Sticks & Stones
We would like to offer a little perspective on the issue of Ethiopian children throwing rocks at the cyclists during the Tour ‘d’Afrique from our Brazilian colleague, Christiano Werneck…
“The stories and videos about the rock-throwing kids in Ethiopia caught my attention. That country has been always a part of my dream about riding in Africa, as something very different from everything I have ever seen.
A couple years ago, a small group of friends and I started a night ride. The idea was to do something different from other groups we have here in my city. It was going be for free, for everyone, and without a support car. We called it RUT's, abbreviating something like Thursday's Night Ride, and playing with the word ‘roots’ in English. Roots because we were back to the most simple way of cycling. Get together and ride. No police cars, no stopping traffic, nothing, as bicycles do not need cars or people stopping traffic to be respected. We put our advocacy to it.
I stopped going a year ago, and during that time, they had to change the meeting and starting point, and it ended up being great. A lot more people have been going. I went last Thursday night, and there were more than 80 people. It's a very unstructured thing. Each week, someone chooses a route. Anyone can be the guide.
It ended up that, because of all those factors, they have been occasionally going through some sections of the city where the other night rides never go – distant neighborhoods, slums, etc. It's nice. Last Thursday I heard a guy saying to another: "The nice thing about this ride is that we get to go to places in the city we have never been and would never go, if it wasn't for this". Anyway, as we rode through a very infamous slum on a brand new avenue which now crosses it between two fancy neighborhoods, it rained stones at us. And as we talked about it later drinking a nice cold beer, I was told that this was not the first time nor the first place this had happened during a RUT ride. It's not common, but it has happened sometimes as the group got bigger. And to think I had gotten so excited to talk about it happening in Ethiopia – as if it was something very alien.”
And it is also instructive to recall the wise words of our own Miles MacDonald posted in 2008…
“Within our time in Ethiopia many cyclists have experienced the peculiarity of having stones thrown at them by children. Bizarre in one right, explainable in another. Occasionally the gap between wealthy tourist and half naked child brings such a degree of miscomprehension that stupidity ensues. Though the purpose of traveling by bicycle is to slow down and step beyond the doors of a Toyota Landcruiser; it is still too quick a mode of transportation to bridge the distance in understanding. Days, weeks or even years are necessary for a foreigner to understand the intricacies and beauties of this culture, let’s hope a few stones don’t deter any curious souls from riding a bicycle here, or from taking the time to learn.”