A World On Two Wheels

“An article by a friend on LinkedIn made me think… he wrote about his experience when first encountering traffic in South East Asia. It was an interesting read and quite amusing, too! When you come from the West, all you can see is chaos, for example in the streets of Bangkok or Siem Reap, I have seen it myself! He then went on using his observation as an example for essential business skills, basically saying that when you are entering a new environment you’ll need to learn who’s making the rules. Bottom line, South East Asia is ruled by bikes, if you’re in a car, you’ll have to learn to live with it.”

However, there is much more to be learned. The question is, how is Asia linked to bike (and bicycle) traffic other than historic and economic reasons, how does the traffic reflect its culture and how does it work so (relatively) well?

“I strongly believe it’s all down to the way people understand themselves as part of a society.. whereas we in the West still think very egoistic and territorial, most Asians seem themselves as the individual part of a greater community. We go out and conquer our space and we build walls around this space to protect it, and this is how we drive our cars; They are mobile extensions to our homes, a few impenetrable square metres of our personal space, protected by steel and aluminium and glass.

Now look towards Asia. A person on a bicycle. Or 3 on a motor scooter. No individual is claiming more space than he needs. And the traffic is, hair-raising at first glance, in fact a never-ending, smooth and almost calm flow. When first it seems that there is no order you soon realise that this flow moves like water. The individual parts understand they’re being part of it and they move without confrontation. They move and leave space for others to move, naturally”

Obviously, the world we’re living in is far from perfect and even in South East Asia traffic accidents happen. Though given the sheer volume of traffic in their big cities, surprisingly little happens (we are taking a guess here, but we have a feeling a lot happens when the two worlds – bikes and cars – collide, literally). But apart from this being some food for thoughts about how we can improve traffic, we believe there is a lot to learn from this way of thinking, both in private life and in business. This might sound almost like some Jedi philosophy (which probably wouldn’t be entirely coincidental) but if we start understanding the flow as some sort of life energy, we will be able to use it to our advantage, not just as individuals but as a society.

Using the flow will help us calm down and relax and enjoy the good things in life while at the same time it gives us the energy to create and achieve things greater than we are on our own.