that people, the working class, might ride them.
We are in a period of great concern to many of us who, on a daily basis, witness business operations stalling or collapse because there is no fuel. We cannot afford to continue complaining when God gave us the ability to reason. One man mentioned that â€œproblems are a gate way to your largest success. For people who cannot drive because they cannot get fuel, some mobility is likely to be better than none. Anyone who throws up a bunch of reasons for not doing something needs to try it first and give it a fair evaluation before discarding it out of hand.â€
As indicated earlier, â€œthe incompatibility of cars and bicyclesâ€ is not the only major obstacle. No less fundamental is the incompatibility of bicycles and pedestrians. Bicycles are a constant source of danger and anxiety to pedestrians.
I have seen some cyclists aggressively making clear their dislike of pedestrians. In the case of a collision, the cyclist, like the automobile, can speed off. Unlike the automobile, the cyclist cannot be held to accountability by a license plate number.
It is better for us to proactively work out solutions to evade worse fuel crisis scenarios. With regard to the concerns people might hold against bicycles, cycling is not going to work as a transportation alternative without a major legal and social readjustment that effectively holds both motorists and cyclists accountable for dangerous driving and aggressive behaviour.
The author is a development consultant in Lilongwe.