Cycling Cuba’s Oriente

Three weeks in Cuba, cycling unsupported around the coast of the Oriente – Guardalavaca, Baracoa, La Farola, Santiago, Sierra Maestra…

Viva la revolución!

We’re just back from three weeks in Cuba, cycling unsupported around the coast of the Oriente- Guardalavaca, Baracoa, La Farola, Santiago, Sierra Maestra… we’ve got monster tan lines and an irrational hatred of plantain chips and everything made of guava… 😉

Rather unfortunately my camera didn’t make it. Luckily, I wasn’t the only one taking pictures, and in the true spirit of antiimperialismo I’m able to bring you a few sneak peeks while I write up more substantial reports (watch this space).

Cuba certainly lived up to its reputation as a first-rate cycling destination: perfect weather, amazing roads, friendly people… with the daily average around 40°C it was certainly an antidote to British winter blues!

The coast road just east of Marea del Portillo, Granma

Fixing the suspension of our intercity transport with some fence wire on the Carratera Central.
Note the five well secured (!) bikes.

Crossing the Sierra Maestra towards San Lorenzo

cuba10 (1)
Riding into another Carribean sunset…

cuba1Crossing the pass of La Farola, between Baracoa and Guantanamo

cuba2Rush hour on a typical Cuban main road

The amazing coast road west of Santiago…

All that’s left of the only road on the south side of the Sierra Maestro…

How much longer will it last? Anyone’s guess…

A rational premium for bike-friendly housing?

Rationally, if we intended to live in a house for just ten years it would be worth spending up to an extra £24,000…

In “how I saved a house deposit cycling to work” I showed that being able to keep a second car off the road has saved us £9500 over the last four years, or £2375pa. (That’s based on our real bank account balance).

Let’s imagine that there’s no difference in terms of health or enjoyment and stick with the financial figures. Rationally, if we intended to live in a house for just ten years it would be worth spending up to an extra £24,000 to secure one which allowed us to ride to work.

That would have to include the costs of borrowing extra money and ignores the opportunity cost of investing the money in the house (after all, we could use it to become loan sharks instead) but it’s still a hefty amount of cash when Scotland’s average home costs less than £200,000.

Image courtesy Andrew_Writer

Say you want to settle down and have kids which means you’re going to be around for the next twenty years- it would make sense to spend up to £50,000 more on a house which is bike-friendly than one which isn’t.

Being rational, it’s safe to say that many people are making such decisions – although of course you could look at it as a way of getting more house for the same money rather than a requirement to physically spend more. I have no doubt people do both.

Of course, rational cyclists being willing to pay significantly more money to live on a good cycle route can be used as an easy justification for the construction of more cycle routes too. Let’s imagine the £600,000 cost of the Quality Bike Corridor had delivered an excellent commuter route instead of a shocking waste of effort painting lanes under parked cars. That £600k would potentially have benefited local residents to the tune of £2,000 per annum, per household. (Even giving up a bus pass is worth £6000 per decade on your house value).

If just 300 households were able to give up a car as a result of the provision of a Dutch-class segregated cycle route at that price, it would deliver a return on investment *in the first year*.

Even better, the money people stop spending on cars when the council builds a segregated cycle facility feeds directly into the economy – perhaps largely the local economy. Is this why cities that do build world-class facilities see such a dramatic rise in the turnover of local business?

You may find talk of inflated house prices improbable, but there’s good evidence from the school catchment system that parents have been paying up to £200,000 more for comparable properties with better schools (the average is apparently around a 20% premium, although that article is a few years old).

Because there’s no firm line separating “people close enough to use this cycle facility” from “people not allowed to use this cycle facility”, you wouldn’t expect a sharp, easily detectable price jump in the same way that catchments have. However, there must be a good masters or PhD. thesis in measuring the effect.

Houses identical to ours (with bigger gardens) go for six figures less in Fife than they do here. We’re also buying into a good school catchment, but our budget definitely included a “cycling premium”.

Doesn’t yours?

Dooring – depressingly common

It’s lucky I’ve seen so many offences committed on Edinburgh’s streets that I was covering the brakes…

The #1 cause of cycling KSIs is a flung-open door

I’m not going to say much about this, other than to point out that it’s lucky I’ve seen so many offences committed on Edinburgh’s streets that I was covering the brakes and able to stop without drama.

Something I learned the hard way as a student, when I was taken off by a flung-open door in moving traffic (!).

I could write to the council and report the taxi – 8am, no stopping zone, W309 PSX (taxi number 1199) and a clear offence under Construction & Use… but what’s the point? It would merely be noted as no death occurred (and presumably I “came out of nowhere” despite wearing a white jacket 😉 )

These days you can actually get prosecuted if you’re doing something as unusual as driving while eating a bowl of cereal, but something like this is so depressingly common that it’s not even worth reporting.