Namibia wants to roll
Michael Linke, founder and Managing Director of the Bicycling Empowerment Network Namibia, opines on lop-sided transport policy. It's failing to promote biking as a cheap means of transport for his country's poorest people.
The Namibian (Windhoek), 22 June 2007: A myth surrounds the idea of what makes cycling popular in a city.
The idea that 'cycling culture' is the key determinant is simply false.
Most of the European cities where cycling accounts for more than 40 per cent of daily trips have been through decades of car-dominated transport systems.
For social and environmental reasons their residents and town planners decided to make a conscious switch away from a car-dominated system, allocating funds to footpaths, cycle lanes and facilities to lock bicycles.
The residents of these cities are no more or less likely than any others to adopt cycling, yet once they had safe cycling facilities they had a choice.
Public education programmes may be necessary to kick-start the adoption process, but an Owambo or Afrikaner in Windhoek is as genetically predisposed to ride a bicycle as a Dane in Copenhagen.
Cycling also faces a perceptual challenge, in that it is regarded in developing countries as a symbol of backwardness, whereas motor vehicles symbolise progress and development.