Last month’s annual “car-free day” in Bangkok drew almost 20,000 bicycle riders. That may not seem like a lot in a city of 10 million, but it’s a tenfold increase from 2007 and more than a hundredfold from 2005, and it represents successful public and private efforts to encourage bicycling on roads that are literally ruled by cars and motorbikes. Along with more riders has come more bike shops, as well as increased attention to a confusing and faded bike lane system that many residents weren’t even aware of.
What’s the Big Idea?
Bicycling has long been a dangerous endeavor in Thailand’s capital city, says transport minister and cyclist Chadchart Sittipunt: Drivers “don’t feel that bicycles belong to the road. The cars do not feel that we are part of them.” Compounding the problem is the addition of nearly 580,000 cars to the roads last year, thanks to tax rebates provided by the Thai government. However, with so many cars comes a lot more gridlock, and that alone is a strong motivator for people like graphic designer Narawan Pongpimai: “Even though I get wet during the rainy season, it’s still better than waiting in vain for the bus, getting turned down by cab drivers, or spending hours in traffic jams.”
A petition garnered 120,000 signatures, which is more than enough to merit a government vote, possibly before the end of this year. If it passes, it will apply to every member of the working adult population.