TO BEGIN with a literary conceit: by the time the 'bicycle' came into existence and took 5 decades to establish itself in the lexicon of the late 20th century fashion of urban nomadism, history had been through numberless cycles of change and was heartily sick of them. And then, in the early 20th, bicycles themselves suddenly started creating history by becoming the most numerically popular form of individual transport the world had seen.
China's Long March was nothing if not a marchpast of bicycles in their millions. For a long while, bicycles formed the basis of the LTTE's attack-and-flee tactics against the Sri Lanka government. The Netherlands has 15 million citizens and 14 million bicycles. The United States of America manufactures bikes for midgets and giants. Bicycling is an Olympic sport.
Moreover, who'd have thought that the descendants of the precarious and butt-breaking velocipede would hit paydirt as the cleanest and greenest of all modes of transport? Among the list of achievements: the world's fastest human-powered car is a high-exertion 2-wheeler; the first human-powered microlight to fly across the Atlantic was nothing more than a glorified cycle with gossamer wings and bike undercarriage.
If ever there is an eco-revolution -- and let's hope there is sooner rather than too late -- there is no doubt that bicycles will provide the impetus. As it is, bikes in India have a million different faces and uses -- right from carting bales of hay to the market to transporting a family of 5. In the Netherlands, millions of bikes have one face, coloured green.
Undoubtedly, the people who will have problems fitting into the bike-engendered eco-revolution are the other Continentals and the WASPS, who ride bikes for the same reason that they play Casio keyboards: fashion. And no particular commitment to the greater good.
"Revolution on 2 wheels" is not a fashion statement. It is one of our last strategies for survival.
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