First “Great Sana’a Bike Ride” on April 2Promoting the virtues of two-wheelers [Archives:2004/724/Last Page]

March 25 2004

By Bernie Power
For The Yemen Times

Recent years have seen a dramatic increase in the traffic in Sana'a. Getting around this city by car is taking more time than ever. Parking is a problem. And a brown pall of pollution hangs over the city.
Enter the bicycle, a perfect way for getting around the suitable roads in Sana'a. Yemen's climate is suitable for biking all year round. Its flat geography makes it easy. And A bicycle is often much faster than a car.
Considering such benefits of the bike, the first Great Sana'a Bike Ride, a 21 km ride around the city, is taking place on Friday April 2nd.
Organized by the NGO International Community Services, it will begin at 8 a.m. from the maydaan saba'een, near the Pizza Hut.
There will be a festival atmosphere, with a Lucky Draw at the beginning of the Ride. Prizes have been donated by the sponsors Spacetel and the Taj Sheba Hotel, as well as the Yemen Times.
It will not be a race, with winners and losers, but a fun Ride, a community event, open to all: a time to get outside, have some exercise, make some new friends, and enjoy the sights and sounds of the Arab Cultural Capital of 2004.
Everyone involved will be a winner. And the virtues of two-wheelers – which have been around for many years – will be displayed for people across the city.
The wheel actually has been around for a very long time. Cartwheels with spokes were used in Mesopotamia over 4,000 years ago, and it seems the Chinese used them over 6,000 years ago. But it was a long time before it occurred to anyone to put one behind the other and to use this as a mode of transport. In 1817 Baron von Drais of Baden invented a 'running machine' to help him move more quickly around his forests. It consisted of two spoked wheels joined by a frame with a seat in the middle. It was propelled by pushing it along with a leg on either side.
In the 1860's, the French mechanic Pierre Michaux attached pedals to the front wheel. Later James Starley of the Coventry Machinists Company increased the front wheel diameter to allow greater speed, which led to the familiar 'penny-farthing' design. In 1885, John Kemp Starley (James' nephew) invented the 'Rover' bicycle, which overcame the dangers of a large front wheel by attaching gears and cranks to the rear wheel instead.
John Boyd Dunlop invented pneumatic tyres in 1888 – competitions then proved that a 'safety' bicycle with pneumatic tyres could easily match the daredevil speeds of the penny-farthing. This established the standard design that has survived to the present day.
Since then, bicycles have had a huge impact on society. JK Starley went on to form the Rover car company, and many other transport pioneers – such as Henry Ford and the Wright Brothers – also began as cycle mechanics.
Cycling opened up new horizons for people in the nineteenth century by allowing them to travel beyond their home community. The invention of the motor car appeared to sound the death knell of the bicycle in industrialized countries. However in recent years, the humble two-wheeler has enjoyed a revival in the West. The reasons for this have been several.
The environmental effects of the petrol-driven monsters soon became apparent – these included the pollution of cities through noxious chemicals released into the atmosphere, the destruction of forests and farmlands to build even more highways, and the depletion of non-renewable fossil fuels. Socially, cars were seen as 'isolation capsules', enclosing and separating people from each other. Higher speeds, traffic jams and parking problems added to the stresses of modern society. New concepts like 'road-rage' entered our terminology.
The bicycle, by contrast, has many advantages. It is cheap and clean to run, as well as convenient to park.
There are also health benefits. According to the British Heart Foundation, cycling at least 30 kms per week reduces the risk of coronary heart disease to less than half that for non-cyclists. Cycling at a gentle 20 kph on a flat road uses 450 kcal per hour.
Cycling also raises the speed of your metabolism for hours afterwards, so your body continues to burn calories even after exercise. Cycling is mainly an aerobic activity. This is beneficial to the lungs which expand to push as much oxygen into the body as possible and the heart which beats faster to transport this oxygen around your body.
A strong heart and powerful lungs form the basis of general fitness. Exercising releases what are known as endorphins into your blood – these create a feeling of contentment and happiness, therefore helping to reduce stress.
Recent years have seen a dramatic increase in the motor traffic in Sana'a. It now takes a significant amount of time to get around this city by car. Parking has become a problem. Each day a brown pall hangs over the city. We are starting to choke in our own pollution.
One solution is to promote the usage of bicycles. The roads in Sana'a are good, and the climate is suitable for biking all year round. The flat geography makes it easy to get around. In fact, a bicycle is often much faster than a car.
So mark April 2 on your calendars. And ride on.