please shed some light

in india we often see bikers in two broad categories.
1. the bikers who earns his living out of the bike or she/he is dependent upon the bike to go for work.
2. the guy who uses bike for his recreation. seldom does she/he go to work on a bike, for commuting in the day to day life

the issue here is that the guy from Category 1 suffers from a social stigma. he is never appreciated for being a biker. whereas the Category 2 guy is always like a hero, though he may be carrying his bike half the time in his SUV, still he is known as an eco-friendly creature. Category 1 guy never gets a pat on his back for doing some good to the world, people just look down upon him, hence he wants to move out his dependency on the bike at the earliest.

by any chance is this a common phenomenon in other parts of the globe or is it India specific? Please let me know your point of view. and any solution is also invited.

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3 responses to “please shed some light

  1. I think it’s not only in India. Anywhere in Southeast Asia, as far as I know, especially in Cambodia (where I know most), only poor the one who bike for earning their living (selling goods on bike) or going to school because they cannot afford using other means, and biking is associated with the status of being poor. As soon as they get enough money (regardless of whether they have enough money to eat well and send their kids to school continuously), they want to buy a motor bike. In Cambodia, even category 2 guys do not exist except foreigners who are considered not as eco-friendly but as health conscious people. From biking, people want to move on to a motor bike, and a car. Having a car is like a symbol of wealth.
    So when I was working at one of the ministry there, I went to my office by bike, and other staffs at the ministry (local staffs) always asked me why I bike (their assumption is that, ” you have money, right?”) with very strange look.

  2. This is a very interesting point that should be dug into more deeply, perhaps something I can address with my research.

    Jens Martin Skibsted, a Danish bicycle designer, groups the world into three broad categories of cyclists (http://vimeo.com/11264400
    ttp://vimeo.com/11264400 -see minutes 7:40-10:30)
    1. Southern Europe (eg, France, Spain, Italy), US and Canada: bicycle as a ‘sports accessory’ (and, I might add, children’s toy)
    2. Belgium, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Germany, Holland, Scandinavia: bicycle as transportation utility vehicle. No coupling to status. Anyone can and does bike, including the prime minister.
    3. ‘3rd world countries’ (e.g., “many Asian countries”): Transport as social status, bicycle as nearly lowest status.

    That makes you someone who is using the bicycle as use #1 and #2 in a country in which bicycling is perceived as #3. There is no ready frame of reference for people to interpret this behavior. What is interesting is that in Cambodia, people thought Ayako was a bit weird whereas in India people seem to think Sudip is admirable.

    How could you get people to change their perception of the bicycle from #3 to #1 and/or better yet to #2? Is there some kind of process, phasing, or strategy to move societies closer to #2? How can the bicycle become ‘normalized’ as a means of transportation? How can you change people’s perception of the bicycle?

  3. I think Jens has nailed the North American cycling mentality. So much so that there are very few cyclists who ride in their normal attire. It seems that most don’t want to be mistaken for a utility biker in NA.

    It’s not common to see people making a living using their bicycle here, but I would say that biking for transport is somewhat stigmatized. That doesn’t go for students however.

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