Bike Lanes in Chiang Mai
Both locals and visitors have shown increasing willingness to tour Chiang Mai’s level, well paved streets under their own power. Now Chiang Mai province has announced that it will spend 40 million baht ($1+ million) for four bike lanes across the city to cater for our cycling boom. Chiang Mai cycling enthusiasts (the Lycra crowd) and tourists will soon be able to enjoy their first bike lane, a 5km route between Chiang Mai International Convention and Exhibition Centre and the Huai Tueng Thao reservoir, slated to open next April. The bike lanes are part of a program to boost residents’ health, in accordance with Thai government policy. Thais have taken to junk food, TV and beer with such enthusiasm that they’re dying of what are politely called ‘lifestyle ailments’ in large numbers. Obesity is on the increase amongst once-slim Thais.
Fortunately, there are more than 70 bicycle clubs in Chiang Mai province and the number of cyclists has shot up over the past few years. More expensive bikes and more colorful costumes have shown up on the roads every year as prosperity grows. The lanes include
- A 13.5km route around the canal (the canal is NOT the same as the moat. The famous moat is one mile square and forms the boundary of the inner city’s Old Town) around the city that budgeted for 20 million baht;
- a 10 km route to the ancient city of Wiang Kum Kam in Saraphi district (3.7 million baht); and
- an 18km lane linking Royal Flora Ratchapruek Park to the Doi Kham pagoda and Night Safari for 7.4 million baht).
Where – or whether – these will link up is still undecided but however long it takes to establish a dedicated cycling path around Chiang Mai it’ll still be a great investment and a big draw for visitors. Bike rental shops (any shop with a street frontage) will be delighted. Our local biking booster, Boonchin Sawamoon, president of Chiang Mai’s thriving Sunday Bike Club, expressed support for project, saying the lanes will promote a healthy lifestyle while being kind to the environment. “I hope these bike lanes will be a good standard and really usable,” he said. Mr. Boonchin, having seen a few boondoggles in his time, emphasised that when a huge budget was involved, relevant authorities and the people’s sector should be informed of the budget allocations too.
We’ve all got our fingers crossed that Chiang Mai’s bike lanes will fulfill Mr. Boonchin’s expectations.