16-22 October 2015 #780

Freewheeling in Kathmandu

One of the temporary side effects of the fuel blockade this month has been that the Valley is cycle-friendly again
Wanda Vivequin

A couple of decades ago, Kathmandu was one of the best cities in the world to bicycle around in. Not too big, not too many vehicles and even Kirtipur and Bhaktapur were easily pedal-able. Times changed, the city grew, traffic choked the narrow streets and the pollution choked everyone. Kathmandu stopped becoming a fun place to bicycle around in.

But one of the temporary positive side effects of the fuel blockade this month has been that the Valley is cycle-friendly again. We know it is not going to last, as the fuel supplies resume the streets will once more be too polluted and crowded to navigate in a bicycle.

PICS: GOPEN RAI

 

This week, I rented a bike from Nepali mountain biking pioneer Sonar Gurung and pedalled to Patan for breakfast, onwards to Sanepa for a meeting past the parked Machhindranath chariot, along unending queues of motorcycles and taxis waiting for rationed petrol, and back to my lodge in Thamel. Kathmandu was so different from any other of the 28 times I have visited the city.

With proper planning, Kathmandu could easily move to pedal power. I envied those who knew Kathmandu in the 70s and 80s, because this week I caught a small glimpse of what Kathmandu Valley must have been back then.

I rode alongside vegetable sellers, pedestrians and savoured the cleanish air racing past humming Safa tempos with cheeky new stickers (‘No Diesel, No Gas, No Problem). I was able to see a city that normally drives me up the wall in a completely different light. 

Read Also:

The road to safety, Bhrikuti Rai

Killers on the road, Anurag Acharya

Thank God It's (A Bike-to-Work) Friday, Tyler Mcmahon

Pedalling for roads

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