29
Jun-2019

The biking culture

Uncategorized   /  

What’s with all the bikes here?! 

Yes Shkodra is known for bikes, you could call it the unofficial biking capital of the Balkans. Almost 1 out of 3 locals, regardless of age, gender or size, use the “bicikleta” for everyday needs. Bicikleta is not only a lifestyle here, it’s also a necessity as not everyone can afford to buy and maintain a car. We use bikes to buy and transport items from the market, go to school or work, get things done faster, or simply go for a promenade!

It may be a dutch phrase, but in Shkoder people are also born with a bike nearby, and this tradition now has passed the century. For this reason everyday you will find three generations of Shkodrans challenging the heat of the summer, the rainy days of spring and fall and the cold or snow of the winter, all by bike. 

Biking in Shkoder is also a unique experience for a traveller since you have to get going with the flow, there are not really rules about traffic or direction. You can go everywhere as long as you open your eyes, look carefully and don’t go too fast! The drivers in town are used to this “no rules” system and they have adapted to the supremacy of the bikers.       

How did it start? 

In case you didn’t know, Shkodra was an important city throughout history and in the 19th-20th centuries several states had their Consulate in town. 

We have a documented picture of Marubi from 1897 that shows two locals with their bikes. Later in 1907 the Consul of the Kingdom of Sweden in Shkodra used the bike for the first time, with locals running to look at this strange two wheeled metallic object moving without the assistance of animals. The curiosity of the Shkodrans was piqued, but not everyone could attain one. Those fortunate citizens that had the money and trading connections with the west managed to buy them mostly in Italy or the Austro-Hungarian Empire. 
Despite the poor road conditions, early bicycles survived. Competition began over who had the most attractive bike. Europe’s third oldest cycling association after France and Italy was created in Shkoder in 1920. In 1915 the Gendarmerie (the local police) were equipped with bikes.    

From a gender perspective!

With Albania coming from a more conservative background it was hard for women to enjoy the benefits of biking in the early days. The first documented woman biking in Shkoder (to the astonishment of many!) was an Austrian woman who worked at the local consulate. 

With Albania coming from a more conservative background it was hard for women to enjoy the benefits of biking in the early days.

The first documented woman biking in Shkoder (to the astonishment of many!) was an Austrian woman who worked at the local consulate. 

It wasn’t until the early 1950’s when the industrial area outside the town was created and brought the need for a faster mode of transport for both men and women. In this era many women started learning how to bike in the fields next to the stadium. By the end of the 1950’s Shkodra had 60,000 inhabitants and 10,000 registered bikes.
To this day when you travel around Albania you’ll never see another city with as many bicycles as Shkodra. It seems the humble bicikleta was made for our town!

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