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This article was published 11/6/2019 (586 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Anyone want a used bike from the Netherlands? They’re going fast.
The Plain Bike Project unloaded a shipping container crammed with discarded Dutch bicycles Tuesday at a secret location in downtown Winnipeg.
Over the next month or so, the local enthusiasts will repair and get the bikes ready for the 221 people who signed up for the so-called omafiets ("grandma bikes"), leaving 19 available for $350 each online at the Plain Bike Project. (The price covers the costs of shipping and repairs.)
'The point is to get people thinking anybody can ride a bike, that it’s a lifelong thing to bike' – Anders Swanson, co–founder of the Plain Bike Project
"The whole idea is to create a bicycle culture explosion," said Plain Bike co-founder Anders Swanson, who also heads up the Winnipeg Trails Association and is one of six people who organized the shipment to the Prairie city.
"What better way to welcome the bicycle infrastructure being built in Winnipeg and all across North America than by being an early adopter of a plain bike... (which) will probably become the preferred ride," Plain Bike Project's website notes.
Biking is a perennial issue in Winnipeg, with enthusiasts pressing for more paths to safeguard cyclists navigating busy traffic corridors. On average, two cyclists are killed in the province each year, according to Manitoba Public Insurance.
Durable, comfortable and easy to ride, the Dutch bikes come with fenders, upright handlebars, a rack, integrated lock, kickstand and sturdy steel frame with a sloping tube (so you can wear whatever and still get around).
Like Winnipeg, the Netherlands are flat, so most of the bikes come with internal gears, which the Plain Bike founders claim makes them last longer and stand up to more abuse.
"The point is to get people thinking anybody can ride a bike, that it’s a lifelong thing to bike. You can be a kid or a grandma, it doesn’t matter. These bikes grow old with you. They’re the Honda Civics of bicycles," Swanson said.
None of the plain bikes have disc brakes, shocks, knobby tires, carbon fibre, etc. In other words, less bling to draw thieves.
Of the 100 bicycles Plain Bike organizers shipped over from the Netherlands last year — the first year for the project — two were stolen, organizers observed.
Earlier this year, three co-founders made the trip to the Netherlands to collect more bikes and stickhandle paperwork to export the cargo to Winnipeg. A container weighing more than 8,200 kilograms was loaded on to a cargo ship in mid-April and arrived via the Panama Canal in Vancouver, where it was shipped by freight train to Winnipeg.
The container was locked with a Dutch bike lock and, without the key, opening the doors proved a problem.
"They had to beat the hell out of it," trucker Grant Houlden said, who hung around after unloading the cargo. The Plain Bike people used his hammer to pound the lock apart; it took about five minutes and a lot of exertion for Swanson to finally snap it open.
"I’ve never seen a lock like it before. My bolt cutters couldn’t cut it," Houlden said.
The appeal of a Dutch bike, apart from the lock, is its simplicity and its supply, theatre director and former bike currier Leigh Anne Parry said.
"The Netherlands have over two bikes per person and a lot of them end up on the side of the streets. There are more bikes than people, so there are a lot of bikes not being used," the project co-founder said.
"It’s an easy, relaxing ride. There’s no pressure on your arms and you can carry all your groceries with these bikes," she added, before heading into the shipping container to start hauling them out.