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‘The Devil’s Horse’ – Cheap mode of public transport

Ahmad Al-Sarraf
Bicycle is a cheap mode of public transportation especially in poor countries. It has recently become fashionable and a sport in advanced countries, and is considered as an ideal way to traverse through crowded cities. It also symbolizes the need to save the environment.

More than one billion and 200 million bicycles are produced per year. Most of them are manufactured and used in China. From the time bicycles were invented in 1885 and used throughout the last 130 years, very few changes have been made to them except for the sport kind which has been continuously improved to make it lighter and more expensive.

It is said that the Scottish blacksmith Kirk Patrick Macmillan was the first man to use a bicycle. Others believe that the French Pierre Michaux and Pierre La Imo rode bicycles before Macmillan.

The first bicycle manufacturing factory was established in Britain in 1885. Shortly after, bicycles were made more comfortable and easier to use, especially when another Scottish man Dunlop used inflatable tires to bicycles by the end of the 19th century.

Visitors to China will be amazed by the huge number of bicycles that can be seen on the roads of big cities. They will find the bicycle noises strange as such sounds are not common in our countries.

In China, there is a complicated system of bicycle traffic. There are fixed paths and parking spots for bicycles. It is indeed a widely used transportation mode in China.

Our region was introduced to bicycles in the 1940s. In the beginning, riding a bicycle required a special license. Bicycles also had plate numbers. In Saudi Arabia, they used to call a bicycle “The Devil’s Horse” because people were suspicious about it due to its unfamiliar shape and strange method of use.

I still remember my first bicycle. Nearly 60 years ago, my father took me to the Dahla area to buy me the cycle. I had chosen a “Lion” bicycle, which was the best brand back then. My father paid for the bicycle and then drove off in his car, leaving me behind with my new bicycle. It was a cold drizzling night. I took two hours that night to reach home, even though it usually takes me just 30 minutes to reach on foot. I was really tired, my body was covered with mud, my arms were bruised and my clothes were torn. At first my mother thought I had quarreled with some boys, as I often did. But I told her I did not quarrel with anyone, asking her to postpone the discussion until the next morning as I was really tired. She insisted on knowing what had happened and I had to tell her about the new bicycle. I told my mother that my father left me with the bicycle without checking whether or not I knew how to ride one. So I ended up walking home on foot dragging the cycle along with me through dark unpaved roads that were filled with ditches into which I kept falling during my journey.


By Ahmed Al-Sarraf





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