Turkmenistan: Citizens 'forced to buy bikes'

People in Turkmenistan are being forced to buy bikes so they can take part in a mass cycling event, it's suggested.

President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov - featured on TV "winning" a cycle race a fortnight ago - has been encouraging mass-participation events on Sundays. And the opposition website Chrono reports that he's expecting the entire population to climb into the saddle on 1 September. "This campaign will help to boost health, ensure environmental security and promote cycling," the president is quoted as saying. It comes after Berdimuhamedov approved a four-year state programme for developing cycling in the country.

But Chrono says this is bad news for those who don't own a bike. "Prices for bikes have sharply risen in the country. By any means, all able-bodied individuals, pupils and students should have bikes by 1 September," it reports, citing the case of one teacher in the capital Ashgabat who tendered his resignation because of his refusal to take part. According to Radio Free Europe, state employees and students were corralled into a ride on 3 August. Government workers were apparently given imported bikes, each costing about $200 - or the average monthly salary.

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