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Take back the streets! Bring back the bike!

April 7, 2010

I am not exactly sure who’s idea it was or how it came to be but in what a lot of environmentalists consider a great move the government has decided to arm the police (and yes I said arm) with bicycles!
As with many great ideas, this particular idea is being ridiculed as wasteful and derogatory to the police, one minivan news comment by rini even considers it a demotion equivalent to that of being lowered to the level of ‘rubbish collecting bangaalhi’s’. For now, I’ll leave the analysis on the apparent xenophobia aside and talk about why bicycles are considered the lowest of the low in the streets.

Let’s have a look at the minivan article comments once more.

Salim Waheed and Muad MZ for once seem to agree on something and most of the Minivan News commenting community seems to applaud the idea with ‘happy faces’ and all. Apart from one very practical comment by Knox who asks whether or not this heat will ever make this idea do-able there is another very relevant issue raised by Hassan-Raha who asks ‘Salim, when is your Dad and President going to show that we can be a carbon neutral country.. give up the car and start pedalling or walking?’

This, for me, was the most relevant of all the comments. Street safety is a class issue in Maldives. The rich men and women and their children either own cars or scooters and/or take taxi’s. The very rich do not even have to resort to taking taxi’s. Riding bikes and walking is for the poor and ‘rubbish collecting bangaalhi’s’. No wonder both this and the previous government have not made any effort to make Male a walk-able city.

Even after the change in government parking lots seem to be given priority over pedestrian pavements, even in narrow goalhis and the few proper pavements that we do have do not have easy access for the disabled or the baby prams that walking mothers usually push around. All ministers, top army officers and their families are provided with government funded cars and petrol. No ‘self respecting woman’ will walk anywhere and if you ask why you’d get the usual myriad of complains about the heat.

This heat will not affect any of these women while walking around Orchard Road on their annual shopping trips, aka trips to the hospital.

So, we have to ask ourselves, is it really the heat that is stopping us from walking around our god given two square kilometers or is it the fact that every single time you walk somewhere you risk being

a) hit by a scooter or a car and killed
b) hit on by various Romeo’s who comment on the size of your rear end
c) physically molested by persons reaching to grab your privates, pinching your breasts etc
d) spat on by those of us who consider spitting on the streets an endurance sport
e) told off by a superior being that your are not covered up well enough (by the way, covered up women are not free from harassment)

Walking in Male is a health and safety hazard, especially for women. The reason why I was so encouraged to see the police in bicycles is my strong belief that unless policy makers and those who are in power face the issues that your average cyclist or walker faces, these problems will never be addressed.

If the Minister of Transport or the head of Male Municipality has a state funded car he/she will always plan the streets in a car friendly way as can be seen from the narrow pavements and the ubiquitous traffic lights that make no sense to most pedestrians. If the Transport minister and the head of Male municipality cycles to work, surely they will come up with better ideas to make Male safer and similar to somewhere like Villi-Male.

The amount of traffic related deaths in the country is unacceptable and we still do not consider these crazy scooters as the death traps that they are. I call upon this administration to consider making most goalhi’s bike and pedestrian only and remove the parking spaces that leave a narrow two feet walking space where pedestrians are constantly hit by zooming motor cycles.

The solution for making streets safer for women and children both from sexual and physical violence have to be holistic and have to encompass all aspects of peoples lifestyles. It cannot be a ghetto’d approach targeted at women only. Making streets safer for everyone in the community, including the ‘garbage carrying bangalhi’s’ is the way forward.

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11 Comments leave one →
  1. nov permalink
    April 7, 2010 12:08 pm

    You did not address quite a major reason for men to have motor bikes, to be precise fathers. The culture of picking up your children from school to home, from home to school for extra curricular activities. And this does not stop there most women folk you work are dropped off and picked up either by there father or husband.

    And most of this office dads just arnt going to give up motor bikes, and let me tell you no one want to go into the office sweating like hell after going to pick up your child, and the women folk in the office start babbling.

    There is a very deep social interconnection.

  2. April 7, 2010 1:31 pm

    Wondering if we could republish as a comment piece on the bicycle issue. Send us an email: minivan.news@gmail.com

    -MVN team

  3. dHeviL permalink
    April 7, 2010 1:52 pm

    I say, we allow women to carry firearms for personal safety. Male predators to be declared open game!
    But the vehicles issue is inevitable and hopeless. Only future expectations are of drive-in coffeehouses, stadiums and even mosques. There must be a hadith somewhere that permits prayers on our camels (rides). hmmm… Ilyas can pitch that one so convincingly in his upcoming collaboration with Akon.

  4. Sherin permalink
    April 7, 2010 4:11 pm

    Wow! Spot on. I’m glad you ladies are not just sticking to bashing the Habees but also tackling other relevant social issues as well. Keep it up!

  5. Name Required permalink
    April 7, 2010 5:25 pm

    No ‘self respecting woman’ will walk anywhere

    And most girls/women won’t date a guy without a motorbike. I think this is one of the reasons most kids get a motorbike as soon as they are 18.

    Then there is the issue of the increasing number of cars because the nouveau riche wants everyone to notice their new found wealth.

    The situation is not going to get better unless people change their attitude. Most Dhivehin associate “tharahgee” with fancy mobile phones and vehicles rather than development of the mind and personality.

  6. april permalink
    April 7, 2010 6:17 pm

    Hi, I’ve never been to Male or the Maldives but I think all your commentary about women’s situation and lack of pedestrian and cyclist rights are right on! Keep up the important work!

  7. April 7, 2010 7:07 pm

    Hear hear! We support! We would like to one day walk the streets of Male’ with the assurance that all our limbs and/or our dignity will be intact by the time we reach our destination.

  8. April 8, 2010 1:34 am

    From my experience it is too hot to walk in Male’ because we have to cover ourselves from neck to feet to avoid the physical and verbal abuse rampant in the streets (which seldom helps it) and ofcourse to appease the society who frowns upon anyone dressed in a way that complements the climate.

    But that does not keep me from walking to places. The sad thing is you are categorized as someone who is always roaming around the streets of Male’ if you refuse to call your male friends for a ride and prefer to walk everywhere. One time I overheard one of my friend’s mother call another friend of mine a ‘koodi’ because she sees her on the road very often it seems.

    I have deviated from the topic now…. In brief, it’s a very comprehensive article and I look forward to more articles on Rehendhi.

    • Jill permalink
      April 11, 2010 4:05 am

      actually rather than exposing the skin to the scorching heat of Maldives everyday its better to cover in light clothing, long term huge damage to skin

Trackbacks

  1. Take back the streets! Bring back the bike! | Hilath Online
  2. Global Voices Online » Maldives: Bring Back The Bikes

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