Bikes for the World

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Update from Rural Bike Safety Project

Security Guard with reflective tape on his bike
Carlos Ovalle recently traveled to Esteli, Jinotega, and other rural areas of Nicaragua on a personal crusade to bring safety to riders in the remote regions this country. Bikes for the World has often voiced concern over the safety of our beneficiaries in pockets of the world that lacks the infrastructure that is usually laid to protect cyclists here in the States. When we heard of Ovalle's mission, we decided to support it!

What Ovalle is doing is buying reflective tape, of the same quality used by the Department of Transportation, personally transporting it to Nicaragua (and hopefully other countries in the future), and affixing it to bikers' frames.

Photo Courtesy AW4F and Connie Weaver
Darkness is a huge problem in the country, even here in the US. Many bikes overseas are not even sold with reflectors as they are here at home.

The type of tape Ovalle is using is similar to what these cyclists use on Race Across America. This race is a nonstop journey across the country 24 hours a day through many unlit areas of the United States. It is a requirement of the race to have this type of reflective tape on all frames, wheels, and shoes of the riders; so we know it works!

The following is an excerpt from Ovalle's account of how he got started on this noble mission:
Carlos Ovalle at tobacco plant in Esteli
On one of my trips to Nicaragua a couple of years ago I commented to some folks down there about how difficult it was to see cyclists, particularly on dark rural roads. In my last three trips to Nicaragua I've seen only one bike with lights, and only one in 10 with minimal (rear only, or pedals only) reflectors.

When I asked, the reasons for this varied, but mostly had to do with the fact that inexpensive imports from China don't have reflectors...there are no rules that require manufacturers or importers to provide reflectors.

A few years ago I purchased a 45 year old Claude Butler frame in a garage sale. That frame, said the owner, had been covered in large swaths of reflective tape some 20 years ago...one day I brought it out and attempted to remove the reflective tape to no avail. I decided that this was the way to go.

Reflective tape has a tenacious hold, maintains its initial reflectivity for about 5 years, after which it declines a little. It doesn't rattle off on dirt roads, it's thick and has a clear layer over the actual reflective base so it withstands numerous cleanings and abrasion....


  • To read more about Ovalle's trip and see more pictures visit his Flickr page.
  • To support his cause: Click on the link on the right side of this page (Donate Money) and in the Designation Code Box simply type Rural Bike Safety Project and we will make sure your donation goes to this specific mission within Bikes for the World.


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