So I am back in Kazakhstan after the long summer break. I decided at the end of last year that I would like to live nearer to work and moved to the so called Left Bank; the newer part of the city.
The school lays on transport to and from work, but I am not the most punctual of people so I like to get to work under my own steam. So I decided to do that.
The Monday after I got back to Astana I went down to the local Sportsmaster store to get a bike, as I was now living a lot closer to school. I visited one of the city’s shopping malls and stopped off at the newly opened Costa for a coffee. Afterwards I made my way along to the sports shop.
In the middle of the shop, I found a selection of five bikes and asked if they had any more. No that was all that was left this season, said the young sales assistant. The bikes in front of me ranged in price from 45000 to 150000. Luckily for me the cheaper bike was a ladies bike and the assistant invited me to get on the bike and take a ride around the store. It was later in the evening, so it wasn’t busy, so I mounted the bike and went for a little ride around the shop. It was a perfect fit and I decided this would be my new transport to school. Once all the extras the bike was covered in had been removed I got the price down to 45000 KZT, around £200. I rode it home and looked forward to my first ride to school the next day!
The next morning, I rode through the courtyard and on to the road and I realised how hard this one going to be. Despite the triumph of the Kazakh cyclist at the Olympics last year, it is rare for one to see cyclists riding on the road in Astana. (The car is the favoured form of transport in this country.)
If you do use a bike, they are either builders riding the wrong way up the street or children riding on the pavements. My colleague, who also rides to school, suggested I did just that and stuck to the pavements as much as possible. Another colleague’s husband had had a pretty bad accident on his bike a few months ago and therefore I decided to get a copy of the Kazakh law for the riding of bikes to discover the rules of the road in Kazakhstan.
Having translated some unnecessary articles about cowboys and cow herding, I discovered that bikes should be ridden on the far right of the road and one was allowed to ride on the pavement if necessary.
Riding on the pavements is not easy, as, needless to say, there are many pedestrians and on the road it is essential to have eyes in the back of your head so as not to get hit by some driver who decides you are not worth avoiding!
My rides in Astana are always interesting though! People stare and wave at me and the other day I got stuck behind a double-decker bus (the new city tour, I discovered later!). Last week, unfortunately, I got caught up in one of the official visits of some VIP. When this occurs, whole roads are closed and traffic stopped by police or army to let the cars drive freely through the city. I ended up waiting for 10 minutes for the cavalcade to pass.
In order to get good use of the bikes, myself and two other teachers have decided to organise a biking activity after school for the pupils. This gives us the chance to explore more of the city and to actually use the bike, as this is he most disappointing part! The temperature is dropping below 0 next week and snow is forecast for mid October and will stick around until April, so my biking life is limited.