Moving beyond plain old disaster relief, SRAM and Trek have donated $200 000 and $100 000 respectively to a program what will deliver 25 000+ locally-sourced, sit-up-and-beg bicycles to individuals in Sri Lanka impacted by December's Asian tsunami. Specialized and Cycle Europe pledged $10 000+ apiece. Earlier this year some bike companies and refurb charities wanted to donate Western-style bicycles to the region, an idea rejected by bicycles-to-the-developing-world organisations such as Pedals for Progress in the US and Re~Cycle in UK.

Bike companies seed-fund bicycle-provision program for tsunami-impacted Sri Lanka

World Bicycle Relief is working with World Vision Sri-Lanka and Lumala Bicycle company to provide relief and recovery assistance to the survivors of the Boxing Day tsunami. Lumala Bicycle Company manufactures bicycles in Sri Lanka.

The program will provide 18 335 adult bikes for "greater access to jobs, commerce, food and medicine, and independence."

6041 children’s bikes will be provided for "commutes to school, help with supporting the family, fun, play, and healing."

The bikes will be sourced locally to "ensure correct specification and that recipients are familiar with bikes. It also provides access to spare parts, eliminates supply chain, shipping costs, duties, logistics, and assists the local economy."

World Bicycle Relief will also "train and equip selected individuals in bicycle maintenance. This creates and professionalizes jobs, and ensures a sustainable bicycle community."

World Bicycle Relief believes that bicycles can provide the basis for personal independence and mobility.

"By providing bicycles to those most impacted by the tsunami, we are providing them with a key to rebuilding their lives, their livelihood and their communities."

On the World Bicycle Relief website there are graphics showing how bicycles are so beneficial as an aid to economic recovery and to mobility:…/index.php

In December, the director of the US-based Pedals for Progress cycle recycling organisation told that "only indigenous bicycles can help rebuild tsunami-battered countries."

Dave Schweidenback’s sentiments were echoed by the director of the main UK bike refurb organisation, Merlin Matthews of Re~Cycle.

"There are already a wad-load of bikes out in Asia. It’s bike-central," said Matthews.

TV pictures of the tsunami disaster showed the ‘people’s porter’ being used to ferry people and supplies in areas only helicoptors were able to access.

With roads washed out, bicycles could still get through.

Most of the countries impacted by Boxing Day’s tsunami have indigenous bicycle industries. Prior to the disaster, these countries prevented the importation of ‘free’ bicycles, donated by bicycle refurb agencies in the US and Europe.

"Last year my first container to Sri Lanka was confiscated in Colombo," said Schweidenback.

"The government refused to allow it in. The same thing happened a year earlier in Pakistan. The Indian government has long been uninterested in allowing us entry."

This is why the refurb orgs concentrate on shipping bikes to places without indigenous cycle industries, such as Africa and Latin America.

And World Bicycle Relief – which wants more support from bike companies and individual donations – is to be commended for sourcing bikes locally and not shipping out Western-style bicycles which would not be suitable for use in the developing world.

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