I said it before and I’ll say it again: the bicycle can be, should be, and will be the prefered method of transportation for many types of people, not just the yuppie. While it’s surely convenient to be able to bike over to wholefoods (farmers markets are dunzo for the year folks) and pick up some plain yogurt, turkey bacon, wheat grass, or whatever yuppies eat, it is but a small joy in our lives compared to the impact bicycles can make on a lot of communities around the world.
There are a few nonprofits that focus on bicycle advocacy and availability in under resourced locations, as well as companies that have started initiatives with similar goals. A bicycle can completely change someone’s life, as transportation can be extremely tedious, inefficient and often dangerous. Bicycles increase one’s mobility, conserves their personal energy, allows much more efficient transportation of goods, and just gives plain old freedom (I know you all remember that first time growing up when you were able to cruise your neighborhood via bike. F-R-E-E-D-O-M). To do this, companies and organizations need to invest in bicycles that are rugged, simple, and easy to maintain. For those who might be interested in learning more about bicycle relief, I share with you a few of my favorite initiatives.
Kona is a bicycle company who has partnered with Bicycle magazine’s BikeTown Africa program to create the AfricaBike, a tough utilitarian machine with the body of a cruiser and the soul of a mountain bike, built for the African terrain. Equally as popular among the casual rider in the States, Kona donates one AfricaBike for every two sold. The bicycles primarily go to health care workers to help them reach HIV/AIDS patients in rural areas with the quickness, allowing them to see more people in a given day. They’ve donated more than 2,500 bikes.
88Bikes Foundation is a non-profit that seeks to provide joy and empowerment to youth in developing countries, specifically Cambodia and Uganda, through the donation of bicycles. The organization researches a destination with demonstrated need and then engages in a fundraising campaign, asking $88 from donors, the approximate cost of buying a bicycle in the area of impact. The vehicles are bought from local merchants in the developing country and any labor to assemble the bike is hired locally, as to allow the donations to benefit the local economy. Theres no office, paid staff, or overhead (the founders pay out of pocket) so all donations go directly to the bicycles and the local economies.
Pedals for Progress is a New Jersey based organization that has also recognized the brolic impact bikes can have, as well as the buttload of bikes Americans have, but don’t use. Founder David Schweidenback devised the idea to start bicycle collections to send to the developing world. But what makes this organization’s model interesting (and also sustainable) is that they promote community owned, non-profit bike repair facilities. The first shipment will go to the country for free, and when the repair store sells the 450 bikes, they will be able to pay for the next shipment. P4P has donated over 114,000 bikes.
Boston folks may already know about Jamaica Plain based Bike Not Bombs, an organization known for their commitment to both community empowerment in developing countries as well as low income neighborhoods of Boston. They have shipped over 37,000 of bikes to Central America, Africa and the Caribbean, as well as parts and tools. However, they are dedicated to training young people of Boston to become bicycle mechanics and community leaders through the Earn-A-Bike program, where after going through a training course on bicycle repair, you can earn a refurbished bike.
These are just a few, but there are definitely a lot more out there. While I encourage those of you with bikes who don’t ride them to get those pedals moving, this is definitely a great alternative if you still have that rusty mountain bike in the basement from 10 Christmases ago