Duo cycles Cambodia for environmental awareness

Duo cycles Cambodia for environmental awareness


With 80,000 kilometres and 45 countries behind them, two determined cyclists take on the Kingdom’s highways


Richard Ferge and Stani Martinkova in front of Wat Phnom.

Between the exhaust fumes, colossal Land Rovers and hoards of hell-bent motorbike drivers, Cambodia's roads do not strike the visitor as particularly cyclist- or eco-friendly. Nonetheless, a duo of determined athletes are taking on the Kingdom's highways in the name of environmental awareness, armed only with their bikes, good will and a significant degree of road rage. In fact, with 80,000 kilometres and 45 countries under their figurative belts, "The Velomads", Richard Ferge and Stani Martinkova are taking on the globe.

Their journey started in 1996 in the Alaskan mountains when they embarked on a mission to Argentina with an eco-minded transport policy of travelling only by bicycle and, where necessary, train or boat. But what started as a cycling tour of America quickly evolved into an environmental campaign and an eight-year physical epic in which the pair aimed to traverse 100 countries and 100,000 kilometres.

"While we were travelling, we met so many people who were cycling around the world, that we realised it was quite an easy thing to do," said Martinkova, a Czech-British NGO worker and lifelong cycling devotee.

For her partner, sommelier Ferge, the progression from two legs to two wheels did not come so naturally.

"When I first met Richard, he hated cycling. His last experience of riding was when he used to puncture holes in the tyres of the bike he was forced to ride to school," Martinkova said. However, she quickly indoctrinated the Frenchman with the many economic and ecological virtues of cycling, and it seems he has taken to the pursuit with enormous zeal.  

Driving passion

But it is primarily a passion for the environment that is driving the pair, who are using their journey to teach youth in classrooms in each country they visit about the dangers of climate change and environmental degradation.

The pair have had to contend with more than a few linguistic, cultural, political and legal barriers, but as Martinkova explains, the most difficult obstacle "The Velomads" have grappled with has been the degree of environmental degradation they've witnessed.

"The most difficult thing has been the extreme pollution that's going on everywhere.  It's really heartbreaking on a daily basis and we get so frustrated," Martinkova said.

The state of the Cambodian roads and physical environment has been particularly troubling.

"Cycling and walking is seen as being for poor people here, so everyone is rushing out to get their own moto or Range Rover without awareness of the long-term consequences," she said.  The Velomads will be living up to their name for sometime yet as they peddle their message at an average 80 kilometres a day from Phnom Penh through Southeast Asia and Australasia.


  • Negotiations on EBA being held

    In an effort to defuse tensions, a senior government official said Cambodia is negotiating with the European Union (EU) on the Everything But Arms (EBA) trade deal, which allows the Kingdom to export goods to the 28-member bloc tariff-free. The EU notified Cambodia on October 5

  • Ministers to tackle sea pollutants

    Preah Sihanouk provincial authorities and members of local communities have collected 77 tonnes of water hyacinth at a Sihanoukville beach, Preah Sihanouk Provincial Hall spokesperson Or Saroeun said. He told The Post yesterday that the aquatic weeds had been floating along some of the province’s

  • Chinese police escort deported scam suspects

    Ninety-one Chinese nationals accused of extorting money from victims in a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) scam were deported from Phnom Penh International Airport on Monday under the escort of 182 Chinese police personnel. General Department of Immigration head of investigations Ouk Hay Seila told reporters

  • Sam Rainsy, government group set to clash at IPU Geneva meet?

    Opposition figure Sam Rainsy has been invited to speak at the General Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) in Geneva, according to a former Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP) lawmaker. A government delegation is also set to attend the meeting, a National Assembly press release