Empowering People One Bike At A Time

It’s spring. Time to haul out the bikes. Aside from the noble few who commute by bike, most of us enjoy biking as a recreation. It’s a great way to get exercise while appreciating the scenery.

What do we do with bikes we don’t use? They’re left in garages and basements. They’re tossed in landfills. Many college towns are left with hundreds of bikes abandoned on campus after students depart for the summer. In the U.S. alone, 22 million new bicycles are purchased each year, leaving millions of old ones to be discarded.

But in many parts of the world, a bicycle is an opportunity to reduce hours of daily walking and a means to lift one’s family from poverty.

Dave Schweidenback has a solution.

Decades ago, when he was a Peace Corps volunteer in the Amazon Basin, he saw how a simple bicycle could transform lives. When he got back to the U.S. he began collecting unwanted bikes. The donated bikes were shipped to developing countries, where they were sold at low cost. In the last 20 years, Schweidenback’s organization, Pedals for Progress has sent 129, 447 bikes to 32 countries.

Now a documentary called The Bicycle City tracks the remarkable effect of 20,000 bikes on the residents of Rivas, Nicaragua.  “It’s not a luxury. To me it was never a luxury to own a bike,” Frank Alemdarioz explains in the upcoming film. “For me having a bike is a blessing.”

Get involved. Find out how to donate bikes or sewing machines to Pedals for Progress.

Laura is the author of a poetry collection titled Tending and Free Range Learning, a handbook of natural learning. She lives on a small farm notable only for its lovestruck goose.