“Look for solutions, not problems” –Dan Eldon
This is the opening quote in the 42-minute documentary, With My Own Two Wheels. The filmmakers traveled to Zambia, Guatemala, India, Ghana, and Santa Barbara, USA to capture the innovative and inspiring bike stories of five people. They highlight stories of empowerment through mobility– the bike’s ability to impact aspirational levels, educational levels, quality of life, and so much more. The stories in this film demonstrate that we don’t need overpowering solutions to change the world. What we need are solutions that are intermediate. After all, the majority of trips that people need to take in their lives, whether they’re in Guatemala, Ghana, or Boston, are bikeable. It’s not just about fun; it’s not just about a choice. These five stories represent completely different views of what a bicycle is capable of, and what the bicyclist then becomes capable of.
Sone Sangvi, India.
First check the stats: in India, 81% of girls attend primary school. Only 49% of girls go to high school, and 46.4% of women are illiterate. Many families don’t invest in girls’ education because it’s considered a waste. There’s a saying “why water a plant that grows in a neighbor’s garden?” For this reason, parents would give bikes to boys so they could go to high school while most of the girls remained at home. This inspired Ashta no Kai to start the Bicycle Bank Project because they realized one way to increase women’s access to education: give a girl a bike. With this action, they show that bicycles can help women hold up half the sky. The bike impacts aspirational levels, educational levels, and quality of life.
Zambia is about the size of Texas with a population of 12 million, and 1.1 million have HIV/AIDS. Many live far from treatment clinics and are isolated and stigmatized by their communities for being sick. Therefore, the sick rely on voluntary caregivers like Fred of Family Health Trust who often walk 15-20 kilometers 2-3 times a week to treat patients. World Bicycle Relief gave Fred a bike and now he can access more patients in a day and can make it home by sunset. There are 19,000 other caregivers with bikes now in Zambia.
What did it take to get Fred a bike? $134
San Andres Itzapa, Guatemala
Ok, here’s innovation if I’ve ever heard of it. The organization, Maya Pedal, creates environmentally-friendly tools to empower rural Mayans. They have literally transformed the bike into a non-pollutant, human-powered industrial tool called a Bicimaquina. It’s simple and environmentally friendly. It’s functional and economically efficient. The two main products are (1) the Bicimolino (corn grinder) and (2) the Bicipulpar (coffee de pulper)
Miriam walks on crutches and plays basketball by wheelchair. who is often been shunned for her disability. That doesn’t lessen her capabilities. She is also a bike mechanic at the bike shop co-op, Ability Bikes, staffed entirely by disabled Ghanaians (established by Boston-based Bikes not Bombs). In a male-dominated industry, she shatters stereotypes by being a female, physically-disabled bike mechanic. She can fix things that other people can’t, which makes a hugely valuable statement to those who might judge her for (1) being a woman and (2) being handicapped.
Santa Barbara, California
Sharkey is a 21-year-old volunteer bike mechanic at Bici Centro, which is part of the Santa Barbara Bike Coalition. Volunteering at the bike shop has helped to keep him off the streets and out of gangs. Sharkey is part of Santa Barbara’s community who bikes around because that’s what they can afford. Bici Centro started because they recognized that bike shops in the area didn’t meet the needs of half of the commuters in the county. Not everyone is a well-off recreational biker who can afford to buy a new expensive bike every few years. That’s why Bici Centro sells refurbished bikes and teaches customers how to repair their own bicycles. It broadens the scope of accessible resources for anyone who has a bike–not just those who have a lot of money (and almost any cyclist can tell you that bike gear costs tend to add up right quick!)