Bikes for the World

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Shipping Bikes and Building Islands

When Bikes for the World partners up with a school or organization we do more than collect bikes together. Outreach Coordinator Yvette Hess will routinely come into a classroom or club meeting to introduce some of our overseas partners and beneficiaries to help put a face to our mission.

One question the kids always ask is how do the bikes get from point A to point B. When they find out they go by ship, they want to know how they get there from their school and we love to tell them.

Earth Day 2017 loading in Frederick MD for CESTA El Salvador
Almost all of our bikes are loaded in our local warehouse now located in Rockville Maryland. There are a few cases when we will assist or advise on other loadings like the one we worked on today in Frederick Maryland.

We typically load forty foot shipping containers that arrive to our warehouse pulled by a tractor trailer. Most often our loadings are done over two days to allow time to sort bikes properly and include other items such as spare parts and tubes and tires that are invaluable to the mechanics rebuilding our donated bikes overseas.

Actual bike container in port in Ghana, Africa
After they leave our warehouse, the trucks deliver the containers to the port of Baltimore where they wait until a ship is leaving for the destined country. This could be two days or two weeks.

Then, they float across the ocean to their new homes in Central America or Africa or even the Philippines. This could take two weeks or as long as two months!

When the bikes arrive overseas our partners have to meet the containers at port to have them cleared and transported back to their warehouses and/or final destinations. This can also be a quick trip, like in Barbados which is a smaller island. Or it can take months, like in the Philippines where bikes are distributed among many, many islands and need to be transported several times.

Since today is Earth Day, we decided to give you an even different view our bikes' journey, the impact it has on our environment, and how Maryland is taking an obstacle and creating something amazing right here in the Chesapeake Bay.

Has anyone ever heard of Poplar Island?  This small island is located in Talbot County within the Chesapeake Bay and was on the edge of 'extinction' in the 90s. In fact, this once Presidential retreat island, was about 1100 acres and in less than 200 years it was reduced in size to 5 acres.

What does that have to do with shipping bikes around the world? Dredging. Dredging makes navigating cargo ships through these channels possible. Excavating sediment from those vital waterways keeps those channels open to ships needing a deep channel to pass.

But what do they do with the dredged material once it's removed from the bay floor? Good question, and here's the awesome answer...Maryland and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are now 'rebuilding' the lost footprint of Poplar Island with dredged material from the shipping channel. When the project is completed in 2029 Poplar Island will be even bigger than it was when it was discovered in 1573.

Restoring these islands is important for several reasons. The small islands dotted along the edge of Maryland are important in protecting our coasts from erosion and storm surge. Islands such as Poplar have also been critical in protecting wildlife habitat such as our bird species, fish and shellfish.

The Maryland Environmental Service also works with local schools to raise and place vulnerable terrapin populations on the island.


From the Maryland Environmental Service website:

"The restoration of Poplar Island includes the creation of uplands and intertidal wetlands offering a diversity of habitats for a variety of Chesapeake Bay wildlife. With less than 20% of the habitat creation completed, Poplar Island wildlife goals are already being realized.

A number of the region’s most sensitive bird species including common and least terns, cattle and snowy egrets, osprey, and the American black duck, are found nesting onsite annually and diamondback terrapins continue to return to the site to nest as well."

Don't take our word for it, you can schedule your own tour of Poplar Island. And this is an island you'll want to go back to year after year to see how much it changes over time.


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