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Until recent decades, bicycles were the only transportation option for many in Vietnam. (Photo by Dominic Faulder)
Tea Leaves

What the 'bicycle index' says about a country

When cycling goes from necessity to choice, it represents a major sociological shift


You are what you drive -- the car advertisement claims. That is not true in Thailand, where you are what you ride. Bicycles have become the nation's most unexpected status symbols.

Thais have taken to recreational pedaling like nobody else. Each weekend, hundreds of thousands from all walks of life don skintight Lycra, wraparound shades and aerodynamic helmets to cycle great distances around airports and reservoirs, up and down hills, and along jungle trails. When the military government wants a guaranteed PR win, it organizes a mass bike ride. Everybody from the royal family down joins in -- even the cabinet.

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