Fixing your bike, Cuban style

Using a bicycle as a means of getting around exploded in Cuba in the 1990s during the "special period" of economic austerity following the dissolution of the USSR, which Cuba had come to rely upon.  A new film looks at the bikes still being ridden today, some twenty years later.

With no fuel available to run private automobiles, and more importantly buses, the country was at risk of grinding to a halt in 1991 (much like the Fuel Crisis of the 1970s in Europe and North America, which we've covered here before).  With food running scarce for its population, transportation became a secondary concern, leaving Cubans to find their own way about.  The consequence was a sustainable transport renaissance; car pooling, hitch hiking and walking flourished, whilst cycling rates increased massively.  Some 2 million new bicycles were distributed in Cuba during the period, with 500,000 of these made on the island itself.

A family of three ride a bike in Cuba, via Wikipedia.

But similar to our own experience with the oil crisis, Cuba's status as a cycling nirvana was short lived.  Once fuel - and cars - returned to the island's roads, the cycling levels dipped.  Now, new bikes are difficult to come by and parts for the old "special period" bicycles are not readily available, yet many Cubans still use bicycles daily and, despite the limited resources, a handful of mechanics provide a service to those who rely on their bikes in their everyday lives.

A new online short film, Havana Bikes, looks at the work of these mechanics and the way in which the multitude of different bicycles that they fix are used.  It's a beautiful shot and edited short by Kauri Multimedia, a production team specialising in multimedia storytelling, web documentaries and short films. 

Havana Bikes from Kauri Multimedia on Vimeo.

So grab yourself a cup of tea (or maybe a Mojito?), sit back, and allow yourself to be transported to Cuba for a short while.  And next time you fix a puncture by replacing the entire inner tube with a new one, spare a thought for the mechanics of Havana who are a little more adept at mending and making do...

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