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An Ethic for the new bicyclist


Picture by: Parth Sanyal (taken off the internet)


There are a visible and growing number of non-traditional bicyclists on Bangalore's streets of mayhem these days.  The non-traditional bicyclist is most easily identified by her or his helmet (most often, 'his', we must reluctantly admit).  Then there are the bikes themselves and all the other gear - bike lights, biking outfits, backpacks, pannier bags, special shoes, bike computers, fluorescent stuff that he - or in the rarer instance, she - might choose to employ.  Nevertheless the tribe of bicyclists (henceforth, bikers) is increasing - and this is a not a bad thing.  We all desperately need less noise, less fumes, more physical exercise, and a smaller footprint in our town.  There can be no denying this.


So before its too late, we want to argue for an ethic among the 'new' biker. 


We will start by saying that the traditional biker, to a great extent, already embodies this ethic.  He lives a low footprint lifestyle in the first place, by consuming less of everything. Although this may be the case by circumstance rather than intent - we can't be sure, and there are undoubtedly some enlightened, simple-living masters in that community - it is nevertheless the case that the traditional biker is a lower environmental impact citizen, than the rest of us.  He is also likely to be softer spoken (although, of course, we can't be sure about this) than others higher up on the economic food chain and possibly more compassionate (although again we can’t be entirely sure about this). Whatever the case, we only have the right to preach this ethic to the new biker.


The new biker ethic, we propose, will involve taking a pledge of allegiance and acceptance along the following lines:


1.  I have no claim to being environmentally more sensitive merely because I ride a bike.  This means I am still totally obligated (and automatically so) to consume less in all aspects of my life, reduce my use of plastic (or at the least dispose the thing responsibly), not throw trash on the streets, grow trees, take fewer flights, etc. just like the regular guys must.


2.  I will obey traffic rules (and make every attempt to lead by exemplary example in doing so).  This means that I will, among other things:

  - Stop at and honor all traffic lights

  - Always ride on the correct side of the road

  - Obey one-ways

  - NOT ride on already scarce and endangered sidewalks/footpaths

  - NOT jump on and off sidewalks and footpaths in a show of my biking (or my bike’s) prowess.

   Neither will I go 'boo' by sneaking up behind the elderly on a footpath in my strange and   

   fanciful attire and induce heart attacks, physical damage or other distress among already besieged

   pedestrians. At most, I may slowly ride or lead my bike across at a pedestrian crossing - but I will

   still make every attempt not to ride over the toes of, or into, other pedestrians, in doing so.


(Before you protest - imagine, imagine - that if there are 50,000 new bikers in town instead of the current 1000 (?) - all brute forcing their way around like the automobile wallahs do - where would we stand?)


3. I remain aware that my fancy bike is also a technological creation and has consumed vast resources (although presumably less per unit than, say, an automobile) in the process of its development and production.  Aluminum comes from bauxite mines and used lots of fossil fuel along the way in its being made.  Steels and other alloys, equally so. Gears are made from advanced materials, and in the process of my bike's design, construction and mass production lots of people spent lots of time flying around the world burning fossil fuels, emitting carbon dioxide and slogging in other ways.  My bike (or parts of it) may have also been shipped in a box from a far away place.   Et cetera, et cetera.  There is therefore, a great deal of embedded energy, and consequently embedded environmental damage, in my fancy bike - and I remain humble as a result of this.


4.  I ride my bike for pleasure and to stay fit, besides perhaps a few other reasons.


5. I am NOT cooler than the regular, non-biker guy just because I ride a fancy bike.  I am also funny looking when in biking regalia.


6.  My other vehicle is not an SUV.  If it is, at least I promise to use it less and not be the brute that I don’t want other people to be when I am on my bike.  I will also try to work towards giving up my SUV over time, and living at peace with myself for doing so.


7.  To be a “true” biker I MUST subscribe to an overall ethic of sustainability and leaner living. Taking to a bike is undoubtedly a great first step but there are other aspects of my life and ways that remain open to re-examining.


Bikes and bikers have the potential to change the world and influence the kinds of (more natural & ecologically sensitive) technologies that will be built and developed.  But, to do so we must be united in subscribing to a common ethic and an ideal, and in achieving a true biker outlook. 


Sensitivity, sensibility and a sense of the greater common good must prevail.


What say, chaps?