Tag Archives: Dutch provos

Connections: Boris bikes, psychedelic rock and Dutch anarchists

This week, I interviewed Top Topham, founder member of the Yardbirds. At one point he told me: ‘I also remember seeing Keith West’s Tomorrow, who had Steve Howe (later with Yes) on guitar. He was brilliant, a completely different style. They were a very interesting experimental band. ‘My White Bicycle’ was quite infectious, very ahead of its time.’

Tomorrow were a fascinating mid-60s band who had close ties with the London counterculture, regularly performing at head venues like the UFO Club and the Roundhouse.

‘My White Bicycle’ was inspired by the Dutch anarchist group the PROVOS. Counterculture writer Stewart Home explains:

‘The PROVOS announced in a leaflet that white bicycles would be left unlocked throughout the city for use by the general population. The prototype of this ‘free communal transport’ was presented to the press and public on 28th July 1965 near the statue of Lieverdja. The plan proved an enormous success as a ‘provocation against capitalist private property’ and ‘the car monster’, but failed as a social experiment. The police, horrified at the implications of communal property being left on the streets, impounded any bicycle that they found left unattended and unlocked.’

You can read more about the PROVOS at the British Library. Here’s a nice picture of them and their bikes from the International Institute of Social History.

I wonder if Boris Johnson knows that his bike scheme is at least indirectly inspired by a bunch of sixties anarchists?