After two weeks in the rural uplands of Northern Nicaragua, I am quite inspired to try commuting by horse when I once again live somewhere. Horses are quite practical here, considering the condition of rocky roads after an annual deluge of rain and occasional mudslides. However, my main inspiration is the sustainability of using horses to access places a little too far to cycle. Think how fit we would be, and how much more social it would be to be stuck in traffic if we were all on horseback! I call for regional centres in Europe and the US to have horse hitches as well as bike racks!
The transport options in Nicaragua are indeed horseback and horse cart, (and horse carriages for tourists in Grenada), along with foot, bicycle, and motorcycle (the driver is required to wear a helmet, but the passenger and the baby tucked in between generally go bare-headed). Also available are tuk-tuks, cars and SUVs, and various sizes of bus. I am quite surprised at the number of bicycles one sees around, considering the heat, but people – some women although mostly men – whip around on mountain bikes in towns and villages. The bikes have no racks but bags of beans and such are sometimes balanced on the handlebars. One village I visited was eight km from the nearest secondary school, and the parents told me that those pupils who could afford it, would cycle to the bus stop rather than walk the four km.
Bikes are so common here in Nicaragua that pools and museums sometimes have signs requesting people don´t bring them into the pool or museum – and the church funeral I saw took place with a couple of bikes tucked behind the pews by the side door.
The main advantage to horses and bicycles on a global scale is the environmental impact. I am not talking about fancy horses for dressage competitions, but workaday getting-around horses. The price of petrol here is not all that low, considering the cost of living, but we all know it is running out. No amount of the scavenging which is going on now, to find and exploit oil in vulnerable and difficult places, is going to change the outcome of humans reaching the end of a finite resource. We need to make changes now to avoid having to manage the problem only when it has reached a crisis. Much of our daily travel is short distances: walkable, cyclable and horse-rideable. Who else wants to call for horse hitches in towns?