One Street News
Vol. 6, Issue 1
Many attempts have been made to assist impoverished people with bicycles as an affordable, healthy means of travel. From volunteer-run programs to corporate-funded charity grants, these efforts have not yet proven sustainable. One Street’s new book, Defying Poverty with Bicycles: How to Succeed with Your Own Social Bike Business Program, taps the best of these concepts and remolds them into a social enterprise model meant to benefit many generations. It guides readers through simple steps for providing appropriate bicycles to struggling people as well as proven methods for launching new careers through bicycles.
Read more on our One Street Press webpage.
By: Sue Knaup, Executive Director
I returned a week ago from my trip to Uganda to help Ride 4 a Woman (R4W) with their bicycle program. I’m so glad I went, though what I found was not what I had hoped. They had shifted their focus away from bicycles in order to tap exciting opportunities for their sewing program.
However, I did find a gorgeous new bicycle workshop under construction, funded by our One Street to Uganda effort. The bricklayers were still at work when I arrived. I was soon able to outfit it with the many professional bicycle tools brought or sent over the past few years through this effort. R4W leaders had also taken the time to meet with hundreds of women in seven villages in the Bwindi area to find those who were most excited about becoming bicycle mechanics. So many were interested, we had to hold a lottery in order to choose the final eight.
Over the following two weeks, I worked with these eight talented women – Lydia, Happiness, Ellen, Harriet, Elizabeth, Sylvia, Kate and Lucilla - assisted by two kind young men from the village - Simon and Prince - who were my translators and patient helpers. I paired the women into four teams, each of which was assigned one of the forlorn mountain bikes from the R4W rental fleet. They pulled them apart, scrubbed them to a fine shine, then re-greased and reassembled them to perfect adjustment. All four bikes came through their intensive overhauls in excellent condition. I finished work on the remaining three rental bikes, leaving a fleet of seven bikes ready for rent.
As we wrapped up the final day of the course, I could not find the words to tell these new mechanics how impressed I was with their achievements. They had learned every part of bicycles, how they functioned, how to diagnose systems (e.g. brakes, wheels, shifting) and follow a system to find a problem. They had compared different types of bicycles including mountain bikes and transportation bikes like the ones they would receive. We had discussed customer service and business management in preparation for their opening their own bicycle repair businesses in their villages. They had offered their own ideas for how they would continue the trainings as the next bicycle mechanic trainers. And they’d proven their abilities in all of these important concepts with real customers and their broken bikes on the last two days of the course. Their graduation ceremony was an extraordinary event that attracted dignitaries and business owners and ended with their receiving their own bicycles; proud new bicycle mechanics with wheels to fly on.
Looking back on the trip, my emotions are mixed. My disappointments are countered by the enthusiasm of these eight women and knowing that there is now a gorgeous, professional bicycle workshop where they can launch their careers as bicycle mechanics. Only time will tell if these eight women and this new building have given R4W what they need to commit to re-launching their bicycle program to benefit Bwindi women for generations to come. One Street remains ready to help them do so via email and Skype as I have been throughout these past three years.
Read more about the trip on our One Street to Uganda webpage.
We’ve long supported initiatives that require new road projects to accommodate bicyclists and pedestrians, but have missed pervasive initiatives that cause retrofitting of streets that were not built for safe travel by these vulnerable users. Right Sizing Streets is a new initiative by the Project for Public Spaces that might just have what it takes to spread such a movement.
Accounts of the United States topping lists of healthcare resources dominate health news, giving most people the impression that U.S. citizens enjoy the best health in the world. Not so. According to this recent article, U.S. citizens suffer worse health than nearly all other industrialized nations in the world.
This paragraph in particular caught our eye: “Sky-high obesity rates, for instance, are undergirded by findings that people in the U.S. on average consume more calories per person than in other countries, as well as analysis that suggest that the U.S. physical environment in recent decades has been built around the automobile rather than the pedestrian.”
It’s unlikely such an article will cause significant change for bicycling and walking in the U.S., but it is nice to see a more realistic picture of the health impact of auto-centric transportation policies in print.