April 30, 2007
Here's what you need to know about the Dutch: they still believe in the white bicycle plan. In 1964 a group an anarchist group Provo put out a magazine outlining the white bicycle plan. The idea was simple. The center of Amsterdam would be closed to traffic and the city sprinkle 20,000 white bicycles around the city. You would ride a bicycle whenever you needed one, stop wherever you needed to stop, and leave the bicycle in place. Then someone else could use it. ...and so on and so on. Broken bicycles would be flagged and fixed by authorities. It would be good for the environment and you would never have to worry about locking up a bicycle or having one stolen or broken.
The group kick started the plan by distributing 50 white bicycles which were promptly removed by the police who claimed they would encourage theft, ignoring Provo's arguments that bikes without owners could not be stolen. While the plan never got started in Amsterdam, it has been resurrected many times over the years in smaller cities and each time the plan ends the same way, the bicycles are stolen and repainted, often within days, but the Dutch are undeterred. "It could work," a serious looking student told me today, the problem is they never bought enough bicycles." Another student chimed in, "Yes. Of course it will work we just need to think bigger."
addendum: In 1967 Provo announced the white corpse plan for automobile drivers who kill pedestrians: "Whenever the monster strikes anywhere in Amsterdam and someone is flattened against the merciless asphalt, the police must trace the victim's outline on the ground with a piece of chalk. As soon as an ambulance has removed the sad remains, the murderer himself, using a chisel and hammer, must hack out the silhouette of his victim one inch deep in the asphalt, under supervision of the police. Next he will fill the hollow with white mortar. Then perhaps, all the prospective murderers approaching the scene of the disaster will let up on the gas for just a moment".