Last night a cyclist was killed in the Outpost streets. Today, shopkeepers in a remote, but touristic, part of the Outpost took to the streets to protest against construction of a new cycle track. "Why do we need a track for half a dozen bikes?", one of them protested. The thing goes further. Most bikes are junk as well as invisible from dusk to dawn: no lights, no reflectors, no other reflecting surfaces on them, nothing. Cyclists have to cope with them, aggressive drivers and their own carefree attitude — for instance, during the last three years I have been here, I have seen only one cyclist wearing a helmet, who I immediately recognised: a Swiss colleague. Jod also thrice attempted to cycle wearing a helmet.
You can't walk, either. In the summer it is because of the stifling heat. In the winter because of the mud: yes, there are not many pavements in the capital. Of them, some are too narrow or too occupied with cowboyishly parked cars: Outposters must park right in front of the main entrance of their destination or temporary stop.
What is the effect of the lack of walking, cycling and the like on our mental lives here? Massive, I would think. We are encased in one-passenger chassis, we never mingle, either as walkers or inside public transport. Actually, only on Saturdays do we walk, shopping. This is why locals are virtually unable to experience an urban space, for them spots in the city are atomistically defined destinations without an itinerary from them and to them, it is a bit like flying from home to school, work, restaurant, cafe, hairdresser's, cabaret — and back. Unsurprisingly, most Outposters are amazed by my knowledge of their city, naively adding that 'us foreigners walk a lot', in the tone reserved to distance themselves from us foreigners' poverty, lax sexual mores and generally antisocial behaviours. But can there be introspection, or even reflection, without walking? I have been a walker for n years and a driver for 1. My own reply is 'no'.