In the beginning of the 90´s people saw it as difficult to ride bikes in Cuba. Traffic didn´t consider bikers and being as unprotected as you are on a bike it is a big problem when drivers don´t take in to consideration that they should be careful around bikers. Bikes have always been rare in Cuba which makes the drivers uneasy with bikes since it is nothing they are used to. They thought bikers could, as pedestrians, move aside quickly. If you turn back time about ten years, there has been a revolutionary change in conditions for biking in Cuba. Bikers now have their own file, by the road not giving cars access to this side.
How can this be?
You can compare this to a revolution because that is what it is. Cuba has in no way been a biking country. Before the revolution in 1959 people were so poor that they simply couldn´t afford a bike. The rich on the other hand, were so rich that they possessed beautiful cars. After the revolution there was a change, even though a slow one. At the fall of the Soviet Union big things started since all foreign trades with the east seized. This mainly led to lack of gas creating a crisis in the transportation industry.
People quickly rose to the cause to correct the problem. It became mandatory for city transports to pick up hitchhikers. All private cars were also encouraged to pick up people along the roads. Since the bike doesn´t need fuel or oil there was a big investment in biking by importing bikes from China and started a production of bikes. The imported bikes were sold at a very low price so that even poor people could afford them. Laws were changed and several projects around the world started raising funds and collecting old bikes that were restored and sent to Cuba. Biking took of and soon you could see bike-taxis as well. Still today Cubans is a biking people and by biking on Cuba you get a certain connection to the people that you won´t get when travelling by car.
At the time of the biking revolution many projects were started around the world. They collected old bikes that were restored and sent to Cuba, there given to the people mostly in need of help. Canada was one of the big initiatives in this kind of project. Canadian tourists travelling by boat or planes to Cuba helped transporting bikes. At the airport tourists are contacted so that the bikes can be collected and sent to the right people. Since biking in Cuba has become more popular, tourists are encouraged to bring their own bike and donating it after the holiday.
This way the number of bikes in Cuba increases and the tourist doesn’t need to transport his bike home again, win-win for Cuba – and for the traveller, and of course the environment!