There are more than one billion bicycles in the world today. That’s one bike for every six people. This means there are twice as many bikes as there are cars on our planet. And it’s not just happenstance.
Bicycles are an affordable and sustainable means of transportation. This makes them especially useful in developing countries. In Zambia, bicycle ownership increases a family’s income by an average of 35%. In India, owning a bike can increase household income by up to 37.5%. Bicimaquinas (“bicycle machines”) allow Guatemalan farmers to process their crops hundreds of times faster than they are able to do by hand.
Owning a bicycle increases one’s carrying capacity over walking by 5x, and their average speed by 4x. Carrying five times as much cargo four times as fast means one can carry twenty times as much cargo in the same amount of time it would take to walk. This means families spend less time running errands, businesses sell more goods, and employees can have better-paying jobs farther from home. Children can get to school, and the faster they get there, the safer they are on the way.
My favorite story originates in India, where a traveling knife sharpener uses his bike to make a living. He bikes to his customers and suspends the rear wheel, which is attached to a sharpening wheel. Sitting back on the bike, he then powers the sharpener with the bike pedals (at right; photo credit dailytravelphotos.com). There are a plethora of uses for bikes, and fixing bikes unlocks the possibilities for those in need. A skilled bicycle mechanic in an undeveloped country has a job for life.
Aside from the physical benefits bicycles provide, they are also the most sustainable means of transportation known today. Because they can coast, bicycles take even less energy than walking.
They regularly last 30 years or more. If everybody who rode a bike drove a car instead, there would be one thousand billion (1,000,000,000,000) more pounds of CO2 in the air than there are currently. In my opinion, true sustainability is not about disposal of the end product, it’s about using less in the first place. Bikes are a way for us to do just that.
If you want to help me make a difference by putting more working bicycles in the world, please consider donating. “Liking” the project on Facebook is a great way to spread the word.
I thought of that while riding my bicycle.
Albert Einstein on the Theory of Relativity