Cuba sees bicycles as partial answer to transport woes

Havana, July 2 (IANS/EFE) The Cuban government plans to reintroduce bicycles as a way to alleviate public transport problems, Vice President Marino Murillo said in comments cited Monday in the official media.

Murillo, the head of the committee to implement the economic reforms put in place by the government of President Raul Castro, said during last Friday’s Cabinet meeting that one way to promote cycling would be to provide bicycle replacement parts at a discount.

Bicycles began appearing en masse on Cuban streets in the 1990s, and particularly in Havana it became an alternative way to deal with the acute transportation crisis caused by the drastic reduction in energy supplies from the old Soviet Union.

In 1991, 30,000 people were using bicycles in the Cuban capital, but by 1999 more than 700,000 Havana residents were moving around the city on bikes.

Murillo discussed reintroducing bicycles when he presented a plan to restructure public transport in Havana, a situation he said had been “unstable, insufficient and of low quality” for years.

In his analysis of the sector, he acknowledged the existence of fare-dodging by passengers and “stealing the (fares) collected with impunity” by some transit employees.

The vice president said that the basic bus and railroad transport services will be maintained under the current state-run system.

He also announced measures to improve transportation, including introducing a new system for paying workers and officials, adding that a system of incentives including bonuses, tax exemptions and even subsidies will be designed to avoid increases in transit fares.

–IANS/EFE

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