Cubans' 2-wheel revolution continues in Bayamo

Capital of Granma province is known as city of bicycles

BAYAMO, Cuba – The "bicicletero" rules the roads of the Cuban city of Bayamo, the capital of the eastern Granma province. Caribbean rust is the enemy.

In "ciclo" country, there are "ciclotaxis," also known as bicycle taxis. The list also includes the "ciclo-buses," which can accommodate more than three passengers. The "ciclo-carretillas" are meant to carry cargo, and the "ciclo-vias" are roads that are exclusive to the bicycle.

"If you have a bicycle, well, you will be comfortable," 65-year-old retiree Carlos Brizuela said. He doesn't own a bicycle.

Bicycles took over in the 1990s when the fall of the Soviet Union worsened public transportation, and officials turned to an aggressive bike transport policy. Fidel Castro imported about 1.5 million from China, known as the kingdom of bicycles. Most of them were black classic all-steel single-speed Flying Pigeons from Tianjin.

After producing about half a million bicycles, the Cuban government brought in about 2 million bicycles. About a decade later, Cubans still rely on a bike infrastructure. But just like antique cars, repairing the old bicycles requires creativity.

The Cuban government doesn't run shops to fix bicycles. Cuban ingenuity is required when a part is not available. Some riders in Bayamo have bicycles with wheels from the '90s, a frame from the '40s and a horn from the '80s.

In downtown, workers pay at the "Parqueadero de Bicicletas," a storage business that charges a daily fee of a Cuban peso per bicycle. They can store up to 100 bicycles a day and also sell food at a window cafeteria. 

"A lot of the people who come to downtown to work, and shoppers" use the service, said Amilkar Milanes, 24, who keeps an eye on the bicycles. 

Local 10 News producer Michelle Lacamoire and photojournalist Mario Alonso contributed to this report.