15 years ago 200 bicycles were shipped from the US to Nicaragua. Unwanted 'junk' from an affluent society, transformed into affordable transport for the poor. A decade and a half on, and Pedals for Progress is still cranking. If you happened to be near Clinton Township, New Jersey this weekend you might witness this not-for-profit reach the milestone of 100,000 bicycles collected for the developing world. Since those earlier days the organisation has also donated 500 used sewing machines and $8 million USD in new spare parts to their partner charities in some 28 countries. But P4P is not just giving away the world's most efficient means of transport. To paraphase that famous line, they are giving fishing rods, instead of fish. Or as they put it: giving a hand up, not a hand out. The bikes, donated to the charities, are repaired and tuned by locals trained in bike maintenance. Their jobs are, in turn, funded by selling the bicycles at affordable prices to the working poor, who use them to advance their economic well being. (The definition of a 'weed' is simply a plant in the wrong place. One could similarly argue that there is no such thing as 'household waste', just valuable resources in the wrong garage or shed.) Ride on ::Pedals for Progress !
Of course there are many other equally dedicated organisations alike to Pedals for Progress. We list some of them after the fold.
We've previously mentioned the UK's Re-cycle and the US based Village Bicycle Program. And we've also referred to the Bikes Not Bombs and Australia's Rotary Runner programs. (The latter being old bicycles converted into robust wheelchairs.)
But there are many more initiatives that have, to date, glided quietly under our gaze. These include, the Chicago based Working Bikes Cooperative, who since 2001 have "shipped thousands of bikes and parts to Nicaragua, Cuba, Kenya, and Ghana." From Austin, Texas comes Bikes Across Borders with the more than 500 bicycles now under the posteriors of happy Cubans, Mexicans, and Central Americans. Some ex-Pedals for Progress workers these days gather preloved bicycles from along the the US Atlantic coast, through Bikes for the World. Their recipients have been Honduras, Namibia, Sri Lanka, Costa Rica, Guatemala and others.
In Germany you might try Drahtesel. They ship over 7,000 bikes and parts each year to African countries, like Ghana and Burkina Faso (formerly Upper Volta). The bicycles are considered to be 'wire donkeys', such is their utility as valuable beasts of burden. Hence the name of the organisation.
While in Africa we should make mention of the Bicycle Empowerment Network that operates both in South Africa and in Namibia. These guys do brilliant work in getting simple, dependable mobility into the hands of those who need it.
The International Bike Fund has more recycling (strictly speaking 'reuse') programs for bikes and their parts, both organisations collecting bikes and those wanting bikes. Their site also includes an answer to that age old dilemma of what to do with those old inner tubes. IBF's list of solutions can be found here.
As usual we encourage readers to leave details of similar programs they are aware of.