Each year at Behooving Moving we send our editors, all keen urban cyclists, to cities at the vanguard of this crazy cycling revolution gripping the world. Their task: find the world’s number one cycling hot spot for the forthcoming year. Then, over a few bottles of cheap Dutch beer and those Danish short breads that come in kitsch tins, we get together here in the office and analyze each city in terms of the unhindered access to tarmac it provides the lover of all things urbane and bikish.
Keen cyclists will be relieved to learn Copenhagen was canned by our experts this time around. The blue lanes have become way too congested with slower than slow riders, while drivers there have become rather territorial about their precious car lanes—or "qwert asdfgh zxcvbn", as they say in Danish.
From Left: Los Angeles River Cyclepath, Rush Hour Prypiat, and three photos of this year’s winner. No, it’s not Paris. It’s not Brazilia either. Let me know if you picked it by this point.
Meanwhile, a life achievement award went this year to Los Angeles. Recognition for having paved an actual river for cyclists, has been long overdue, our judging panel decided, and when LA has done something about the John Travolta wannabes, drag racing cars there, LA might even win the Hot City. Our runner up for the Hot City this year is the Ukranian city of Prypiat, once a model soviet new town, now awaiting confirmation that it’s safe to go in after Chernobyl; very much tarmac, and just a few deer and catastrophiliac tourists to have to contend with. To be worthy though of our highest of honours, a Behooving Moving Hot City must be some place with exiting cuisine (other than huge mutant Ukranian catfish), colourful people (pink, blue, the whole spectrum), architectural icons (no matter how plagiarized), massive weird shaped hotels, and acre upon acre of wide open tarmac via which the keen urban cyclist might explore said alien wonders.
From Left: Pyongyang says welcome; Exiting and challenging cuisine; North Korea’s unnervingly friendly and colourful peopleoids.
Pyongyang, North Korea, has all this and more! Oh, and the cycling will leave you breathless, literally breathless, since there is no place at all giving a sense you have reached it. You will just keep riding past everything until you drop from exhaustion. And just look at all that wide empty road, waiting for Behooving Moving readers to commander to our ends.
The series of events leading to Pyongyang’s present state of velo-deliciousness, began with a humble diplomatic gift, of the kind nations exchange every day. A decision by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) in 1987, to ban the Lotus 108 from competition, had left the British government with such an arsenal of banned bikes, it set about giving each of the world’s 194 leaders, a Lotus 108 as a present. The story goes that Kim Jong Il so loved his, that he rode it for hours, in such delirium that he never took note of the brake lever position. He just assumed there would be rod brakes, like on all bikes he had ridden. He ran into a stationary car, and while dusting himself off formed his grand vision: a totally paved nation, without any traffic.
Just like Paris, only without any cars.
If he has seemed ever since to be deliberately pissing everyone off, that isn’t quite true. He just wants to piss off any country with whom trade might lead to car acquisition among his exclusively foot-using people. Compare the images above with any you will find of Portland or Copenhagen, and you will have to admit, his thinking is genius, and Pyongyang is hot! It’s one thing to provide separate bike lanes, but to actually get rid of the cars altogether… now that deserves praise. The footpaths are busy, but roads wide enough to land planes on are completely deserted, by Kim’s design. We judge these to be the widest separated bike paths anywhere in the world, operating at less than one millionth of their cycling capacity.
A word of warning though. They may not be so empty for very much longer. Photos below show North Korea has herself joined the arms race, with attempts to develop her own monocoque carbon bicycles. As yet, these are still being built using steel, but we showed these photos to Lotus designer Mike Burrows, who for a whole minute just stared aghast. "Just months before we developed the Lotus," he said, "we started perforating our baskets." Yes, the principles of wind resistance are now known to North Korean scientists, with the development of banned weapons now just a matter of time.
From Left: Flying Pigeon enrichment facility in North Korea. King Jong Il inspecting North Korea’s Lotus 108s.
Knowing they may soon be a monocoque power, is giving North Koreans a new sense of confidence. They are looking at photos smuggled in over the border from China (old ones, admittedly), and are wanting mobility too. By 2012, thousands of North Koreans are likely to be time trialing Kim’s ultra wide bike paths on full carbon rigs. You may look at the two lonely cyclists in the last two photos below, and think they’re just idol rich kids, showing off their fancy news toys. Here at Behooving Moving, we think this could just be the start of a bike craze, on the scale of crazes in Asia. 2011 is the year, we say, to beat the rush and ride Pyongyang.