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“The automobile is not a luxury, but a means of transportation!”
Ostap Bender, 1931, Udoev
I remember, when in 90s many things suddenly became cheap. It became cheap to get a Zenit SLR camera in good condition, and the crappy compact was much more expensive.
People who used compacts were thinking that their cameras are superior, and that SLR’s are for use by poor people.
I remember that there was a time, when I, being a poor student, could afford myself a bicycle. Good bicycle – “Tourist” that was hard to afford for a decent family during Soviet years.
I was amazed how fast society tastes changed. Just a couple of years ago they were talking that “Zenit is a professional camera” (of course it wasn’t, even Prakticas made in DDR were much better), and after that they were considering that plastic crap cameras are cool.
The same story with bikes. Bikes which were described by this strong word “professional” were soon forgotten, without a replacement. I had a feeling that I am the only one in the city who wanted a bicycle.
And then, twenty years late, it seems that the bike is back on streets. People even start to make businness by bringing more or less good quality bikes. What happened?
I have a theory about it.
There were some enthusiasts who were trying to push the “bycicle” movement. There are always someone who tells that you need to carry your own bag to super market, and to use a bike. That doesn’t mean you will. So this people, let’s say, were not really successful. Not even when they were organizing free bycicle driving lessons.
And then, a couple of guys, who just love cycling, started to go driving together, make photos, and… drum roll – publish those photos in facebook. It turned out, that facebook is a really powerful tool. Everybody can see, how good, even cool are those guys, they drive, make photos, own a cool bikes (indeed they had to go to Tbilisi in order to bring them). They are visible, noticeable. People who have interests are always noticeable. People who have interests and are on facebook – noticeable hundred times as much.
Shortly, really shortly after, literally hundreds of people were joining their trips – in particularly to make photos and share those photos on facebook.
It turned out that bicycle plus a camera is one of the most effective ways to show yourself, how cool you are. Effective – cause it is not necessary to work on something for years, to become an expert in something. It is only necessary to learn to drive a bicycle. Not that hard, believe me – the requirement is to spend a couple of hours.
People like easy ways.
Also, it turned out that people won’t skimp on public relations. The better bycicle we use, the better show we get. This causes unprecedented opportunities for small business.
One may argue that it’s good that people in Armenia eventually start to use bikes, no matter what their motives are. So it’s not the beauty which may save the world – it’s the showing off. I am not happy with it.
It’s a pity, but I believe that bike as a means of transport will never be popular here as much as in Europe. It will remain the luxury in a best-case scenario.
Because in order to become widespread there must be some other need than flossing.
There is a really expensive public transport in Europe. It forces citizens to drive bicycles. People in Europe are not that rich as we think. Otherwise they wouldn’t get wet under the often rains.
It’s much cheaper to get a bicycle, rather than pay 5-7 euros per trip or per day. In fact, a decent bicycle often costs less than a monthly ticket. Petrol is not cheap in Europe either. That explains why there are people who own cars but use bycicles on a regular basis.
Sure, there are enthusiasts too, and more than here, but they do not constitute a majority.
That is why I believe that unless public transport prices significant rise in Yerevan, the bicycle will remain a luxury – and won’t become a widely accepted means of transport.
People say, that we do not have suitable road markup, or driver culture. It’s not a problem at all, and will change as soon as majority of the drivers on the streets will become cyclers. Of course municipality won’t prepare roads for a couple of marginals.
It seems that public transport will remain affordable, otherwise may have revolution – either way bicycle won’t become a means of transport.
And for now, as Great Combinator said, petrol from you, ideas from us.
und so weiter.
About the Author
Norayr aka Noch is a software therapist dining philosopher