With Oslo going car-free, Paris allowing cyclists to skip red lights and even Mexico City creating car-free Sundays, cycling advocacy appears to be winning substantial victories across the globe. In fact, one could surmise that a small but heated competition exists among advanced western cities (particularly those in Europe) to see who can enact the most progressive legislation that benefits two-wheel travel.
Yes, the majority of the world appears to have acknowledged the many benefits of encouraging a cycling culture. But other cities—and in some cases, even entire nations—have taken the opposite approach by banning cycling. We'd also like to point out every nation on the list below has received low grades from Amnesty International's annual report on human rights. It's not a stretch to say there exists a correlation between human rights and a nation's culture of cycling.
North Korea1 of 6
North Korea has always had a rocky relationship with the bicycle. In an attempt to give off the impression of a modern, advanced society, bicycles were banned from the capital city of Pyongyang until 1992. Even after the government lifted this ban, cycling is still not as simple as getting in the saddle and pedaling. All bikes must be registered, and riders must carry a license that shows they passed an exam to ride a bike. Oh, and women are completely banned from cycling since 1995, with a supposed explanation that women are genetically incapable of cycling. However, the ban's enforcement is reportedly patchy at best, thoroughly disproving the above nonsense.
Kolkata, India2 of 6
In a supposed attempt to make cycling safer for cyclists and, more importantly, to get those two-wheeled menaces off the "car roads," Kolkata banned cycling on 110 city streets in 2013. The government later reduced this ban to 62 roads after a bevy of protests, but what's most surprising about this ban was the timing. Just two years ago, when major metropolitan cities were concocting ways to decrease motorized traffic, and promote commuting via bicycles, India's second largest city elected to do the opposite.
Saudi Arabia3 of 6
In the 1960s, UTNE reported that Saudi clerics deemed bicycles "The Horse of Satan." You might think this archaic thought is finally withering, especially since Saudi Arabia lifted the ban on women cycling in 2013, but women are still only able to ride this "Horse of Satan" in designated areas and only when accompanied by a male. Also, women can only ride recreationally, not as a way to travel, and must wear the full Islamic abaya from head to toe.
Sharjah, UAE4 of 6
In an attempt to preserve beauty, the municipality of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates banned cycling in certain areas just over 10 years ago. Today, local officials prohibit cycling in public parks, the sides of public roads or in public areas meant for pedestrians and shoppers. And, according to Gulf News, the city has a ban on bikes used for commuting. It is also against the law to cycle without proper safety guards (reflectors and helmets). While the latter may be legitimate, what's disheartening is the fact that these laws, which are well enforced, cause the confiscation of thousands of bicycles each year. And these confiscated bikes are subsequently dumped in a scrap yard.
Iran5 of 6
In 2007, the Iranian government, yes the government, constructed an "Islamic bicycle"—a bike with a cabin that covers parts of a female's body so women could cycle without attracting attention. Before this "bicycle" hit the market, the government forbade women from cycling other than on special tracks with a male accompanying them.
In the words of Susan B. Anthony, "I think it (bicycling) has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel?the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood."