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Auroville Adventure

May 2003

It's cool to cycle!

- by Carel


A very good human-powered zero-emission transport option, bicycles can even serve to bring people from Germany to Auroville


Amiram (left) and Mareike

An ambience of unbridled idealism surrounds Mareike (24) and Amiram (29) when they talk about their cycle tour from Germany to India. "With this trip, we promote cycling as the ultimate zero-emission transport option," they state, pointing to the undeniable benefits that cycling offers. It is environmentally-friendly, causes no air-pollution, doesn't depend on fossil fuels and doesn't contribute to global warming. "We want to raise awareness that people should make a conscious decision of what is important to them. Many do not make the connection between their own habits and the environmental pollution we all face. They are not sufficiently conscious that their decision to take a plane, a car or motorbike contributes to the very pollution they object to. Our tour serves to make a point: transportation can and should be done differently."


on the road

Amiram holds a degree in electrical engineering from the University of applied science FH- Darmstadt, Germany, and from the University of Brighton, U.K.. Mareike studies Landscape and Environmental Planning at the Technical University in Berlin, Germany. They decided to cycle from Berlin to Auroville because they had heard that Auroville is one of the world's eco-cities. Mareike is combining the visit with a practical semester at Auroville's Future, where she helps in writing a report for the Indian Central Pollution Control Board on Auroville as an example of an eco city. Amiram has joined Auroville Energy Products. "We took one year off," they explained. "It took us four months to get to India, traveling through 10 countries and being in the saddle for more than 7,000 kilometers. The only exception was Pakistan, where for safety reasons we went by train." They enjoyed the incredible hospitality they received along the way from countless individuals who offered free drinks, food and even accommodation. "People see that you work hard to get from one place to another, and somehow that creates trust," says Mareike, "though sometimes, the hospitality was almost too much."

They'll stay for four months in Auroville, after which they plan to cycle back, this time through China, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Russia.

Being confirmed believers in cycling, Amiram and Mareike view Auroville's future traffic system as a necessary mix of public transport and bicycles. "If you don't want to get into the traffic mess of other cities, and if you truly believe in the need to combat pollution and global warming, there is no other option," they explain, quoting the experience of cities such as Copenhagen. "Cities that care about good traffic management all focus on cycle use. In Copenhagen, one third of all commuters now take the cycle. In cities in The Netherlands, cyclists predominate. There is no reason why Auroville can't follow those examples. We've heard the objection that it is too hot to cycle here, but the body can get used to it. After all, people in Denmark and Holland also got used to cycling through rain and in cold weather. What is required is a change in one's transportation habits. For small distances, say up to five kilometers, a bicycle should be used, and the day's schedule should be adjusted accordingly. For those who cannot cycle, public transport should be available. And for those who like to cycle but for whom the effort is too exhausting, there is the indigenously developed electro-bike from Auroville Energy Products."

"It's cool to cycle," says Amiram, "but it is definitely not cool to use your motorbike or car when actually you could use your cycle. Indian cycle manufacturers, though still somewhat behind America and Europe in terms of development, are now also selling lightweight bicycles with front and back suspension and gears. Those who want the best can even bring their own cycle from abroad as many Aurovilians from the Auroville cycling club have done. Cycling is no longer an all-sweat business with heavy machines, anyone can do it."

"Last but not least," adds Mareike, "cycling keeps one fit and is cost saving. For those who are on the point of taking a holiday we have another tip: instead of visiting distant countries, go by train to some place in India and take your cycle along. You'll be astonished at the different perspective you get and how easily you make contacts with the population and other cyclists. As we have experienced, people, especially cyclists, love cyclists."

Plans for the future include a visit to other eco-cities in the world, such as Curitiba in Brazil, the Gaviotas community in Bolivia and Waitakere in New Zealand. "We are both Greenpeace activists, we are planning to publish our experience in the Greenpeace Magazine and in newspapers and hope that more people will follow the example. For cycling is good and it's lots of fun."

For more information visit www.berlin-indien.de

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