Bikes for the Developing World

“I read a study that measured the efficiency of locomotion for various species on the planet. The condor used the least energy to move a kilometer. And, humans came in with a rather unimpressive showing, about a third of the way down the list. Not too proud a showing for the crown of creation. So, that didn’t look so good. But then somebody at Scientific American had the insight to test the locomotion for a man on a bicycle. And a man on a bicycle, a human on a bicycle, blew the condor away.”

—Steve Jobs

Few technologies are as beneficial for humans and the environment as bicycles. These simple machines require a relatively small amount of resources and energy to manufacture, and are one of the most efficient forms of transportation in existence. In fact, a biker will burn less than half the amount of energy as a walker if both are traveling at a walking pace. Even if the biker began traveling at twice this rate, his energetic efficiency would decrease only slightly. 

Bikes for the Developing WorldIt is largely for these reasons that bicycles have become so popular; All in all, it is estimated that there are over one billion of them in the world. 

Though useful for citizens of any country, bikes can have a particularly positive impact in developing countries. Inhabitants of these nations often struggle to get by, despite working nearly every waking hour to create an income and finish chores. For such people, any technology that can effectively add a few hours to the day can make a huge difference. Bikes, which can reduce commute times but up to 75%, are a prime example of one such technology. 

One important and energetically draining aspect of life in the developing world, is the journey that students make to school. For many young people, this daily requirement takes well over an hour, and often leads to tardiness, and or fatigue throughout the school day. This fatigue can greatly impair learning ability, and thereby reduce students’ chances of being able to pursue a higher education. In some instances, the length of a commute prevents students from attending school at all. 

Giving students bikes is a simple way of remedying this issue. Data shows that after doing so, attendance rates and grades rise by a noticeable amount.  

There are several other members of impoverished communities who can benefit from bicycles. One of the most important are community health workers. These crucial citizens, like students, are frequently forced to travel long distances. Patients in a certain area are spread out across several villages, a large fraction of a health worker’s time will likely be spent walking instead of actually treating and preventing disease. However, this travel time can be greatly reduced with a bicycle. Health workers also benefit greatly from the additional hauling capacity that a bicycle provides. If empowered with this incredibly simple piece of technology, a health worker’s ability to deliver medicines, birth control, and lifesaving treatments to his or her community is increased by nearly an order of magnitude. 

Thankfully, many charities have taken notice of the amazing impact that bicycles can have in the developing world. One such charity that serves as a shining example is World Bicycle Relief. This organization custom builds a bike suited for use in rural terrain, and delivers to impoverished nations in South America, Africa, and South Asia. In addition to making a well crafted bike, WBR does an excellent job allocating their donations in a way that insures maximum benefit. In particular, they prioritize female students (especially those that live far from school), community health workers, and entrepreneurs, to receive bikes. Doing so promotes gender equality, improves public health, lowers birth rates, and bolsters local economies.  

If you’d like to learn more about World Bicycle Relief click here. There are also many other great charities in the space can be found with a quick internet search. 

If you are looking to donate money and improve the world, paying for bike is one of the best ways of doing so. Unlike many other forms of donation, a bikes do not create dependence on a foreign countries. Nor, if properly allocated, do their disrupt local economies. This is often an issue with one for one business models, in which a product is donated for every product that is purchased. For example, if a rush of free shoes is introduced into an economy, local cobblers can easily be put out of business. However, in many locations, there is no preexisting bike market to disrupt. In fact, the influx of bikes can often create jobs for those interested in working as mechanics. 

Despite the many examples of sustainable development gone wrong, World Bicycle Relief and charities like it prove that aid really can make a lasting positive impact on the world. They conclusively prove that the simplest solutions are often the most effective, and that a small amount of money can make a massive difference.