Bicycle, bicycle, bicycle, I want to ride my bicycle…

rush hour in a Ouagadougou suburbSang the rock group Queen in their 1978 hit Bicycle Race. One can say that Burkina Faso is the country of bicycles. Travelling on the road one often passes clusters of bicycle riders, either adults going to or coming from work or students pedalling furiously to arrive to school on time. The mainly flat countryside makes this means of transportation favourable and the mainly Chinese made cycles are very affordable. The authorities have been supporting this environmentally friendly means of transport by creating bicycle lanes on most large roads in the capital Ouagadougou. There are even special traffic lights allowing them to safely cross intersections before the car lanes are released.

However there has been a major shift recently from the clean bicycles to the much “cooler” small urban motor bikes sold under names like Crypton, Vega, Nano, Spank, Best, etc. These urban motorcycles are the rage with the young. Since they are so much faster the motorcycle riders weave now left and right around the cars and traffic has certainly become much more hectic and dangerous.

Around the markets or large shops you now find rows and rows of parked motorcycles guarded by enterprising youth. Like in a coat check the commuter hands in his bike and gets a numbered receipt. Once his shopping is completed, he hands in his receipt and pays the “parking/guarding” fee and gets his motorcycle back.