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Bayamo-Cuba, 20 Jul 04

The Cuban city of Bayamo, facing a growing local public transport problem, has found an unusual solution: bringing back horse-drawn carriages of a French vintage first used in Bayamo at the beginning of the last century.

The carriages, known in French as “calèches”, have been somewhat of a symbol for years in Bayamo which has always maintained a manufacturing plant. Capable of carrying five to seven people each, there are an estimated 500 carriage operators. A survey conducted with UN-HABITAT’s Localising Agenda 21 programme on degradation of the Bayamo River, waste management, public space, utilities and urban transport, found that motorised transport was able to provide only for 15 percent of local commuters.

After consultations with the local municipality running the Bayamo Local Agenda 21 Project, the police, the public and carriage operators, the city’s new horse-drawn carriage lines were officially inaugurated on 6 July 2004 at a ceremony attended by the Mayor, the Belgian Ambassador and other local and provincial dignitaries. The LA21 project in Bayamo is financially supported by the Belgian Development Corporation..

If the idea sounds unusual, it is considered environmentally friendly, appropriate to a situation of need and fuel scarcity. It is sustainable in a way that gives Bayamo a charming and unique character. The Bayamo project shows that motorised transport need not necessarily be the only solution to a public transport problem.

The horse and cart taxis are privately operated on a fare system agreed swith the municipality, and has helped create a large number of jobs. Although bicycles and bicycle taxis now account for 47 per cent of transport in Bayamo, with cars taking up just 6 per cent and buses 9 per cent, the horse-drawn carts are already taking care of 38 per cent of local transport needs. A large signboard at the entrace to town has a painting of a horse-drawn carriage with the words, “Bayamo welcomes you”.

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