- Published: Thursday, 08 September 2016 00:00
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Neither Utopic nor Dystopic...Choose your weapon er... bike.
Novels about the future often portray either a dystopian or utopian society punctuated by reflections on how the surviving humans interact with each other, with the environment or even with sentient machines, more specifically humanoid robots that will either serve and save humankind or cause the dawning of doomsday or Armageddon, whichever the author has a penchant for. Some would juxtapose the two and show how divided they are when it comes to how they value human existence. However, be it dystopian or utopian, many novels that have been brought to the screen especially by Hollywood most often show a generation that is dependent on an energy source that is either arbitrarily abundant or rare.
A utopian society is usually the one that never lacks energy source and seems to have everything powered by some unobtainium or other exotic materials. On the other hand, a dystopian society is often depicted as severely hampered by a lack of energy source that people are forced to use whatever discarded items they can find and have to fight for in order to light up their homes or keep themselves warm at night.
In our imagination, we may all want to be in a utopian society where all our needs and wants are met. On the other hand, nobody with a sane mind would want to be in a Mad Max world where fighting is the norm if you want to survive and have all our basic needs met. A utopic world may seem perfect with the dystopic world as its complete antithesis. However, there could be one common denominator that could connect these two opposite worlds – you guessed it, the bicycle.
And please, forget about zombies and walking deceased for a while when you think of a dystopian world.
The Bicycle Can Help You Survive After an Apocalyptic Event
It will not be too much of a stretch of the imagination to see the bicycle in either a utopic or dystopic society. Even by today’s standards, the bicycle can be as fancy or as bare as one would like it. It could be as expensive as one wants or as cheap as well. It could be as simple as a single speed or a fixie or as complex as one equipped with multispeed gears and progressive suspensions. In a utopic world, the bicycle can fill the needs of the leisurely people for light and easy travel to their desired destination. It could only be too easy to imagine long stretch of smooth paved roads, segregated from main thoroughfares where only super-smart, self-driving cars are allowed. The bicycle will be for those who have too much free time on their hands, who may have not only the money but the means to secure the latest in bicycle technology that we can only imagine, salivating at the luxurious and extravagant bicycles they are pedaling. How much different would they be from the state of the art e-shifting technology we are enjoying today (at least for those, again, who have the money to buy such luxurious and extravagant bike tech we have today?) Or how light in weight or stronger would they be than the carbon fiber or titanium frames famous bike manufacturers of today churn out of their factories by the hundreds every day?
Certainly not this one.
If we understand “utopia” as an ideal society, then by extension the bicycle in use during that ideal period will also be an ideal bike. That society will revolve around conservation of precious resources, be they renewable or non-renewable and thus would be concerned in using the bike as an ideal mode of transportation even as animal-drawn cart could also be an option, although it may not be as widespread as the bike. Will the “ideal bike” be a hybrid – dependent on human power and/or electric power as needed by the rider? As science fiction stories go, that ideal bike may be powered by the sun, or an exotic matter from space yet to be discovered today. It may feature luxuries such as an extra wheel when needed to provide stability, or an invisible super lightweight roof when it’s raining. But above everything else, its value will depend on its usability and adaptability to various applications while providing comfort and ease of handling. It cannot be anything less.
The bicycle on a dystopic society on the other hand may be a little harder to imagine, depending on how orderly or insanely disordered is our imagination. The bicycle in such a world or society could take the form of anything or everything else we couldn’t even foresee today. It could be a Frankenstein-like creation composed of parts salvaged from other cars, motorcycles or other bikes. The aim of the rider or creator of that bike will not be for a luxurious ride but as a means to survive the harsh and hostile environment. Getting from point A to point B could be like running the gauntlet with no guarantees of arriving whole and intact at our destination. Think beyond “Mad Max” where there isn’t any available gasoline or any type of fossil fuel to power the machines we know today. Think of a time where the simple technology we use today has been overwhelmed and thus erased from our memories by the most modern technology that generations in future are yet to discover and develop. It would be a generation where generators don’t exist because people have simply forgotten how to manufacture one. Plans and the will to execute them have gone from that generation’s consciousness. Now that would be a perfect scenario for the bike to come and make a resurgence. Given that no metal manufacturing knowhow exist, a bike frame can be fashioned out of bamboo tubes and paired with parts taken from old bikes. (Let’s just say they found some… otherwise, our exposition here will go nowhere.)
Our future utopic or dystopic world could be full of unknowns and perhaps, even the idea of a bike may just disappear during a time when all of us are enjoying the luxury of powered transportation, or even teleportation for that matter. Who needs a bike when you can simply teleport yourself to the most distant part of the world in a matter of seconds? But this idea could really be the most farfetched of all as who could resist the temptation of riding free in the wind, even alongside a driverless smart car in the future? And even if there is one single being who is willing to do that, you can bet the bicycle will be with us forever, and that’s one forever that will never run out.
In one article we have published in the past, Mon Fernan asks, "Is There an Electric Bike in Your Future?" which points out one of the ways where the travel bug could hit us and lead us somewhere. For those who are preparing for the coming 2016 Tour of the Fireflies, please read How to Survive the Tour of the Fireflies and Stay Sane so you will have an idea on how much fun you can have between your legs (and some 30,000 more) if you join the Tour.