Bikes for the World

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Night Riders

Carlos with Angela, Jose, and bike owner
We recently told you about one man's quest to bring cycling safety to the rural roads of Nicaragua. Carlos Ovalle approached BfW looking for a way to help poorer cyclists be seen at night in areas such as where we ship bikes. There is little to no bike culture in many of these areas and therefore often no safety measures in place to protect multi-road users that you tend to see in rural villages.

Here in the urban areas of DC there are many organizations such as the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) who stand up for cyclists' rights and safety. Teaming up with DDOT in the fall WABA hands out blinky lights to cyclists on the street in their annual Got Lights event.

The Firefly Brigade in Manila did a similar event for the beneficiaries of our partner program Bikes for the Philippines. Although lights and reflectors are incredibly important in these remote, often extremely dark places, there is often an issue of power. Batteries can be expensive and hard to come by. Even if these lower income bike owners could afford rechargeable lights they often have no way of regenerating the energy.
Elephant Energy partners with BENN
Meet Elephant Energy. Elephant Energy is a non-profit organization out of Colorado whose mission is to bring affordable, sustainable energy solutions to developing communities. This summer they expanded with the help of our partner program Bicycling Empowerment Network (BEN) in Namibia by offering solar powered bike lights to beneficiaries in this program.

Ovalle brings reflective tape to Nicaragua
Another low cost solution to visibility is reflective tape. Wheel reflectors that often come with new bikes, as you can see in this photograph to the right, are sometimes lost, broken, or stolen by the time our beneficiaries receive and use our donated bikes.

This is why, when Ovalle approached us with his idea to install inexpensive, theft resistant reflective tape on bicycles, we were interested in learning more. How easy would it be to distribute the reflective tape? Would bikers be receptive to the idea? Would it make a difference? Is this an initiative we would be interested in funding?

Ovalle is currently in Nicaragua finding out some of these answers. Here is an excerpt from one of his latest emails:

     "We did a trial run tonight, two bikes at the Instituto Nacional Francisco Luis Espinosa, during night school. Tomorrow we'll go to a tobacco factory where at least 100 bikes await us. The reception was amazing, we had a small crowd around us and when we showed them the pics of the bikes, taken with flash to simulate car lights they were amazed. One thing that I see is that it'll be difficult to provide follow-up as these two had no phone or email and postal addresses in Nicaragua."

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