March 1, 2012

Renting of Bicycles in the Old Days of Sarawak 1960-1970

The renting of bicycles in the urban areas like Beijing and Tokyo is not a new and trendy enterprise of the 21st century.

Before Honda Motorcycles invaded South East Asia the bicycle was king of the road!! While most people wanted to buy their own some shops in Ipoh and KL were known to rent out theirs. Penang was a great place for cyclists.

Interestingly in Sarawak the history of the bicycle could be traced to Rev James Hoover was the first person to ride an American made bicycle in Sibu. And for many colonial officers to own a bicycle was a luxury. Indeed many well to do Chinese also took to ride bicycles from Sibu to Sungei Merah or from Sibu to the end of the Lanang Road before  the Japanese Occupation.

The famous invasion of Singapore saw Japanese soldiers riding  bicycles towards the island from Malaya!!

In the 70's I specifically  remember after my father passed away his old Iban friend Swan who would ride his bicycle all the way from Sg. Teku to visit us in the town!! He would deliver some bamboo shoot or rice to us because he was so grateful that my dad gave him a job for many years. Whenever we saw that old bicycle at the gate we knew that this lovely man was visiting and telling my mum about the good old days.

Sibu was so infamous as a town of bicycles in the 1960's and 1970's that motorists complained about the unruly cyclists who formed a force to reckon with!! Some even swore that they would never be able to drive in Sibu.

But what was certainly a phenomena then was that in the 1960's most bicycle shops would rent out bicycles by the month. The photo below shows florence Enau a Peace Corps Volunteer  with a rented bicycle in 1966 in Kuching. She thought that renting a bicycle was better than buying one because her fellow Americans who bought new bright bicycles had them stolen before the week was out!! School teachers teaching in Bintulu and Lawas also rented bicycles for as little as $15.00. It was a boon to many people indeed that they could rent bicycles.

Original photo from Florence Enau - reproduced by Sarawakiana@2
Photo of Florence and a young Malay Boy in 1967 in Kuching

Florence told me that the bicycle took her every where in Kuching and it was good really to ride a bicycle. The bicycle also never got stolen.

Today the new bicycles are very different from the one shown in the photo...In Miri one can rent bicycles from several outlets. If you feel like riding one you can rent one from the shop opposite Chung Hua Middle School!! The rental can be on daily basis or weekly basis. Some are on monthly basis.

Thus bicycle rental has been around  for more than 80 years! And the business may even grow bigger actually.


Uncle Lee said...

Hi Sarawakiana, yes, that renting a bicycle now in Europe, even here in Toronto too.
But bicycles are cheap, and quite often people here give away or donate when upgrading to better ones.
I have not sat on a bicycle I guess 40 years, ha ha.
Interesting post this. Never knew it's happening where you re.
Best regards.

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Uncle Lee
Thanks for popping is nice to hear from you. Lately the internet service hasn't been that good. I can't download the long articles with lots of photos. It could be my old old computer's fault..But I do read some of your interesting postings. Keep smiling...and whistling...

Ann said...

my 3 siblings before me habd reliegh bikes. I remember my bro costed MR165, because our house number was also 165. My dad said he bought the best because they last. Last they did, they lasted when even the no 9 child rode the bikes. i think they are still good, and charles is 60 years old this year,

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Dear Ann
Yes Releigh bicycles are made to last...I have seen some very old ones in Sibu..from my aunts' days..and these are about 70 years old...
MR165 was a big sum of money then..Mine was 90?? I lost in the school and asked the Principal Mr. Wiltshire to find it for me!! Being in Form 1 I was so headstrong!! A bike lost in the school Principal must find!!! hahahahah I got the bike back three days later..I was so worried I would never have a bike again!!

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