The bicycle's many lives

Do you own a bicycle? What do you think is its future?   

Joseph Schumpeter’s gale of creative destruction keeps blowing innovations away.

The gramophone was destroyed by a radio cassette which was destroyed by CD. Eventually, online music took over.  

One technology has resisted this gale, the bicycle. Despite planes, cars, rail and motorbikes the bicycle has been very resilient.

The use of the bicycle to deliver parcels and foodstuffs in Nairobi is the best testimony that the bicycle could be here to stay. It keeps reinventing itself.

In rural areas, the bicycle is under threat from motorbikes which even appropriated its original name bodaboda. Why is it so hard to kill the bicycle (baiskeli)?

It’s a down-to-earth machine. Anyone can ride it, men or women, young or old. It’s cheap and affordable, unlike other machines. 

It is easy to repair and get spare parts. Lately, I have seen lots of bicycles from the UK on sale around Nairobi. Despite all our dreams, we eventually are earthbound. Noted how we fight for land?

Ready market

The resilience of the bicycle in Kenya is also driven by our unequal level of development. As some shift to motorbikes, others are moving to bicycles.

There is always a ready market. It is unlikely we shall leave the bicycle en masse as we left pagers or paraffin stove.

Its other source of resilience is that a bicycle cuts through all the social and economic classes. The poor use it as a means of transport, as they shift from beasts of burden like donkeys.

It’s more popular in flat areas.

The rich use it for exercise or fun.

Noted most middle-class and affluent families buy bicycles for their kids?

Regulation is also another factor. Do we insure bicycles or get licences for them? You can simply buy a bicycle and ride it. Compare that with the car. 

Some fear that with urbanisation, with no space to ride the bicycle, its end will soon come. Where do you ride a bike in the flats?

Will rural folks abandon the bicycle in their quest to develop? Will our health consciousness keep the bicycle alive? Even in developed countries, the bicycle liveth.

Its use will evolve. How about antique bicycles like cars? Do you own a bicycle? What do you think is its future?