Biking Cuba



S

Steve Juniper

Guest
A friend emailed me this short article that might be of interest (I'm still hoping to bike the
length of Cuba before Castro dies). I omit the pictures...

Forever Bicycle

A photo essay by Marcia Miquelon

All images and text copyright Marcia Miquelon, 1997.

Contact the author at 608-274-3819.

This past January, armed with a camera and a bicycle, I headed to Cuba for a month's exploration.
Like many Americans, my understanding of this beautiful Carribean country was small and clouded.
However, I was intrigued by what I'd heard; that in the wake of the fall of the Soviet Bloc, Cuba's
oil supplies had dried up and that as a result, the country had turned to the bicycle to move goods
and people around. Monday morning traffic in downtown Havana Steel steed for a family of four.

I went expecting austerity: long lines for rationed goods; unsmiling faces; bureaucratic hassles;
the kind of greyness that good capitalists learn to associate with communism. What I found was a
relaxed land of strong sunshine, warm, kindhearted people, and bicycles, bicycles everywhere.

They are called Forever Bicycle, Flying Pigeon, Light Roadster. There's an ironic brand-name, since
the steel Chinese one-speeds which fill the streets of Cuba today are anything but light. With their
fenders, heavy-duty rear racks and extended rear axles (footrests for the passengers which commonly
sit astride the rack), these beasts of burden often tip the scales just shy of fifty pounds.
Unwieldy though they may be, especially loaded down with all manner of cargo, from sacks of rice to
pigs, to two or even three human passengers, these simple bicycles are the lynch-pin of
transportation in Cuba today. Together with an astounding array of pedal-powered taxis, vending
carts, load-carrying vehicles and the like, Cuba begins to feel like bicycle utopia. A bicycle taxi
transports passengers through Havana's colonial quarter. Cottage industry in Cuba: a roadside
bicycle mechanic. Making deliveries.

Not that "utopian" is the term your average Cuban would use to describe their reliance on pedal
power. Cubans love their cars, tending them with loving care even when they have no fuel to run
them. It is undeniably harder to get your family off to work and school every day using one bicycle
than it would be using a car. Some Cubans cycle for fun and fitness, but for most, it's a matter of
necessity.

Castro claims to have used Holland as a model of an industrialized country which has maintained its
reliance on bicycle transportation, and reaps the environmental, economic and health benefits of
this choice. After 1990, when the Soviet oil tankers stopped arriving in Havana harbor, the Cuban
government imported two million bicycles from China, and sold them for about a week's wages ($5
U.S.) to its citizens. Bicycle facilities were created, factories retrofitted, and domestic bicycle
production commenced. Today, bike-only busses carry cyclists from an eastern suburb under a causeway
to Havana, and former six-lane highways have been re-striped with a full lane in each direction for
bicycles only. Traveling companion for a morning. Every time the boy would hit a pothole, his cargo
(a live pig) would squeal. Still life with bicycle in the colonial city of Trinidad.

It is ironic, somehow, that the fall of the iron curtain combined with a stubborn, decades-old U.S.
trade embargo should create the perfect conditions for bicycle touring. Cars on the roads are few
and far between. Most of the legendary 1950's vintage Plymouths and DeSotos sit parked, their tanks
empty of gas. When I did encounter a car on the road, I could rest assured that the driver was also
a cyclist, and as such would treat me with patience and respect. I have never felt safer on a bike.
What's more, everywhere I looked, another ingenious pedal-powered contrivance captured my fancy, and
on nearly every road that I went down, I was surrounded by other cyclists happy to pass the
kilometers in conversation. Here are a few of many vivid images of Cuba's velorution.


Steve Juniper "Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere."
 
M

Mpt

Guest
We went biking in Cuba last X'Mas. Absoultely cyclist friendly. Cubans and
old cars certainly impress us a lot. Will go back next time to do some other
prats of Cuba.
"Gearoid O Laoi" <[email protected]> wrote in message
news:[email protected]...
> Nice chap Fidel.
>
> Murderous thug.
>
> --
> Gearoid O Laoi
 
C

Chuck Anderson

Guest
MPT wrote:

>We went biking in Cuba last X'Mas. Absoultely cyclist friendly. Cubans and old cars certainly
>impress us a lot. Will go back next time to do some other parts of Cuba.
>
>
Can you explain the legality. Do you have to sneak over there? Swear on a stack of bibles that you
won't spend any money? Float over on a raft? Not sure what Li'l Big Brother W has done about this
while in orifice. Is a passport needed?

--
*****************************
Chuck Anderson • Boulder, CO http://www.CycleTourist.com Integrity is obvious. The lack of it
is common.
*****************************
 
L

Luigi De Guzman

Guest
On Mon, 16 Feb 2004 23:27:24 GMT, Chuck Anderson
<[email protected]> wrote:

>MPT wrote:
>
>>We went biking in Cuba last X'Mas. Absoultely cyclist friendly. Cubans and old cars certainly
>>impress us a lot. Will go back next time to do some other parts of Cuba.
>>
>>
>Can you explain the legality. Do you have to sneak over there? Swear on a stack of bibles that you
>won't spend any money? Float over on a raft? Not sure what Li'l Big Brother W has done about this
>while in orifice. Is a passport needed?

It is if you're re-entering the USA!
 
C

Claire Petersky

Guest
"Chuck Anderson" <[email protected]> wrote in message
news:[email protected]_s53...
> MPT wrote:
>
> >We went biking in Cuba last X'Mas. Absoultely cyclist friendly. Cubans
and
> >old cars certainly impress us a lot. Will go back next time to do some
other
> >parts of Cuba.
> >
> >
> Can you explain the legality. Do you have to sneak over there? Swear on a stack of bibles that you
> won't spend any money? Float over on a raft? Not sure what Li'l Big Brother W has done about this
> while in orifice. Is a passport needed?

See: http://travel.state.gov/cuba.html

I have read that recently the government has tightened up on enforcement on this policy, making it
harder for US citizens (who typically would get there via Canada, Mexico, or other mutually friendly
country) to enter for casual tourism, which before would be dressed up as an educational or
charitable trip. I've also similarly read is that they've loosened up on people visiting relatives.
I'd be interested in if someone can find a citation for that -- I thought I read it in the
newspaper, but a google news search is coming up with nada.

Best I could find: http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/displ
ay?slug=watch07&date=20031107&query=cuba+visa

Also note: http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin/texis.cgi/web/vortex/displ
ay?slug=updates18&date=20040116&query=cuba+visa, for the section, "Scrutinizing Cuba vacationers"

--
Warm Regards,

Claire Petersky
Please replace earthlink for mouse-potato and .net for .com

Home of the meditative cyclist:
http://home.earthlink.net/~cpetersky/Welcome.htm

New CD coming out this month! See: http://www.tiferet.net

"To forgive is to set the prisoner free and then discover the prisoner
was you."
 
J

Janet

Guest
Chuck Anderson wrote:
> MPT wrote:
>
>
>>We went biking in Cuba last X'Mas. Absoultely cyclist friendly. Cubans and old cars certainly
>>impress us a lot. Will go back next time to do some other parts of Cuba.
>>
>>
>
> Can you explain the legality. Do you have to sneak over there? Swear on a stack of bibles that you
> won't spend any money? Float over on a raft? Not sure what Li'l Big Brother W has done about this
> while in orifice. Is a passport needed?
>

Hi Chuck,

It's basically illegal (for US citizens/residents) to go to Cuba except under special circumstances.
This has been the case since long before, as you put it, "Li'l Big Brother W". My guess would be
it's been this way since around the time of the Cuban missle crisis (1962).

For current info see: http://travel.state.gov/cuba.html

Janet
 
K

Kyler Laird

Guest
Chuck Anderson <[email protected]> writes:

>Can you explain the legality. Do you have to sneak over there? Swear on a stack of bibles that you
>won't spend any money? Float over on a raft? Not sure what Li'l Big Brother W has done about this
>while in orifice. Is a passport needed?

I found this interesting.
http://www.cigaraficionado.com/Cigar/CA_Archives/CA_Show_Article_Print/0,2812,211,00.html

A friend has cycled in Cuba a couple of times with a university group. It sounds like a great trip.
I'd like to do it.

--kyler