One of the most remarkable people who has cycled along with me so far is bike activist Chancha from Korat. Of course I have already met a lot of bike enthusiasts up to now, but I found Chancha by far the most spirited and convincing. By dressing up in her beloved vintage clothing she has become a well-loved famous cyclist within the streets of downtown Korat. She cycles around in vintage in a bid to show people that they can dress for the destination rather than dress for the bike while riding it. It really makes sense to me since the majority of the cycling Thais that I met so far were using the bicycle for sports and not using it as a way of transport in daily life. Chancha emphasizes on the fact that the bicycle can be a casual means of transport like in many Western countries.
I met Chancha at the famous Ya Mo Monument in central Korat where she arrived with her beautiful bicycle, dressed for any occasion I guess. We took a photo before we headed further downtown to one of her favorite Coffeeshops where I was faced with my personal exclusive vintage clothing for the rest of that day. From there we hopped on the tandem bicycle and peddled to some of Chancha’s favorite sights. First we went to the old city wall where we would perform a perfect vintage photo shoot. Then, we cycled all the way to Bung Ta Lua Park where cycling feels like home, on fine dedicated cycleways. The park itself was beautiful and had a fantastic atmosphere. We rode a few loops around the lake and then settled for more conversation and some good food.
During dinner we further exchanged our stories. Chancha co-organized the Bangkok Cycle Chic event on the car free Sunday last month. In this event they ride a set route around downtown Bangkok in vintage dresses to raise awareness for the bicycle as a casual way of transport. Now, she is finding ways to get the most out of the upcoming Korat Cycle Chic event and she was more than willing to hear my ideas to make that a success as well as her future campaigns.
I suggested that the main objective is to show the benefits of the bicycle for Thai people. Most Thais don’t really see them because their negative prejudices about biking count more than the actual benefits. In my opinion it would be great to start awareness campaigns to take away these prejudices and emphasize the benefits. Furthermore, it would be good to organize easily accessible events to promote the bicycle – finding ways to allow visitors to share their positive cycling experiences with their friends. There will be a lot of work to do but I am sure there are companies who share the idea vision and would be interested in potentially getting involved in such events. But apart from this, it would be an easier ride if infrastructure weren’t so bad for cyclists. The Thai government needs to recognize all the positive side effects of cycling in the long term.
It was really nice to meet Chancha and to see that there are people in Thailand who dedicate large parts of their lives to promoting one of the most convenient means of transport. I truly wish Chancha all the best for her future campaigns and hope she will be able to travel to The Netherlands one day to see how we ride her beloved ‘omafiets’. Saaadhuu Chancha!