From the Netherlands to Winnipeg, project promotes cycling culture

More than 100 bicycles hitting the streets of Winnipeg will be more than a mode of transportation — they will carry a story that crosses the ocean, peddles through the Netherlands and promotes the cycling lifestyle.

A shipping container of bicycles is on its way to the city carrying 140 Dutch bikes as part of the Plain Bicycle Project.

“It’s funny, in the Netherlands it’s just a bike obviously,” Anders Swanson, who works with the project, said on CBC Radio’s Information RadioMonday.

“If anybody has ever seen a postcard with a canal in the background and a bike with maybe some flowers in the basket in the front it’s probably one of these bikes.”

Swanson said the single-speed bikes allow the rider to sit upright “like you are travelling through the landscape on a lazy boy.” The handlebars are near to the chest and there’s a skirt guard, fender, lights and a chain guard that goes completely around.

“So even if you are wearing your wedding dress you will end up where you need to get without getting dirty,” Swanson said.

Hopping on a bike to get to a special event or the grocery store is everyday fare in the Netherlands. In a 2014 report, 36 per cent of the people in the European country listed the bike as their most frequent mode of transportation.

“Cycling is already the fastest growing mode of transportation here in Winnipeg. If driving was increasing at the rate of cycling was we’d have to be widening Main Street,” Swanson said.

Swanson said he’d like to see it get closer to numbers in the Netherlands but there are a couple hurdles in the way, including normalizing cycling culture. People can buy all types of bikes in the Netherlands but they largely choose to keep it simple and stick with the Dutch bikes.

“There is something about the bicycle itself because when everybody is riding the same exact thing there is no sort of fad, there is no sort of gear obsession — you are just riding the bicycle that gets you everywhere,” he said.

The project’s goal is to help people see themselves on a bicycle, Swanson said.

“It’s not something you need to work up to, it’s not something you need to be an athlete in order to participate in, just so that people realize this magic combination of a plain bicycle and cycle track can replace a good section of car trips,” he said.

He said it will foster a shared understanding of what everyday cycling means.

The bikes, which are already on the water making their way across the Atlantic Ocean, cost participants about $250 and have already been spoken for. While these bikes are special in history and intention, Swanson said it’s all about getting people out on any bike.

“I think it’s something that people really, really want,” he said.

Three ways you can help


Donate your old bike and
give it a new life.


Help us fix bikes
and complete more projects


Donate €25,- and you can give one person a bike.