“For many people around the world, the bicycle is a crucial form of life-changing transportation. It can meant the difference between getting to school, seeing a doctor, and making a living – or not”.
World Bicycle Relief is a not-for-profit organization that is dedicated to mobilizing people through The Power of Bicycles®. World Bicycle Relief accomplishes its mission by designing, manufacturing and distributing high quality bicycles that withstand the challenging terrain and conditions in rural Africa. This month marks bike month and World Bicycle Relief has launched a new campaign called “This is Not a Bike” to help promote the importance of the bicycles as a mode of transportation that changes people lives.
In honor of this cool campaign, I am featuring a guest post written by Ruth-Anne Renaud the Director of Global Marketing at World Bicycle Relief.
When we think of farmers we often think of men. But, the reality is that many farmers in the US are women. The same goes for rural developing regions around the world. Farming is a challenging and tough job no matter where a woman is farming. But, women in rural Africa for example, face more challenges than farmers in developed nations. Transporting their product to market is one of them.
Imagine a farmer’s profit was held hostage by the amount of produce or milk that she could physically carry to the market on foot. This is what farmers face everyday in developing parts of the world where there are no affordable transportation options. Farmers are left to carry their goods to the market on foot and, consequently, their profits suffer.
Now, imagine a farmer in rural Africa having access to a rugged, durable bicycle built for rough, rural terrain and a rear rack that can carry 220lbs. Suddenly, she can transport greater loads and reach more distant markets- both increasing her overall productivity, sales and the price she can access in markets farther away. For a farmer in rural, developing areas, a bicycle can have a dramatic impact on her business – lifting her and her family out of a chronic cycle of poverty and saving lots of time.
Riding a bike is four times faster than walking. Imagine getting to work or school four times faster every day. Speed and efficiency translate into increased profits and accelerated learning.
For the developed world, where we have access to a myriad of transportation options, we have limited experience with what it is like to only have one option: walking. When an individual who relies on walking finally gains access to a reliable bicycle, amazing things happen to her, her family and her community. This is what World Bicycle Relief has discovered after delivering over 225,000 specially designed, rugged bicycles to entrepreneurs, students and health care workers in Africa, Asia and South America.
This is not a bike- at least not in the terms we consider in the developed world; rather, it is an engine for economic and cultural empowerment. The magic with a bicycle is the untapped potential it releases in individuals. Riding a bike is four times faster than walking. With this increase in efficiency, an individual can accomplish many more tasks in her everyday life. Besides farmers and entrepreneurs increasing their efficiency and profits, students and health care workers also use the bike to great benefit. World Bicycle Relief’s Education Report from Zambia in 2012 noted a 28% increase in attendance and 59% increase in academic performance. Health care workers with a bicycle often double the number of patients they can visit in a day. A bicycle is a powerful catalyst that supports three important pillars of a healthy and thriving community- economic growth, access to education and health care.
Bicycles have played a part in the recent economic achievements of India and China. In China, it is estimated that 435 million people own bicycles with many using their bicycles as their primary mode of transportation. In Africa, where 40% of the population lives below the poverty line and survives on around $2 per day, affordable, reliable transportation is crucial to development, but often out of reach for these individuals. The inefficiency of walking has a profound effect on economic development, as well as educational and health care outcomes.
Recognizing the great need for transportation in these areas, World Bicycle Relief has tapped the bicycle industry’s expertise to design a high quality, low cost bicycle for individuals at the bottom of the economic pyramid. World Bicycle Relief takes both a philanthropic and a social enterprise approach to delivering bicycles. The organization provides bicycles to students and health care workers through study-to-own and work-to-own programs. Its social enterprise side sells bicycles to individuals (farmers, metal workers and builders) and development organizations like World Vision who use bicycles to better implement their programming. Looking to the future, World Bicycle Relief envisions a market-driven solution that would provide sustainable, affordable access to transportation that would address the profound transportation gap that exists in rural, developing areas globally. With affordable, durable bicycles available on the marketplace, access to transportation infrastructure doesn’t have to end when the pavement does; the most remote villages could be connected to the larger transportation system.
One of the great common denominators of humanity is that we all need transportation. By extending transportation options to everyone no matter where they are on the economic ladder, every individual will have the transportation tools they need to build a better life.
This is not a bike. It’s so much more.
About World Bicycle Relief:
World Bicycle Relief is dedicated to mobilizing people through The Power of Bicycles®. World Bicycle Relief accomplishes its mission by designing, manufacturing and distributing high quality bicycles that withstand the challenging terrain and conditions in rural Africa. Entrepreneurs use the bikes to increase productivity and profits. Students with bikes attend class more regularly and academic performance dramatically improves. And, health care workers with bikes visit more patients, more often, providing better, more consistent care. World Bicycle Relief also promotes local economies and long-term sustainability by assembling bicycles in Africa and training over 1,000 field mechanics. Since 2005, World Bicycle Relief has delivered over 200,000 bicycles. For more information, please visit: www.worldbicyclerelief.org / Follow us @PowerOfBicycles and Like us at facebook.com/worldbicyclerelief