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Bike Commuting

How can we promote bike commuting or urban cycling among city dwellers who are used to riding motorcycles or driving cars? This is an important question that all of us need to answer.
Percentages of Bike Commuting Lifestyle
On page 7 of Making Cycling Irresistable: Lessons from the Netherlands, Denmark, and Germany written by John Pucher and Ralph Buehler, I found some interesting figures. Bike commuting (travel to work or school) accounts for 28 % in Germany, 32% in the Netherlands and 35% in Denmark. These are technologically advanced states in Europe where car ownership is almost universal. Most of their citizens have got cars but they take up cycling as their preferred mode of transportation due to its health, economic, social and environmental benefits.
Some women were cycling as a late afternoon sports and sightseeing activity in Makassar city.
Some women were cycling in Makassar
Cycling is not in the government's strategic policy for tackling the rising fuel demand
In Indonesia, we are still very far from reaching even 1% figure. The main reason for our inability to take up cycling as part of our lifestyle is the government's subsidy on fuel price. Cheap gasoline has been taken for granted by most of the population of Indonesia even though we are now beginning to import half of our fuel from the middle east. I also just read a news in Yahoo which says that governments give serious attention to the development of electric vehicles as a solution to rising air pollution from internal combustion engines that has become a serious health problem for a lot of people in crowded cities. Also the governments subsidies on fuels when they are in high price have become a heavy burden for the economy.

Cycling in Campus
I write this post based on my personal experience of cycling in Indonesia. In Manokwari, the city where I live, the percentage of people who bike to work or bike to campus is very low. It is less than 0.1 percent. There are hundreds of people who ride their mountain bikes in the afternoons but they only consider cycling or mountain biking as sports - and not for commuting.

I remember the time when I was a university student 18 years ago when I went to campus on foot. Most of my friends took public transportation. When the mini buses arrived at the main gates of the University of Pattimura, the students continued their trip to campus on foot. It took around 5 minutes to reach the building of faculty of engineering - the place where I studied Naval Architecture.

I had a friend who went to work and to campus by bicycle. His name was Erwin. He used his bike to deliver newspapers to lecturers and office workers who lived near our campus. After that he rode his BMX bike to campus. At that time, I didn't consider cycling as a perfect choice to travel in my university. So, I didn't buy a bicycle. I only walked or used public transportation. He was the only student who used bicycle to campus. There was also a lecturer from CIDA who rode to his office that was located behind the faculty of agriculture.

I don't know whether students in Pattimura university have taken up cycling or not. I believe that most of them still walk to campus and significant percentage of them ride motorcycles.

I don't live in Ambon city anymore. I live in Manokwari - the capital of West Papua province. I often pass by the campus of Unipa. Unipa stands for the University of Papua. I see that there are a lot of students and lecturers who ride motorcycles. Most of them do not see cycling as the most efficient way to go to campus. Most government workers here go to work by motor bikes and cars.

Cycling Tour for Tourists
In order to promote cycling as people's lifestyle, I try to offer foreign tourists to join a short cycling tour in the afternoons when they visit Manokwari for hiking and birding in the Arfak mountains. Arfak mountains and the north coast of Manokwari are the most popular tourist destinations in West Papua for anybody who wants to watch birds of paradise. When they have finished hiking and birding in the mountains, I offer a short city tour using bicycle. I frequently invite my friends who are members of MTB- Manokwari - a mountain bike community group to join the cycling tour. We ride our bikes slowly around the main streets of the city to attract the attention of city dwellers and users of cars and motorcycles.

I understand that I cannot achieve my goal in just a few cycling tours with foregin guests. However, I believe that the cycling tours with foreign tourists in Manokwari really bring significant influence among the people who see us riding our bikes. The psycological effects of watching us traveling by bicycles with tourists in the main streets of the city will encourage more city dwellers of Manokwari to ride bicycles - I hope.

Cycling in Bali
Bicyles are frequently used by tourists in Bali. The most popular tropical island in Indonesia. Millions of tourists visit Bali every year. In Bali particularly in Ubud area, I see that there are a lot of foreign visitors who travel by bicycles. During my tour around Bali from December 2011 to February 2012, I really enjoyed cycling in Ubud. Some cycling tour companies in Bali even provide tours around the island by bikes. Unfortunately, bike commuting is still not a common practice among most of the Balinese people. The Balinese travel by motorcycles and private cars. Two important areas in Bali, Kuta and Legian, are crowded with cars and motorcycles during the rush hours. Traffic jams will discourage visitors from going to Bali. Cycling or bike commuting in Kuta and Legian is a cheapest solution to tackle the problem.

Green Trees along the streets
Indonesia is a tropical country. During the days, the temperatures are between 29 to 31 degree Celcius. With high humidity, cycling in Indonesia can be a challenging lifestyle but possible. I saw more foreigners ride bicycles in Ubud town of Bali than any other cities and towns in Indonesia. There are a lot of green trees growing on both sides of the roads and streets of Ubud. These green trees provide shades and create cooler environment that is required for cycling in tropical region. Therefore, to increase the percentage of bike commuting among the population of Indonesia, it is not only the cycling lanes and other pro-cycling infrastructure that we need to build but also more green trees. by Charles Roring
Also read:
Mountain Biking in the rainforest
Cycling in Manokwari

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