BEN’s overall objective is to promote sustainable social and economic empowerment through the use of bicycles. We do this by ensuring a reliable supply of donated and affordable bicycles to disadvantaged communities and institutions. To do this we have to secure an ongoing stream of donated bikes from our donor partners. We distribute these bikes via various projects and through Bicycle Empowerment Centres (BECs) and Community Partners, entrepreneur-based businesses that we help to set up in our target communities. We ensure that beneficiaries can maintain their bikes and that they know how to ride safely. BEN also engages with decision makers and stakeholders to ensure that Non-Motorised (NMT) Transport is properly integrated into transport planning.
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Where our donated bikes come from
BEN has formed strong relationships with a number of international donor agencies, including Re-cycle (UK) , Bicycles for Humanity (Aus) , SOTS (Norway), Bikes for the World (USA), etc. We receive containers of used bikes from these agencies which we import, store and distribute. We also receive bikes from local donors, including individuals and corporate benefactors. BEN also acts as an implementing agent for the distribution of new bikes as part of the South African government’s distribution efforts. Details of our donors can be found here.
Bicycle Empowerment Centres (BECs) and Community Partners
A key mechanism in our distribution efforts are the BECs and Community Partners which BEN has established. These centres are managed by community-based entrepreneurs, who receive bikes from BEN and distribute them into their communities. They have been trained in small business management, and as bike mechanics and play a key role in ensuring the bikes are kept in a roadworthy condition. The establishment of BECs and Community Partners promotes employment creation whilst providing BEN with a good distribution network to ensure communities have access to affordable bikes. Details of our BECs and Community Partners can be found here.
What is Bike4All?
In January 2017, the Pedal Power Association (PPA) and Bicycling Empowerment Network (BEN) combined forces to launch the “Bike4All” programme. The programme has a strong, yet simple vision: Put more people on bicycles. Shortly after the launch of the Bike4All programme, Qhubeka joined the initiative, matching the contribution from PPA and BEN with Qhubeka bicycles. The three organisations are united by their efforts to promote bicycle use in South Africa, working together to increase their impact and reach. In the last year, 1475 utility bicycles have been distributed. Recipients include schools, clubs, charities, farm workers, and more. In order to cater for younger riders, PPA has been selling and distributing Bike4All BMX bicycles since the end of 2017. A helmet and high-vis bib are included with each bicycle, while the COOL KID ON A BIKE programme is presented to groups to teach them safe cycling principles prior to bicycles being handed over.
- A bicycle is not only a mode of cheap and reliable transport.
- It helps alleviate congestion.
- A cyclist can save by spending less on public transport.
- Cycling relieves stress, encourages social interaction and promotes social cohesiveness.
- Most importantly, cycling is FUN – with improved health and fitness as a welcome by-product.
- Cycling is a healthy lifestyle activity that the whole family can do together.
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Two robust versions are currently available: A BMX, and utility bicycle. Since the Bike4All project started in 2017, some 1475 utility bicycles have been distributed, with some 753 BMX bicycles distributed since December 2017.
Many people think of bicycles in terms of sport or recreation; as a means to participate in road or off-road fun rides, or simply to get fit and healthy. But the bicycle is the ideal vehicle for transportation, especially for short trips to the school, shop or work. After much research, PPA and BEN launched the ‘Bike4All’ bicycle. This is a robust, single-speed utility bicycle and comes with mud guards, a carrier and side stand. This sturdy bicycle is already proving to be popular with commuters and utility cyclists alike in the greater Cape Town area, including Hout Bay, Masiphumelele, Ocean View, the Tankwa Karoo, Barrydale, Grabouw, Ceres and Khayelitsha as well as further afield.
The Bike4All Project was launched with our sturdy and reliable utility bicycle. But even at 16″, these bicycles are generally too big for young kids, and where better to foster a culture of riding your bicycle than starting with the youngsters? So we introduced the BMX bicycles which came available in November 2017. These fun BMX bicycles give us the opportunity to distribute more bicycles to kids. At the same time, we’ll teach the youngsters all about being a COOL KID ON A BIKE and what they need to do to ride their bicycles in a safe and responsible manner – while having loads of fun.
We distribute a significant number of bikes through projects in partnership with other organisations and donors. In these School’s Cycling Programme we distribute bikes into various schools around the Western Cape as well as providing mechanical and safety training for beneficiaries. The bikes used in these project are #Bike4Alls (joint partnership with Pedal Power Association) and the other distribution costs covered by other donors.
From a sustainability perspective, it is important for us to ensure that our bikes are kept on the road. We provide a range of mechanic training courses via our in-house workshop and repair centre. Our trainers are all experienced mechanics with significant industry experience. Courses range from one-day basic maintenance programmes, to comprehensive three-week long programmes covering most areas of bicycle repair. We try to ensure that all programmes and projects we undertake are supported by access to sustainable mechanical support.
Safety and rider training
Providing access to bicycles needs to be complemented by rider and safety training. All of our bike distributions are accompanied by appropriate safety training. We also provide safety training to schools and community organisations. We work closely with other organisations, including the Pedal Power Association (PPA) in developing safety training methods and associated materials.
Lobbying and Advocacy
Part of BEN’s mission is to raise the profile of cycling through advocating the development of appropriate infrastructure and for a safer cycling environment. We use our voice strongly to ensure that Non-Motorised Transport (NMT) is integrated into mobility and transport planning. We engage with other like-minded organisations to build a cycling community in order to raise awareness of the mobility, social integration, health and well-being benefits of cycling.