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 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.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Forging Freedom in El Salvador


Courtesy CESTA
El pasado 26 de febrero un Grupo de más de 100 Jóvenes, tuvieron la gran oportunidad de andar en bicicleta por el centro de San Salvador.
This past February 26, a group of more than 100 young people had the grand opportunity of riding bikes through the downtown of San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador. 

No tuviera mayor importancia, sino fuera porque 70 de estos jóvenes son muchachos y muchachas que están recluidos en centros de rehabilitación del Instituto Salvadoreño para el Desarrollo Integral de la Niñez y Adolescencia (ISNA). Algunos de ellos están en esos lugares por abandono de sus padres y otros por delitos menores.

Distinguishing this group is that at least 70 of these young men and women are residents of the half-way houses of the Salvadoran Institute for the Integral Development of Children and Adolescents (ISNA), many housed in these institutions owing to parental abandonment or minor juvenile mis-deeds.

Ese día el ISNA junto con el grupo de ciclistas llamados Bici crítica organizó una bicicletada, apoyados por CESTA. Esta es una de las maneras de cómo se está buscando combatir la delincuencia en el país, buscando mecanismos y espacios donde la juventud pueda tener oportunidades de invertir su tiempo, fuerza, deporte y porque no también disfrutar de diversión.

This event was co-organized by ISNA and the cycling advocacy organization Critical Bicycle (Bici Crítica), supported with bicycles provided by the Salvadoran Appropriate Technology Center (CESTA).  This is one of the ways showing how juvenile delinquency can be addressed, identifying mechanisms and opportunities  where young people can invest their time and energies, in sport and simple recreation.

Estos jóvenes son líderes positivos que el Instituto está promoviendo para demostrar que es posible combatir la delincuencia por medio de diferentes actividades.
 These young people are examples of positive leadership, demonstrating that juvenile delinquency can be combatted by healthy activities.   
CESTA is supported by:
·         Bikes for the World
·         Bikes Not Bombs
·         Cycle North-South
·         Pedals for Progress

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Success Stories: Frankie Hinds Barbados


Frankie Hinds—the Pinelands Creative Workshop lead bike mechanic—was a latecomer to the Pinelands bike project, but it would appear that he was destined for it from early childhood.  A resident since age 6 of Pinelands, a low-income area in Barbados, Frankie took early to bicycles, inspired by a cycling uncle.  From his uncle, Frankie got his first bike at age 11--a hand-me-down Raleigh—and rode it constantly.

In a short time, his uncle taught him some basic skills, working on derailleurs and shifters, and then—noticing some precocious talent—challenged him to true his road bike wheels.  “I told him he’s crazy,” said Frankie, but his uncle started at the beginning, teaching him “how to spoke it”, constructing a wheel from scratch.  In so doing, Frankie absorbed the underlying numeric logic of spoke interaction.  After all, “it’s a question of numbers.” 

Soon Frankie was truing wheels for friends in the Pinelands area.  He recalls his early days, working with bikes that were so oxidized that when truing a wheel using his thumb as a gauge, the rust on the rim would wear down his thumbnail.

Bikes for the World bikes, at least, don’t put his thumbnails to the test on a daily basis.  However, they do often require some work.  To satisfy local tastes, he modifies “drop bar” road bikes, substituting straight handlebars and new brake assemblies.  Although the conditions under which Frankie labors are not always the best, he generally converts each bike in the space of 15 or 20 minutes.  His small workspace is generally crowded with bikes, and lacking a truing stand or work stand with clamp, he must hang a bike by its seat on a strap from the ceiling.  Unsteady, but functional, permitting him to stand and use both hands. 

Frankie did not come straight from the schoolyard to the bike shop, however.  On leaving school, Frankie became interested in Rastafarianism and organic foods, selling natural fruit juices as a micro business.  However, the competition for space in his mother’s kitchen limited his volume and ability to earn a living—a recipe for frustration.  Even with a small loan from the Pinelands micro-credit program, the business simply could not grow. 

In early 2001, with the growth of the Pinelands bike project, an opportunity came for him to work in the shop.  Frankie began truing wheels at Pinelands on a part-time basis, and when the regular mechanic resigned to take a job outside the cycling profession, Frankie stepped up and took his place.

Not only did Frankie have a natural mechanical talent, but he found helping others fulfilling.  There was “always a joy to it.”  A neighbor or a customer would bring a bike in bad shape, Frankie would work on it, and “when it leaves, you got it riding perfect.”

Frankie brings this philosophy to his own bike, converting an old Schwinn one-speed cruiser into a sturdy six-speed mountain bike, with a large basket able to carry his tools to and from work.  

With four 40’ container shipments and approximately 1700 bikes annually, Frankie is able to handle the bike assembly and reconditioning needs of the project with the part-time mechanic assistance of his friend Clyne Alleyne.  On an informal basis, customers and young people from the neighborhood hang around and clean bikes.  (Pinelands once tried to start a training program, but the first student came one day, and failed to come back the next.  Frankie laments that bike repair service, in this throw-away society, is “a dying trade”.)

While working with bikes and helping customers ride them is personally fulfilling and pays a modest salary, Frankie has other things that are important to him.  He and his girl friend have just built the shell of their new home and, once they install electricity, they plan to dedicate Sundays to cooking and selling soy-based food products, reflecting their personal values, their enjoyment of each other’s company, and—hopefully—to supplement their family income.  A steady job at Pinelands frees Frankie to experiment and take risks. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Success Stories: Superación Femenina

  Superación Femenina

In 2003, 23 women in Cuatro Bocas, a community in northern Costa Rica, founded Superación Femenina (“Female Advancement”).  They pooled their capital—a total of 50,000 colones, or $98—and began awarding micro-loans to finance income-generating activities of the members. 

The women learned about Bikes for the World partner FINCA Costa Rica.  In December 2005, Superación Femenina  bought 20 bikes, reconditioned them and sold them in Cuatro Bocas, making a net profit of 85,000 colones, or $67.  In April 2006, the group purchased 23 bikes and cleared 161,000 colones ($316).  Their profit increased because, based on feedback from FINCA Costa Rica as well as its efforts to screen out mediocre quality, Bikes for the World’s later shipment had more appropriate and higher-quality bikes.

The bike profits were plowed back into Superación Feminina’s investments, increasing their portfolio of micro-loans, and their membership.  In addition, the leader of the group reports these further benefits:

  • Group cohesion has been created through working together to recondition and sell the bikes;
  • All the Enterprise members have purchased bicycles;
  • Bicycles have become the principal means of transport for community members to go to the town of Upala, 10 kms from Cuatro Bocas; and
  • Motivated by example, five other FINCA-sponsored groups (some all female and some mixed gender) have acquired 109 bicycles to recondition and sell

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Success Stories: Don Marco Costa Rica


Marco Vinicio sells ice cream and frituras—fried snacks—in the Costa Rican capital, San José.  For years, “don Marco,” as he is known, traveled on foot from construction sites to offices to small shopping malls in a small section of the city.  On any day, he could cover only a few sites and rarely sold more than a large bag of fried items and a few ice pops, generating the barest living for his wife and seven children.

Bikes for the World partner, the Fundación Integral Campesina deCosta Rica, a non-profit micro-credit program, sold Marco a reconditioned bicycle for about $10, which he could pay in weekly installments over one month.  Don Marco commented that never in his life did he think he would be able to buy such a good-quality bicycle at such a low cost, and on installment payments.  The investment paid off immediately: able to reach many more sites every day, don Marco’s sales increased so dramatically that he paid off the bike in only two weeks.  The last we heard, don Marco was considering purchasing another bicycle—as a Christmas present for his youngest daughter.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Eagle Scout Leaders

While most of BfW was tucked away in the DC Convention Center this past weekend enjoying Greenfest, at least one local collection was still in full swing. Alex Tatem chose BfW as his Eagle scout leadership project and the location was his place of employment BfW partner, City Bikes in Chevy Chase. 

Alex Tatem: "My position is sales which I love because I am on the front line sharing my passion of riding with a huge range of different types of bikers. There is nothing better than helping someone find their perfect bike and getting them out on the roads…. or trails."

Courtesy Alex Tatem
This was a three-way partnership that proved to be a huge success with Alex netting about 90 bikes. Unlike most scouts, Alex even orchestrated the delivery of the bikes to BfW's storage site at King Farm in Rockville.

Alex Tatem: "The great part about the collection was before it even started I had about 25 bikes. This was very useful because right when the volunteers arrived they could start working. Having my volunteers constantly busy really moved the collection on smoothly and helped when all the other bikes started to flow in a lot faster. I had the trailers and vans open in the parking lot. I had people constantly loading the vans and trailers the whole time and had someone at the trailers approving the bikes before they were put in."

We at BfW couldn't ask for anything more! Every weekend BfW partners with community organizations from schools, faith groups, government organizations, bikes shops...We have literally hundreds of partners throughout the year who make our collections a huge success.

Nick Bielamowicz troop 1916 Eagle project
One we are particularly proud of is Eagle scouts. The term 'Eagle scout' is most synonymous with 'leadership' and BfW is a perfect choice for an Eagle scout project.Over the last eight years BfW has helped over 60 scouts earn the distinction of Eagle scout.

What we demand at Bikes for the World in managing a collection perfectly matches the requirements laid out in the Eagle Scout service project workbook. Some of those criteria are managing a dynamic, unpredictable public event, publicity, and training and overseeing a volunteer workforce, Keith Oberg Director Bikes for the World.

Chris Richards Eagle project troop 167
BfW worked with Chris Richards in 2005 with his Eagle scout project. Chris collected 63 bikes at the REI in Baileys Crossroads. Those bikes were included in a one time shipment to Haiti. Richards went on to Dickinson College and is now the Digital Marketing Strategist for Fanpage Toolkit.

Chris Richards, Eagle scout and former BfW collection manager: "The collection was a great project because it put me in a position to coordinate and lead a very hands on event. I remember feeling overwhelmed by some of the planning at the time, but in reality, it was great preparation for the amount of planning some work required in college and beyond in the work force. Additionally, it sparked my interest in efforts to behave in a more sustainable manner. Eventually, during school at Dickinson College, I became very involved in their campus sustainability programs, helping to educate the student body on what the school was doing to be "greener." Looking back, the time coordinating work with Bikes for the World probably implanted that desire in me to see things put to good use through recycling and reusing."

Thomas Tribble troop 1983
 BfW most recently worked with Senthil Kannan and Thomas Tribble both of troop 1983, Nick Bielamowicz troop 1916, and Alex Tatum troop 255. Between the four scouts, the young men collected 335 bikes that will be sent overseas and change many lives.

All the scouts agreed that it was a rewarding service project and had fun completing it. Senthil tells BfW that it was pretty easy (see the video below).

More from Richards:
"...many Eagle projects seem to emphasize several days of physical work, this one was unique in that I was able to complete much of the work on that one day at REI, while the work leading up to it, and hours of planning were equally as valuable and certainly important. In that sense, I think the collection better prepared me for college and professional life than the usual trail cleaning or what have you, as most things are not physical, but organizational in nature once you move past the days of scouts."

Senthil Kannan, troop 1983, completed his Eagle scout project with BfW in 2012 at the REI in Fairfax: