Bicycles, according to studies, are the fastest growing and predominant mode of access to express public transportation services in many Western communities and some parts of Asia.
Ironically, the best way to move around town and cities in Nigeria is by ‘Okada’ – motorcycles, because they are fast and cheap, but dangerous most times, if you are in a hurry to get about or to meet up with an appointment, especially in Lagos reputed for long traffic jams.
Naturally, bicycles are inexpensive compared with motorcycles, they are good for keeping the body healthy and are environmentally friendly mode of transport. It obviously liberates the owner from oil consumption and frees the environment from the resulting pollution. It is at least energy efficient, unlike walking.
For Emmanuel Akachi who sells bicycles of different types at Apapa, Lagos, “I started by repairing bicycles and this has been so for the past five years, and then two years later I started selling children’s bicycles, now I have added bigger bicycles for adults. It is not an all-new bicycle market but imported used bicycles, and so far sales has really been good since I started with high patronage in the used bicycles. Only a few customers ask for new ones.
“I sell an average of 10 bicycles in a week, sometimes less than that but recently sales have really increased and per bicycle the rate differs, depending on how new and strong it is. Sometimes, the price is also determined by the type of bicycles, for instance, we have Front Shock, Raleigh, Chevrolet, among others.”
In the past six months, market trend has been fluctuating until recently when demand became high and price has not really changed too, he says.
With over 1 billion of it worldwide, twice as many as automobiles, it is the number one vehicle in the world and also the principal means of transportation in many developing countries. Now, bicycles have become part of everyday life in most of the Asian countries. Apart from transportation, bicycle is also a popular form of recreation, and has been adapted for such uses as children’s toys, adult fitness, racing, postal and courier services.
As nations become wealthier, their use of bicycles declined due to the increasing affordability of cars and motorcycles, but recently, several major cities around the world are encouraging people to take up the two wheels by adopting cycling as an integral part of the planned transportation system.
For those who grew up in the village, they can testify that the use of bicycles in the countryside contrasts sharply with what happens in the cities, especially the South Eastern Nigeria; the bicycle is still a part of life as it has been so for decades. People still go to farm, market and stream on bicycles, and almost every house you entered had a bicycle and both male and female can ride on it. However, it is almost a taboo to ride a bicycle in the streets of a place like Lagos, where the latest brands of cars compete for space on the busy highways.
Without the provision of dedicated bicycle lanes on the busy roads in towns and cities, cycling portends great danger and risk of accident.
In a bid to give Nigeria’s most populous city an effective transport system, the state government has also announced plans to introduce bicycle lanes on major roads across the city of Lagos.
Various comments by people
Tunmise Kuku (radio presenter): The roads are not clearly marked and that can be very dangerous for cyclists. In addition, most vehicles on Nigerian roads do not meet the globally acceptable standards, as they emit too much carbon monoxide. But then, real road education will also be needed, especially in the areas of wearing the appropriate gears and helmets. People must understand it has to be safe!
Obiwanne Okezue (banker): For me, bicycle transportation is a no-no in Nigeria. First, the value system of the people; the average Nigerian believes that the bicycle is for the down-trodden. Even the down-trodden believe he can do better than a bicycle. So, most people will rather spend all their savings getting a fourth-hand car than buying a bicycle. Secondly, there are no infrastructure in place to encourage the use of bicycles as means of transportation.
Bicycles are designed for good and smooth roads, which makes the effort of the rider reduced to the barest minimum. However, our roads are very bad and not ideal for cars, not to talk of bicycles. Have you ever wondered what a cyclist would look like when he’s caught up in one of those flooded areas in Lagos, for instance?
Besides that, the construction of our roads did not make provisions for bicycles. One-time minister of transport, Ojo Maduekwe who tried to preach about the use of bicycle as a means of transport was knocked down on one of the occasions, when he was trying to practice what he preached, and that automatically ended the campaign for bicycles.
How many expressways in Nigeria have provisions for walkways? For a growing population like Nigeria’s, what we need are means that can convey large number of people at the same time, to avoid overcrowding the inadequate road network, and this is where good train network comes in.
Afolabi Gambari: I feel the environment doesn’t guarantee safety for bicycle riders. They will need their own pathways on the roads because of their nature, as it obtains abroad and I also observed during my stay in Zimbabwe. I wish we had started the culture from years back. But as it is now, bicycle riders are at their peril for lack of protection from the system.
Ben Ezeamalu: I think the article should be titled ‘Riding to their death.’ Bicycle as an alternative mode of transportation in Lagos, while it is good for climate change, is suicidal and should not be encouraged. How do you ride a bicycle on the same road alongside mentally challenged ‘danfo’ drivers and their counterpart truck drivers?
Secondly, how do you convince the populace to roll out bicycles on the death trap-network of roads?
Unless the government goes back to the basics and build dedicated lanes for the bicycles as do other cities where they want to copy the idea from. Again, there has to be massive sensitisation to encourage people to ride the bicycles.
Derin Ajao: Yes, it is a good thing, to a large extent. People are fit and can beat traffic, depending on how fast they ride. However, I’ve seen a number of them – young and old, riding against traffic and pulling certain stunts even when they’re on a busy road. As with any kind of road activity, safety should be emphasised.