One Street News

April 2011

Vol. 4, Issue 4

  1. Rickshaw Bank Offers Inspirations
  2. Resources – Like Riding a Bike
  3. Hot Topics – The Unacceptable Extinction of Basic Bike Parts

Rickshaw Bank Offers Inspirations 

Our “TIG Welding in Africa” article in last month’s e-newsletter brought us a very exciting new connection. Leaders from Rickshaw Bank in India responded with welding and frame design concepts that have helped them develop a whole new rickshaw bicycle design that eases the strain of the drivers, shelters them from the sun, and balances the weight of even the heaviest loads.

But our discussions soon moved far beyond their welding and design successes and into the whole shape of their program. By focusing entirely, and from the start, on indentifying and solving the struggles of rickshaw drivers, Rickshaw Bank has created one of the most comprehensive social businesses we have ever encountered. 

In 2004, their founder, Dr. Pradip Kumar Sarmah, discovered that most of India’s rickshaw drivers were entrenched in a seemingly inescapable cycle of corruption and abuse. Most rented their rickshaws from corrupt mafia types who robbed them of most of the money they made. But the abuse didn’t stop at rent. These sharks learned that exhausted, impoverished rickshaw drivers were easy targets for drug sales, sweeping them into drug addiction in order to further pad their own bank roles. These desperate, impoverished rickshaw drivers had no escape until Rickshaw Bank came along.

The program has now grown to serve seven cities spread throughout India to offer a full support system for rickshaw drivers, not just with these beautifully designed rickshaws, but with full lifestyle assistance, including:

  • Micro-lending that helps drivers purchase their own rickshaw within two years,
  • Membership in a local support team to help each other succeed,
  • Assistance for spouses of drivers to start their own, complementary businesses such as driver food services and pharmaceutical supplies.

Soon they hope to add a health program to offer direct health services to all drivers through each local support team.  

Also inspiring for One Street is that Dr. Sarmah and his team have built their program from the start to generate income through many diverse sources. Advertising on the back of the rickshaws, interest from the micro loans, and contracts from international agencies are just a few that are ensuring that their program will serve many generations of bicycle rickshaw drivers in India. Even so, they are also looking towards expansion into many more cities. We hope to help them with their fundraising plans and outreach to ensure they reach these goals as soon as possible. Through these efforts, we are looking forward to working with and learning from them as both of our organizations develop our social business programs.

Resources – Like Riding a Bike 

Have you ever been frustrated by people and officials perceiving bicyclists as strange beings far different from themselves? Have you ever wondered how you and your organization might begin to breakdown this serious barrier to increasing bicycling for everyone? Take a look at this video, Like Riding a Bike, about a campaign in London that’s doing just that.

Hot Topics – The Unacceptable Extinction of Basic Bike Parts

By: Sue Knaup, Executive Director

As One Street builds our Social Bike Business program, working with our local partners around the world and responding to their needs, I have been noticing an alarming pattern within the bike industry – basic bike parts are being discontinued. The bike industry continues its shift to serving only the richest bicycle enthusiasts as manufactures of garbage bicycle-shaped-objects step into the vacuum to rake in profits from folks just looking for a basic bike. Of course, we started our Social Bike Business program in response to this shift and the disturbing lack of quality, affordable transportation bicycles for people who need them the most.  

But I was not prepared to have to face a void of the most basic parts necessary for creating a quality, affordable transportation bike:

  • Affordable, quality, top bar thumb shifters made of metal – no longer available in the U.S.
  • Basic, affordable rear derailleurs made with quality metal (not stamped pot metal) – no longer available anywhere.
  • Basic, high quality chains for geared bikes that are affordable and don’t require the @#*$@# pin to be replaced every time you break them – nearing extinction. 

These are just the most blatant examples of the industry’s disregard for the majority of the world’s population who need sturdy bicycles to simply get from here to there. In 2005, more than five billion people were living in poverty (World Bank 2008) and, as we edge towards seven billion folks on our big blue ball, the situation has only worsened.

After owning and operating a local bike shop for 13 years, I understand... can’t say I empathize, but I understand why the industry is still trying to sell fancier and fancier bikes to the same few rich guys: profits. But until bike industry leaders can recognize the billions of regular folks, men and women, poor and middle class, hungering for basic bikes or even just parts to get their bikes back on the road, I’m afraid “bike industry” is a misnomer.  

For now, I’ve got to work on staying calm and finding simple solutions to the supply of quality, affordable basic bike parts so that One Street and our local partners can continue supplying basic bikes for folks and, for crying out load, fixing the sturdy bikes they already have!

I’ll be working with all of our Advisors and partners over the next several months to find remedies for this critical problem. If you have ideas to share or if you are capable of designing and manufacturing such basic, yet vital bike parts, PLEASE contact me at sue{at} or +1-928-541-9841 or Skype: sueknaup. Thanks in advance! Any solutions you can offer will do wonders for my blood pressure.