We have added bicycle lanes… that parked cars block with impunity and that run down the middle of vendor- and pedestrian-filled footpaths.
We stress the importance of public transportation, while dickering over the replacement of noxious, smoke-belching busses and the ever-delayed extensions of rail lines.
And we participate in Car Free Day.
While the rest of the world celebrates Car Free Day on September 22, which this year fell on a Tuesday, we found that a bit inconvenient and so instead celebrated it on the previous Sunday.
While the rest of the world emphasizes getting out of the car on onto your bikes, Car Free Day was just an excuse for those of us who already are cycling, to get together for what wasn’t much more than a publicity stunt.
While mayors and politicians in major cities around the world actually get out of their cars and bike to work or take public transit, our politicians were chaffered to the Car Free Day events. Only a few people from the Ministry of Energy actually made the effort.
While this may sound a little bitter, I assure you I’m not. The (pre-)Car Free Day event brought together about 5,000 cyclists from around the city. We met at Kasetsart University (originally is was going to be Sanam Luang, the large royal parade ground, but that had been under seige by the “red shirt” anti-government protesters the day before and we thought better of going there) for a group photo on the football pitch, organized into a map of Thailand. This was dutifully reprinted in some of the local papers the following day, having absolutely no effect on the number of cars on the road on the 22nd.
This publicity stunt was reasonably well organized, but still required more than an hour of standing around in the hot sun. I didn’t have the patience, since I actually wanted to ride. So I snapped this picture after about twenty minutes. It is meant to be the north third of Thailand. Chiang Rai is kind of up near the goal posts.
Everyone was in a jovial mood. Many people who ride for fun have wonderful, unique bicycles. There are several that are doctored in various ways, customized to express the personalities and playfulness of their owners. We even had a few Victorian bicycles. Can you imagine riding this in Bangkok traffic?
On my way home, I explored a stretch of road I did not previously know about, heading along Thanon Prasert-Manukitch through the Lat Prao district to Thanon Ram-Intra. I think I once drove out here but have never cycled in this area.
Two blocks from home, while riding along a street that was mid-way through repaving, my rear tire popped and I started to lose air. Thankfully, I made it back home before the tube was completely flat. This served as the necessary prompting to finally take my bicycle in for maintenance. I’ve had it more than three years without any work done to it.
More about that later…