Biking for fun and profit


  • Business
  • Saturday, 18 Feb 2017

BELGIUM has some of Europe’s most congested roads.

So Ben Weyts, the country’s minister of mobility, thought he had a winning idea when he figured out that the answer lay in bicycling – more precisely, investment into new bike lanes.

Alas, poor Weyts. He cycled to an event to announce his US$316mil investment plan only to return half an hour later to find that his brand-new bicycle had been stolen!

It was clearly a case for the indefatigable Hercule Poirot, the famous Belgian detective who solved crimes by reasoning everything down to a simple n’est se pas? (isn’t that so?).

But Agatha Christie had died years ago and Poirot’s 21st century equivalent was closed-circuit television, a modern crime fighting tool not generally given to fatuous utterances in French.

The hapless Weyts had done everything right, even locking his bike to a rack at Halle railway station, south of Brussels. And so he suffered the indignity of having to call his driver to pick him up from the station.

Weyts was a fanatical biker and liked to wax lyrical over its merits, a state of mind that caused his less fit colleagues to dislike him.

Their dislike was compounded by the fact that he was such an avid biker that his first question upon hearing that a fellow biker had crashed was invariably: “How’s the bike?”

In Malaysia, crime did not pay... as well as politics. But Belgium was a developed country and part of the OECD which meant that crime should have been low. That was why the Belgian police felt humiliated and thought that there was no longer any honour amongst thieves who would stoop so low as to steal a bicycle. But they were philosophers and concluded that the world had gone from being flat to round to crooked.

The police were certain that the signage at the station had been clear enough. “To avoid robbery certainly lock your bicycle and keep the key with you at all times,” it advised, adding helpfully, “but we will not take any responsibility for the robbery.”

Crime was getting worse in Europe and that was one reason why their conservatives had begun arguing for the reinstatement of capital punishment.

They knew that it was good detergent to crime. European liberals disagreed.

They felt that capital punishment was merely the killing of people who killed other people to prove that killing people was wrong.

Belgian police investigations have since concluded that the miscreant was probably a kleptomaniac with a clear conscience who’d figured out his condition long ago and thought he could just take something for it.

A Brussels native has since been charged not only with theft but perjury, obstruction and making false statements. The latter three charges are the stuff of what president Trump’s White House might call “a press conference.”

The United States felt superior to Belgium because no US minister had ever had his bicycle slolen from him. When Brussels pointed out that the United States had no ministers only secretaries, let alone ones who cycled to work, they were accused of nitpicking.

When it was pointed out that Washington was rapidly becoming Murder Central, president Trump was equal to the charge.

“Outside of the killings,” the president boasted. “Washington has one of the lowest crime rates in the country.”

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