Cycling safety is a big concern for anyone who has ever been on a bike. It goes without saying that includes most of our supporters at Bikes for the World. Many photos we share from our partners overseas show bike beneficiaries with huge smiles on their faces, but few helmets on their heads.
Bikes for the World does accept helmet donations and one program that donates bikes to students in the Philippines purchases brand new helmets and requires all their riders wear them. While several of our partners do request helmet donations, they can't force riders to use them.
We decided to take a look at several of our projects we support around the world to see what challenges they face regarding safety and what measures they are taking to overcome them.
Village Bicycle Project Ghana and Sierra Leone. Village Bicycle Project offers training programs to all its beneficiaries. They offer varying levels of training classes to all types of riders. For those who have never been on a bike before, they offer Learn 2 Ride classes in both Sierra Leone and remote corners of Ghana.
Village Bicycle Project has also brought their training program into the schools in an effort to reach even more girls than they were able to do initially. They found that many females experienced unsafe, lengthy commutes along desolate roads. By getting them on bikes, they decreased their travel time significantly making those trips faster and safer for both women and young girls on their way to school
CESTA El Salvador. Not only does our Salvadoran partner value the importance of training riders in both skill and maintenance, but they recognize the need for general awareness of cyclists on the roads. They also know that more cyclists on the roads means a need for a better transportation infrastructure.
Together with the Ministry of Public Works, CESTA set out this summer to bring this eco-friendly solution to transportation to mainstream El Salvador. Bikes are not only good for our health, but good for the environment, something crowded cities like San Salvador crave.
CESTA is focused on teaching safe riding skills to students. They are also committed to working with the government to bring safer streets to cyclists and awareness to motorized drivers. CESTA regularly hosts group rides to increase confidence in riders and force the public to become used to bikes as traffic.
Wheels of Africa, Kenya. In Nairobi cycling had a negative connotation, one Wheels of Africa set out to erase. Previously, bikes were seen as tools of the poor, making them unpopular among wealthier Kenyans. Now, they are becoming the latest fitness craze in and around Nairobi.
A large part of this NGO's mission is to get more people on bikes and in turn make roads safer for cyclists. The first step was to change attitudes about biking, which they are doing with weekly bike rides. The rides are offered on different terrain to build confidence on city streets and mountainous terrain. But more importantly the rides highlight how much fun a bike can be.
Wheels of Africa advocates for safer roads and courtesy from drivers. There are several bike lanes popping up in the city and they know as they increase the number of cyclists on the road, the need for bikes lanes will continue to increase.
ChepeCletas, San Jose, Costa Rica. Bikes for the World has sent over 24,000 bikes to Costa Rica since 2005. Many of those bikes end up in rural areas and are used by workers in relatively safe places to bike.
Many, but not ALL. Some of our bikes support an urban project, ChepeCletas. As biking became more popular in Costa Rica, and not seen as just a means of transport for the poor, the bike advocacy group ChepeCletas was formed.
ChepeCletas is working to bring safer infrastructure to the city streets of San Jose to make cycling better and safer. They also host group rides from time to time in hopes of creating more confident riders in the city where traffic is heavy and roads are cramped.
The bottom line? There are very few BfW partners around the world who are NOT focused on safety. Our bike beneficiaries are at different riding levels and the communities where they live are also at differing infrastructure levels. Our partners are working with riders and governments to bring safety to the roads at an individual level as well as the bigger transportation picture.
BEN South Africa says it best: Part of BEN's mission is to raise the profile of cycling through advocating the development of appropriate infrastructure and for a safer cycling environment. We use our voice strongly to ensure that Non-Motorized Transport (NMT) is integrated into mobility and transport planning. We engage with other like-minded organizations to build a cycling community in order to raise awareness of the mobility, social integration, health and well-being benefits of cycling.