Justin Holmwood

All Bike North members love to travel by bike wherever they can, either at home or abroad, and are well aware of the usefulness of the bicycle as a means of transport as indeed are many, many millions of people around the world.

Notwithstanding its undeniable sophistication as one of the most modern global cities, even here in Singapore where I am at the moment, bicycle transport is still used by many for work and recreation and the Singapore government has been trialling various private bike sharing schemes for about the same length of time as we have in Sydney.

But the bicycle has played more than just a commercial and recreational role in the development of modern Singapore. Seventy six years ago during World War 2, in a spectacularly successful military campaign, the Japanese Army was able to completely outmanoeuvre and overcome the numerically superior British Empire forces opposing them on the Malayan Peninsula by continually outflanking them. How did they do this so quickly?

At the time, the coastal road system on the Peninsula was a good one down which the Japanese infantry simply came by bicycle ! Whenever they met opposition, the Japanese lightweight tanks spearheading each attack were quickly backed up by their infantry who were able to keep up with each retreat by the British Empire Forces by remounting their bikes and following the tanks down the road. The rest of the story you know. The fall of Singapore changed the course of history inAsia for ever and led to post war independence for this young nation.

Which just goes to show what a powerful agent for change the bicycle can be. In the history of the world in the past 100 years for example, the humble bicycle played a major role in the successful campaign for women's suffrage by vastly improving women's capacity for independent mobility and 'getting the word out'. In Australia, the same thing happened with the formation of organised labour unions where groups of workers would not otherwise have been able to communicate over large distances in the outback except that they were able to keep in touch by bicycle.

So next time you mount your iron horse, remember the debt you owe it, not just for providing you with hours of riding pleasure but for the many other benefits that it has directly or indirectly played a role in bringing to the world we live in today.

Can't wait till my next long ride. Hoo roo for now.