Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Yangon - the city with nary a bicycle

The blog's been a little quiet lately and for that I apologise.

One of my excellent excuses for this being the case is the fact that I've been in Myanmar for the last 10 days. I realise that still leaves two weeks of blog silence unaccounted for and for that I blame laziness.

Anyway, Myanmar is an interesting place. It is a country that is quickly opening its doors to the outside world and moving tentatively towards democracy, maybe.

And like other countries in the region, it also has many bicycles. That is, unless you visit the former capital and economic centre, Yangon. There, you'll be hard pressed to find any two-wheeled vehicles, be they motorised or otherwise.

That's because the regime outlawed two-wheeled vehicles. As a result, when you travel through the city you'll come across an awful lot of traffic. That's not surprising when you consider the fact that not only does this city of 4.5 million people outlaw bicycles and motorbikes, but it also has a crappy bus service and a train that travels at walking pace.

Just don't do it in Yangon

You may be wondering why bicycles are banned, and that's fair enough. The answer is, I'm not really sure. The most common explanation seems to be that the death toll amongst cyclists and motorbikes was too high. Clearly, this is an outrageous reason to ban bicycles. It completely ignores the cause of the problem and remedies it with a band-aid solution that disregards the needs of the public. If people started driving tanks around town, I guess cars would be banned.

Another explanation is that bicycles and motorbikes were flouting the rules too much. I'm sure there are many people in Melbourne and elsewhere who would be happy to see the same done for the same reasons.

One of the few bikes I saw in Yangon, outside a police station. Police bike?

And a third explanation is that a general was annoyed by some motorbikes while driving along in his motorcade. Fair enough too.

These trishaws seem permitted in town, although there aren't many.

Not far out of town, bicycles can be spotted.

And here in Kalaw, hundreds of kilometres from Yangon, it's business as usual.

The after life of a bicycle

I guess in a city of cars, there's bound to be some deceased

Whatever the reason, the vibrant and exciting city that is Yangon is a little poorer, and gridlocked, for its lack of two-wheeled vehicles.


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