Who needs cars, anyway?
24 May, 2014
“Cyclists are a bane of any economy. They don’t take out loans to buy cars, they don’t buy petrol, they don’t use car repair shops, they don’t get insurances, and they don’t pay for parking. They are also healthy, damn it! They do not suffer from obesity, buy medicines or visit doctors. They do not increase GDP.”

Like it or not, Georgia is slowly becoming a modern country. Our economy is growing bigger, our cities are sprawling wider, and
our streets are becoming cleaner. Unfortunately this is accompanied by things like crowding, air pollution and traffic jams. Almost everyone has been in one of those at least once, drumming fingers on the wheel in impatience, sweating profusely in scorching heat and muttering curses in pointless rage. An unpleasant experience which, alas, is slowly becoming a part of our everyday lives.

“The solution is simple, just walk instead!” – some of you will probably say. Yes, walking is a good decision – for those who need to cover small distances. The rest, unless they are professional sprinters, will most likely end up being late for wherever they were headed, heaving and gasping for breath.
“Nothing stops you from using public transportation!” – comes the reply (with a triumphant smile, no less). Allow me to break it to you: unless our buses are outfitted with jet engines and wings, they’d still get stuck in traffic jams. And considering that some people are on poor terms with personal hygiene, you will most likely be exposed to an entire palette of amazing aromas in the meantime.

The real solution to this conundrum is, indeed, quite simple – get a bike. Yes, that old hunk’o’junk that gathers dust and rust on your balcony or in your cellar will become your best friend in today’s busy city streets. Soap it up, hose it down, apply oil, pump some air into the tires and you are good to go.
You’d be surprised by how handy a bike can be. First of all, it is fast. Not as fast as a taxi, but it will get you to your destination faster than any bus or tram. Not to mention you can ignore traffic jams and take shortcuts that no car driver would even dream of. Next, a bike does not require any fuel whatsoever, so you end up saving quite a bit of money, regardless of whether you own a car or opt for public transport. Count how much you pay for a bus every month; it adds up to quite a sum. You will also score brownie points with tree-huggers and hippies.

A bike is also a highly utilitarian transportation method. You can hang your grocery bags on the handlebars or pack your things into saddlebags. You can get a rear rack for your bike (it allows you to carry up to 20kg) or even a rear saddle if you want to give someone a lift. Depending on the model of your bike, you can easily remove the wheels or even fold it, allowing you to use public transportation in a time of need. Besides, your bike does not require much maintenance besides occasional cleaning and oiling, both of which can be easily done in your backyard. Any parts are readily available and relatively inexpensive.

And let’s not forget the best part – riding a bike is beneficial for your health. You don’t have to pay for expensive fancy gyms or clog your house with exercise machines to stay in shape, simply because you exercise every day just by moving from one place to another. Returning home after a good bike ride is more satisfying than any workout you might have, not to mention you actually breathe fresh air in the process, as opposed to several people’s armpit discharge.

But it’s not all rainbows and butterflies. Riding a bike in the city is dangerous, and if you are not careful, you will end up being fondly remembered among local paramedics as “the guy we carried to the morgue in a bucket”. Get a rear-view mirror for your bike and keep an eye on it, because Georgian drivers aren’t exactly known for their respectful behavior on the road. There also exist pedestrians who are apparently part bovine, because they frequently wander from the sidewalk to the road, as if to graze. Get a siren or a whistle to warn them of your approach and probably spare them an exciting trip two meters below the ground. Stick to the right side of the road, do not swerve left and right and stay away from the sidewalk unless absolutely necessary, because it tends to be occupied by annoying creatures such as headphone-wearing joggers, old women carrying bags and parents with small children who behave as if they were born with a purpose to end up under your wheels.

Dogs, especially stray ones, are also a concern. Whoever dubbed them man’s best friends clearly did not own a bicycle. Whenever a cyclist rides by a stray dog, there is an 85% chance that it will start chasing him. Make it 99% if you are riding by a pack of them– you will almost inevitably find yourself pursued by a bunch of barking canines who, in extreme cases, will even try to bite your ankles. There are several ways out of the situation. The most obvious one is just to speed up and leave the pack behind. Braver ones can hop off their bike and swing it at the nearest fleabag, making the pack dissipate in fear. Those in possession of enough space and decent skill can perform a sharp 90-degree jump-and-swivel, hitting the closest dog with their rear wheel. Yelling loudly also works.
Long story short, watch carefully for hazards and employ common sense if you want your bike rides to be both enjoyable and safe.

By Zura Amiranashvili