If the British transport secretary, Grant Shapps, is in search of a “mannequin” for his bicycle registration plates proposal he might flip to one of many world’s most intolerant nations: North Korea.
After many years of being frowned upon as a primitive technique of transport for residents of a contemporary, socialist paradise, biking gained official acceptance within the secretive state in 1992 – though it’s formally banned for ladies.
They’re now an costly however more and more common mode of transport for a lot of within the nation, the place non-public automobile possession, though on the rise, continues to be uncommon.
The change of coronary heart was partly attributed to the famine and financial disaster of the Nineteen Nineties, which made different modes of transport too costly, whereas energy cuts made rail providers unreliable, the US-based web site NK Information stated in a 2017 article.
Lately, Pyongyang is taken into account bike-friendly, largely as a result of there are so few vehicles on the capital’s vast streets. Bicycle lanes and parking areas are to be discovered all around the metropolis, and bikes are indispensable in rural areas with subsequent to no different technique of getting round.
That stated, the authorities proceed to have a love-hate relationship with the bicycle.
Would-be house owners are required to move a street security take a look at at their native police station, and each bicycle requires a licence plate – a steel tag displaying the place it was registered, together with a registration quantity, that’s displayed on the entrance.
As in different nations, bicycles are thought of a standing image in North Korea.
Japanese bikes are reportedly probably the most wanted, adopted by domestically made fashions which can be stated to be manufactured by jail labourers. Chinese language bikes are the least coveted, in response to Beijing-based Koyro Excursions, which has organised biking breaks for overseas guests to Pyongyang and different elements of North Korea.
In 2015 it was reported that North Korea had put in bicycle lanes on main roads in Pyongyang, apparently to deal with accidents involving cyclists and pedestrians. It was additionally a mirrored image of an increase within the quantity of people that might afford a bicycle, though they’re nonetheless past the attain of most of the nation’s 26 million folks.
Whereas license plates are non-negotiable, a ban on ladies driving bicycles has been tougher to implement. Girls have been reportedly forbidden from biking in 1995 by the then chief, Kim Jong-il, partly as a result of he believed the sight of a girl putting a “seductive” pose on two wheels would corrupt public morals.
Others say the reason being extra prosaic: Kim ordered the ban, with fines and even confiscation for offenders, after the daughter of a high-ranking official died after she was hit by a automobile whereas driving her bike in Pyongyang.
His son and successor, Kim Jong-un – who has been pictured on horses and amusement park rides, however by no means on a bicycle – lifted the ban in 2012, solely to impose it once more a 12 months later.
Reviews from Pyongyang counsel that whereas the ban continues to be in place, harsh financial actuality means it’s not often enforced. Many ladies could be unable to purchase and promote items at markets or take their kids to and from college with no bicycle.