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Friday, October 08, 2010

Daegu Bike Rally

Back in the spring, I rode my bike over to the "Green Households" shop to buy some locally-made soap, dishwashing liquid, laundry detergent, and organic noodles. As I have a habit of wearing my helmet while shopping, the ladies and I struck up a little conversation about biking around; it turns out that building is kind of a hub of environmental advocacy in Daegu, housing a sort of global warming museum in the basement, an organic market and a soap-making shop on the first floor, and the Daegu eco-feminist league and some organization that works on bringing local produce to school lunches on the upper floors. Also, it's the headquarters of "ECOBIKE."

ECOBIKE organizes big bike rides every month. Hundreds of cyclicsts all gather at some starting point, with their fancy helmets and silly clothes and sweet wheelz, and then, with a police escort, ride 20 or 30km around town, chatting and showing off and scorning cars and burning pedestrians. Then, at the end, they have a raffle and give away free bicycles, wheels, mp3 players, and other stuff. Here are some photos!

Everyone getting signed in at World Cup Stadium

No better way to begin a bike rally than a little K-Pop and break dancing!

"풋 유어 머다 퍼킨 핸즈 업!" (x 25)
(from September's event)

A family-friendly event! Actually, you can see lots of snazzy bikes, including giant unicycles, units with tiny wheels, baby seats in front, or luxury reclining tricycles.

That's my helmet in the front. Mr. "Razor" doesn't look too happy to be in my photo.

All in all, I think this bike event is a wonderful thing. It's really not so hard to bike the 25km from one end of Daegu to another, and actually, if you have to go through downtown, biking is much faster than taking the bus and probably less frustrating than driving a car. Not to mention that it's better for you, for others, and for the planet. It feels good to try to show this to others. I like to see the look on people's faces when they see a bunch of cyclists buzzing around; usually it's kind of perplexed, occasionally a little scornful, but maybe a few onlookers will find the whole thing sort of snazzy and will decide to join next time.

For all that, though, and as much as I hate to end by complaining, I can't help it. For me, bicycling is a lot of things. It's exercise, obviously. It's convenience. It's an antidote to laziness. It's keeping myself in the fresh air rather than inside of a musty, crowded bus. But it's also a way of distancing myself, physically and psychologically, from fossil fuels, from continued spending, from debt, from conspicuous consumption of status symbols, and, last but not least from annoying pop music blaring from every speaker in every bus, cosmetic shop, and phone store.

While I'm aware that every cyclist cycles for his own reasons, it's really disappointing me to have my anti-consumption drive thwarted by people who collect bicycles (isn't one good one enough?) and by others who buy hundred-dollar sweat-wicking bicyle gear with names of bike celebrities they've never heard of and silly company logos all over (I ride around in 6-year old boxer shorts, 10-year old tennis shorts, and a 3 dollar shirt from the thrift store). There are others who, believe it or not, buy speakers and attach them to their bikes, so that even in the middle of the road, in the middle of a crowd of 100 cyclists, my ears are invaded by this crap. And then, of course, the performances before and after the events! Dancers all hussied up, doing the same dances you see on music videos to the same songs you hear at every street corner and in every club, communicating the same messages about the importance of looking rich and sexy and acting like a bit of a badass, despite actually being more or less in line with the mainstream.

Would the bike event really be any less exciting if there weren't rappers and break-dancers and cheerleaders to rile us up before and after? Would the ride be any less comfortable if you spent less than a day's paycheck on each item of clothing? And would the ride be less enjoyable if you could hear the sounds of your gears clicking and your clothes flapping? Maybe I am overanalyzing and expecting a little too much out of people, or expecting people to be more similar to me than is reasonable. I know I am host to all of these tendencies. Nonetheless, it's disappointing to see that something like cycling, which I perceive as relatively "pure," as an activity that doesn't depend very much on a superficial, consumptive, exploitative, pollutatory* economy, can be taken advantage of every bit as much as, say, music or clothing or sport or romance.

I saw one girl's bike. In a way that is very typical (forgive the oxymoron) of Korean decoration, it had a little bit of English on it, simple and cute and a little awkward:

"Two triangles and two wheels. Isn't that enough?"


A Pek said...

In the unfortunate news category, I recently saw an article about a study that concluded urban cyclists tend to inhale a ton more nano-pollution-particles than motorists or pedestrians, and they will apparently be the death of us. Apparently we're more exposed to the pollution than drivers (even though much of it is coming from their cars) and breathing harder than pedestrians. This is just another example of something I'm sure you already know: life isn't fair.

Mike said...

I have indeed caught many a faceful of nano-pollutators. Buses are particularly obnoxious offenders, since the slow down, you have to stop behind them, and then they belch a bunch out when they start again.

Any word on whether the ninja masks can help block any of the particles?

Also, is there any chance that the benefits of increased cardiovascular fitness outweigh the intake of particles?

Down with cars.

A Pek said...

From what I've read, typical masks cannot stop the particles because they're too small. I don't know if the benefits outweigh the negatives. I tend to doubt it. Millions/billions of nano-particles in your lungs can't be a good thing. That said, I have no plans to stop cycling.

Lucky for you, buses are among the vehicles being "cleaned up" first. New hybrid and alternative fueled bus designs are becoming very popular. They save municipalities money and give them eco-bragging rights.

Mike said...

Actually almost all the buses here in Daegu are already (allegedly) running on some sort of natural gas.

On the other hand, people smoke in the stairwells of my office. No way lung cancer's gonna let me slide.

i'm a sucker for k-pop said...

We're all gonna die, boys! Just a matter of how you choose to live your life until then. Keep cycling!