Category Archives: bikes and cars

Waiting Out the Election

Day 52, bus day, stages 42 – 44, 350km

Start, Catholic convent Marsabet

Finish, Sportsmans Arms Hotel, Nanyuki

Busses are not made for pleasure. Busses are an expedient. They get you from A to B when there are no better options. We knew that. We knew that it was the right and expedient option. We also knew that the bus we were on was as good as a bus could be in the circumstances. But nobody wanted to be on that bus. So 60 copies of the Grinch that stole Christmas got on the bus at 6:15 ready to steal the presents from the kids in the town below. The combat fatigues and guns were with us on time. We left as the sun came up.

Yesterday we covered two days of cycling, today we would cover three and about 350km. Only the first of these three days was off road. So we expected to make better time once we hit tarmac to cover the final two days of this bussed section. As we entered Marsabet we left the lava fields. We were now onto hilly and green country – we even saw some wildlife.

We drove. We stopped for pee breaks. We drove. We stopped for lunch. We drove. We hi tarmac. We drove faster. We started to climb towards Mount Kenya. We drove some more. Eventually we arrived at Nanyuki over 11 hours later. People were numb. Stares were blank. People got off the bus wondering of their legs would still support them.

We had arrived at a place called the Sportmans Arms hotel, a fairly large place that caters to people who visit the game parks nearby or who have come to climb Mont Kenya. We will be here for the next 4 days and 5 nights waiting out the election and the early results. Gotta love politics and politicians. But pretty soon we had rooms sorted and cold beers in our hands. People were beginning to dis uss how they would spend their unexpected holiday.

Dinner was an event. Although The Sportsmans Arms is a big hotel and should be used to big crowds they were obviously a bit flummoxed. All did not go as planned. I was at a table with eight people. There were half a dozen similar tables occupied by equally hungry bus riders. We gave out orders to the waitress but she didn’t write anything down. We commented that she must have a good memory, since she was also serving several other tables. In a very lovely voice she said yes of course and then proceeded to do her party trick and go around the table repeating everybody’s order. She got about half of it right then tried again and got the other half right but forgot the first half. When things started to arrive after an hour or so John’s oxtail soup became leek soup, Sandy’s vegetable salad went missing in action, as did Vince and Wayne’s ice cream, red wine became white wine, 3 beers instead of 4 came (after another half hour and repeated reminders, Wayne went into the bar and bought one), and the three people who ordered cheese burgers received them at twenty minutes intervals and without cheese. But we enjoyed it and stayed up until the wild and reckless hour of 9pm.

5 reasons to ride a bike

I google’d ‘why do we ride bikes’ in a brain dead moment after finishing and sending off a long report. According to David Fiedler there are 5 reasons:

1. For Your Body

There are health benefits for people of all ages

  • increased cardiovascular fitness
  • increased strength
  • increased balance and flexibility
  • increased endurance and stamina
  • increased calories burned

Can’t really argue with that. Although I don’t really think too many car drivers get cyclist’s palsy in their hands (that tingly feeling) or have to slather on chamois cream before a hundred mile ride.

2. For Your State of Mind

It is a proven stress releaser. After a ride you feel relaxed, energized and happier about the world and yourself. And it is fun so it keeps you from taking yourself too seriously.

So no more Prozac for Mr. Fieldler. That’s good. I like that. I’m happy now. No stress.

But is a sixty-year-old man cycling through a sub Saharan desert in canary yellow or bright pink spandex taking himself too seriously or not seriously enough? Your call. Depends on what kind of fun you are having in your canary yellow spandex I guess.

3. For Your Community

It’s good for the people around you – one less car on the road. No noise. You are able to interact with people. It does not harm the environment: no polluting exhaust, no oil or gas consumed, small material inputs.

I like this. Makes me sound virtuous, which of course I am, if a bit dull. Are the material inputs for 8 bikes less than the energy and material inputs to make 1 small car? Possibly.

But not so sure about the people interaction bit. The roads can be mean. Kind of hard to toss off a friendly ‘Hi, how’s your day been?’ when somebody’s just pulled out in front of you and sent your over the bars.

4. For Convenience

There is an undeniable convenience factor: parking spaces are guaranteed, traffic jams are irrelevant.

Absolutely. And so easy to throw into the back of a pickup. Did you get the license plate #?

5. For Your Pocketbook

When you start multiplying cost per mile to operate a car by the distance you ride, you can easily calculate how much money you save by riding a bike.

daily round trip commute = 10 miles.

operating cost of car per mile = 30 pence

Cycle to work 150 days in a year

Savings = 10 * 150 *.3 =  £450

Makes sense?

Cycling shoes =  £120

Cycling shorts * 4 = £240

Cycling jerseys * 4 = £240

Rain jacket = £80

10 inner tubes = £50

2 pairs of cycling gloves = £30

1 new chain = £30

Yes, perfect sense!

Don’t forget to donate to the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania.

ChipIn: Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania



More and more bikes

According to one source, “there are more than a billion bicycles in the world, twice as many as automobiles. In recent years bike production has climbed to over 100 million per year (compared to 50 million cars).”

Go to to see up to date data on bicycle production.

One would like to think that this means that bikes are overtaking cars and that the real answer to climate change is the bicycle. Not really.

Unfortunately the usage trend may be going the other way. China is the biggest owner of bikes with over half a billion on the road. But if you have been to China lately you will have seen that roads that used to be rivers of bicycles twenty years ago are now clogged with cars.

The Japanese, Korean and Indian car manufacturers all see China as their major growth market, to say nothing of the emergence of new Chinese manufacturers.  Some facts published in the Daily Telegraph in Aug 2011:

  • In 2009, China surpassed the US as the largest auto manufacturing and consuming country in the world.
  • In 2010 China’s automobile output and sales volume both exceeded 18 million, setting a new world record.
  • Currently, there are more than 72 million private cars on the road in China, and a total of 217 million vehicles.
  • In 1999 the country had just under 4,000 miles of motorway, now it has more than 40,000 miles.
  • A total of 11 cities, including Beijing, Shenzen, Shanghai, Chengdu and Tianjin, have more than 1 million cars.
  • Beijing itself has more than 4.6 million cars, and recently introduced restrictions on the purchase and use of vehicles in an attempt to limit pollution and congestion.
  • There are now 60 private cars for every 100 families in the country.

This is happening in Africa as well. According to one estimate, there were 36,000 cars in all of Tanzania in 2001. There are now close to 30,000 cars arriving at the port of Dar Es Salaam every month and there are now 1 million registered cars in Dar Es Salaam for a population of 4 million.

Bikes never really took off in Africa the way they did in China – in spite of their popularity is some pockets. As an Economist article from 2008 said: “Africans tend to turn their back on bikes as soon as they can afford anything with an engine.”

And if you have a car you tend to use it. The widely accepted average for car use is 12,000 to 15,000 miles a year.  How many miles did you ride on your bike last year? Too many bikes sit in the garage or shed unused from one week or month to the next.

Bikes and cars also compete for the same road space. Who do you think will win? Research done in Australia shows that 87% of car/bike accidents are caused by cars.

In the UK in 2011, 107 cyclists died as a result of accidents involving motor vehicles and over 19,000 were injured. In the US in 2010, 618 died and 52,000 were injured. And these stats come from countries that take bicycle safety seriously and provide bikes lanes.  I don’t have stats for China or Africa. I don’t think I want to see them. But a month ago, here in Dar, a friend was knocked off her bike by a water truck. She is now ok. It could have been much worse. But it is symptomatic.

So what do manufacturing numbers really tell us? In general, bicycle riding is shifting from transport and work to leisure and sport. In developing countries those who can afford it leapfrog to anything with an engine as soon as they can. In emerging nations that once depended on the bike, cars are taking over. In developed nations lots of people have good intentions about getting fit. And there must be storage sheds full of bikes somewhere. What will the Martians think.

Don’t forget to donate to the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania.

ChipIn: Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania.