Bicycles are often talked about as a great human-powered alternative to the fossil fuel burning automobile -- but it seems they can actually be quite human-empowering, too. As energy prices soar around the world, with developed nations feeling the pinch, in the poorest places it seems that the bike pedal just might be a better investment than the gas pedal. That's the thought behind Pedals for Progress, an organization devoted to elevating impoverished communities with a few of mankind's greatest tools: the ability to imagine a better future, and the wheels to get them there.
An upcoming film, The Bicycle City, explores how bicycles have transformed one of the poorest places in Latin America.
From the upcoming film's Web site:
Crippled by decades of military dictatorship, civil war, and environmental catastrophe, Nicaragua is the second poorest country in Latin America, having one of the region's lowest GDPs and the second highest Human Poverty Index, behind only Haiti. Economic opportunities are few and those born into the lower classes tend to remain in poverty for life.
Over the past 20 years, more than 20,000 bicycles have been brought into Rivas, a city on Nicaragua's Pacific coast, by the non-profit Pedals for Progress, which collects donated bicycles in the United States and distributes them in impoverished communities worldwide. Since the first was unloaded in Rivas in 1991, the bicycle has become an integral part of daily life.