From La Marseillaise, 8 June 1998
Translation of the article "BikeAbout and the Internet Bring People Together" (view scanned article [130KB, JPG]) is as follows:
'BikeAbout and the Internet Bring People Together'
A friendly team from BikeAbout prepares for the completion of its journey around the Mediterranean on June 30 in Gibraltar
Ethan Galber [sic] is not yet 30 [sic], has short hair, and a youthful, perpetually alert face. He has also traveled a long way from New York, in the company of his teammates Anthony Ziehmke, Padraic Kennedy, and Corinne Idhitney [sic].
Before setting off again on their bikes and pedaling to their journey's final destination - the promontory of Gibraltar in the south of Spain - they stopped in at the Maison Orangina on rue de la Paix (Peace Street).
These brave Yanks, inspired by the most "humanist" of motivations to begin this Mediterranean journey - both the north and south shores - from Morocco on September 25, were welcomed to Marseille by a partner group, the Dia Association.
"Using our portable computers equipped with special modems, every step of the way we send via email a daily log of our travels. Then, on a daily [sic] basis, between 7 and 9 p.m., we have direct discussions with anyone who wants to get online, and in particular some of the 16,005 [sic] students following us from the United States," said Ethan Galber [sic].
BikeAbout and Dia Form an Alliance
On the screen, the BikeAbout pages scroll by like a daily chronological chronicle, like a trip log complete with some fast facts like the number of olives eaten and flat tires repaired. In the text, the everyday qualities of the visited countries are highlighted while not being too divorced from politics and history since one of the team members has a Ph.D. in the history of art [sic].
They are veritable cyber-equipped globetrotters, with a digital camera in hand and the ability to record and diffuse images and sounds from all countries.
"We have recorded a prayer in a mosque, for example, and even conversations. All this material will make possible a CD-ROM, a book, or a documentary after the trip," he continued.
While travel certainly helps educate young people, many of them do not have the ability to do so. Thus, BikeAbout's philosophy pulls from the value of tolerance and exchange. Thus and not surprisingly, this American association is a member organization of the Foundation for the Progress of Humanity, which in 1990 created an international network (an NGO) called the Alliance for a Responsible and United World.
"During our travels, we have learned to deal with bias and stereotypes. It was in Gaza and Lebanon, the areas reputed to be the most dangerous, that we have had the warmest welcomes. The television news is only interested in one side of an issue. When war was being waged in Lebanon, we heard about it every day. Since the fighting has ended, there's been no news at all," he pursued.
Thus, the armed insecurity in Algeria put that country off limits, as it did in Serbia, although Sarajevo was included in their travels.
Some Doors Remain Shut
As American citizens, they found the doors to Libya closed, although they could travel to Gaza. It was on this occasion that BikeAbout and Dia first made contact.
The French association, created in 1995 [sic], initially targeted the Autonomous Palestinian Territories as well as Sarajevo.
"In all we do, we work to help young people take responsibility for things so that they can play a role in their own futures. In Bosnia or in Palestine, we assist by bringing in help, school materials, rehabilitation opportunities, twin city offers, financial support for exchanges," said Stephane Gonzalez, speaking for Dia.
This young association, which moved here from Lyon, has in a very short time earned the confidence of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the European Commission, both of which have become its primary sources of support.
Bringing together cycling and the Internet - an inexpensive contemporary technology and the most advance communications network available - is a seductive idea. It involves a peaceful means - stripped of all aggression - for promoting the use of advanced technology.
In the Middle East and North Africa, hi-tech users can almost be counted on one's hands and are essentially found in academia.
"In some places where there isn't even electricity, the Internet is certainly something that is not given much thought," remarked Ethan Galber.
BikeAbout hopes to apply its working formula in other parts of the world. Now, since the ball is already rolling and having already covered 8,600 kilometers, the easiest part remains: regroup in order to do better next time.