Do Good By Bike: Vol 8 – The Mike’s Bikes Foundation’s Africa Projects

March 7th, 2018

#DoPublicGood is a project highlighting people or organizations that do good by bike. Each month we’ll be shining a spotlight on those who enrich communities all over through their two-wheeled advocacy. You can read our past #DoPublicGood profiles here. If you have a nominee for #DoPublicGood, please let us know in the comments and if… Read more »

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#DoPublicGood is a project highlighting people or organizations that do good by bike. Each month we’ll be shining a spotlight on those who enrich communities all over through their two-wheeled advocacy. You can read our past #DoPublicGood profiles here.

If you have a nominee for #DoPublicGood, please let us know in the comments and if selected we’ll send you both a PUBLIC gift certificate.


 

Ken Martin, Mike’s Bikes CEO, with Mike & Debbe, Bicycle Warehouse Owners, in Lesotho visiting Tumi, owner of a Mike’s Bikes Sister Shop.

 

This month we are proud to spotlight our partner, Mikes Bike’s, and their Africa Projects which help put bicycles directly in the hands of people in developing Africa. So far over 26,000 bikes have shipped, and the changes these bikes make in their communities and in the lives of the owners is profound.

We interviewed Ken Martin, CEO of Mike’s Bikes, who had just gotten back from delivering a shipment of bikes to Zimbabwe. Read below to hear him tell more about the Africa Projects and how you can get involved.


 

Please describe what the Africa Projects are all about.

We wanted a way for us to do a bike donation program that was cost effective and sustainable. Many of the bike donation programs give their bikes away for free, but for us it was key to create a sustainable program that taught the value of the bike.

We went through a few iterations of the projects to land where we are now, with four main distribution centers in Kenya, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Lesotho. Instead of handing out the bikes for free, our distribution partners in Africa sell them for the cost of shipping and import duty to local shops and business people who then sell the bikes into their local communities at affordable prices, using the capital to keep their shops running, hire local workers, and promote cycling. This helps with the long-term value and impact of the bicycles.

 

Mechanics all around Southern Africa are learning valuable skills in bicycle maintenance.

 

Tell us more about the local shops you sell to and how they help benefit the community.

When we began the program, we were helping to set up “Sister Shops” that would keep the bikes running after they were delivered to Africa. We quickly noticed that this was key in keeping the program sustainable. We were setting them up to function beyond our initial donations. They were using the tools we gave them to operate their own small business which then helped them provide for their family and give back to the community.

 

Tumi’s Bicycle Shop was initially set up as a “Sister Shop” but over the years has evolved into a bustling business in Maseru, and is looking at setting up a pump track next.

 

We decided to broaden our model and distribute to more shops and business people who could spread the value of the bike across Africa. We support them in developing their own individual business models in order to best service the area in which they live.

For example, in Roma, Lesotho they built a pump track and rent their bikes out to kids who want to ride. If a kid can’t afford to rent a bike, they can earn free rentals by working in the community garden, which then provides fresh produce for people in the area.

Another example is a woman named Aggie, who doesn’t run a shop but acts as an independent businesswoman who specializes in soft goods. Her bike is her only mode of transportation, and she uses it every day, rain or shine, to navigate her huge network of suppliers and customers. We are one of the distributors where she is able to get her supplies.

 

Can you highlight a personal story from one of your visits?

There are so many. The best are stories are when we get to see the passion the African people have for bikes.

The Lesotho Sky is a hardcore mountain bike stage race in Lesotho that top riders from over 21 countries come to compete in. Years ago, a 15-year-old named Mekke showed up with an old, beat-to-hell hybrid bike with bald tires, and wanted to ride. Although he couldn’t pay the entrance fee, ride organizers Christian and Darol let him ride because of the sheer devotion he showed for the sport. He didn’t win, but he didn’t come in last either. He became friends with Christian and Darol, our distribution partner outside Maseru, and he’s now working at the new bike shop there. Even without supplies, Mekke wanted to ride. Now with our program he gets to work every day doing what he loves, spreading his passion for bikes.

 

How can people get involved?

Donate your old bike and gear!

In Northern California, you can bring used bikes to any of our twelve Mike’s Bikes locations.

In Southern California, you can bring your used bikes to any Bicycle Warehouse or bring your used apparel and gear to one of Kit Up Africa’s drop off points, run by Adam Austin.

Full sustainability is the goal, but until we get there, the projects cost money to operate.  You can support our efforts monetarily by donating online.

 

Boitshepo Lesele racing in Botswana in apparel donated through Adam Austin’s program in Los Angeles.

 

 

Do Good By Bike: Vol 6 – San Francisco Yellow Bike Project

April 4th, 2017

#DoPublicGood is a project highlighting people or organizations that do good by bike. Each month we’ll be shining a spotlight on those who enrich their community through their two-wheeled advocacy. If you have a nominee for #DoPublicGood, please let us know in the comments and if selected we’ll send you both a PUBLIC gift certificate…. Read more »

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#DoPublicGood is a project highlighting people or organizations that do good by bike. Each month we’ll be shining a spotlight on those who enrich their community through their two-wheeled advocacy. If you have a nominee for #DoPublicGood, please let us know in the comments and if selected we’ll send you both a PUBLIC gift certificate.

We’re taking part too. Follow our Instagram Story (@publicbikes) each Thursday as we bike-courier food from a restaurant to shelter in San Francisco, CA.

san francisco yellow bike projectMobile Bike Shop at Civic Center Plaza in SF offering bike repairs. Photo by Mary Kay Chin.

In Volume 6 of #DoPublicGood, we interview Nathan Woody, Executive Director of The San Francisco Yellow Bike Project (SFYBP) in San Francisco, California. SFYPB works to empower the community through the bicycle, by refurbishing bikes for the young and young at heart and offering Earn-A-Bike programs. Read on for our full Q&A with Nathan to learn more about the inspiring work done by SFYPB.

PUBLIC: Please describe what your project is all about?
Nathan: The San Francisco Yellow Bike Project is a grassroots, pop-up, do-it-yourself, community-building machine that brings dead bikes back to life and puts more city dwellers on two wheels. It’s a healthy revolution for San Francisco.

We offer community shop nights, access to inexpensive bike parts and refurbished bicycles, bike swaps for kids, and other programming that lowers to barriers to riding and creates a sense of community around the bike.

san francisco yellow bike projectPaddy showing volunteer, Lauren how to level a bike saddle. Photo by Nathan Woody.

PUBLIC: Talk to us about your Earn-A-Bike Program?
Nathan: Our Earn-a-Bike program is a way for people with limited financial means to acquire a bicycle. The participant pays a low sliding scale program fee then refurbishes the bicycle themselves, learning some mechanical skills along the way. In some cases volunteers complete administrative tasks or other non-mechanical jobs that Yellow Bike needs to have done. The only catch, with our tiny shop, is that participants take the bike with them from the shop after the program fee is paid.

PUBLIC: Please describe the Kids Program?
Nathan: A couple of times each year we gather up 10-20 kids’ bikes and get them fixed up and ready for their next owner. Working with a partner organization (like a school or neighborhood center) we identify a group of kids with bikes they’ve outgrown or non-functional bicycles and hold a Kids’ Bike Swap for them. They bring their old bike and swap it for a new-to-them bike that fits. Those without a bike to swap can pay $0-$40 on a sliding scale to pick one up that works for them. We have no other program that provides more excitement and hope for the future, and it’s one of our volunteers’ favorite programs–it brings smiles galore to everyone who participates, kids and volunteers.

san francisco yellow bike projectHoward, learning to ride at a Tenderloin Kids’ Bike Swap with a bike he received from SFYBP. Photo Mary Kay Chin.

PUBLIC: Can you highlight a few examples of people your program has helped?
Nathan: We have helped people who range from kids from the Tenderloin to SF City Supervisors Eric Mar and Jane Kim, and treat everyone with equal respect. We have helped people with $0 in their pockets to get their bike up and running. We have helped people with a functional bike find a community where they are welcomed and a part of something that allows them to give back. We have helped empower countless shop users with our DIY approach to bike repair that demystifies the machine and creates access to tools and knowledge.

Specifically Howard comes to mind. He was 5 years old and came to a Tenderloin bike swap with nothing. He left having learned how to ride without training wheels on his new-to-him bike. Or perhaps Ellis, a neighbor who became a shop user, who became a volunteer, who became a key holder, until eventually we all just became “yellow bike fam”, his bicycling community. Or Mia, a Swiss traveler that bought a bike, strapped her backpack to it, and a couple days later, rode to Los Angeles.

PUBLIC: In your words, why is the bicycle able to change lives?
Nathan: The bicycle is a perfect form of transportation for humans. Efficient, affordable, and reliable, bicycles are very much the ultimate utilitarian vehicle. It is a social medium, a therapist, a political statement, an environmental protest or celebration, a personal trainer, a dear friend, an emergency vehicle, and so much more. The bicycle changes lives because it provides freedom to people that use it. I understand that the bicycle doesn’t “suit” everyone, and that’s ok. The people it does suit are rewarded in many ways and the world is better as a result.

san francisco yellow bike projectCore SFYBP volunteer, Rezz picking up donated bikes and moving them into storage. Photo by Nathan Woody.

PUBLIC: How can people get involved with San Francisco Yellow Bike? Are you looking for volunteers?
Nathan: SFYBP is always looking for more people with time and energy to support our cause!. We’ve made it 6 years in SF as a 100% volunteer-run, donation-based organization thanks to the dedication of our community and volunteers. We are seeking all levels and kinds of involvement, everything from non-profit administration down to fixing flats and teaching kids how to ride. One piece of our core mission is education through volunteerism, so if anyone wants to learn bike repair in a low-stakes environment they should come to our community shop nights, currently 6-9 pm Monday. Wednesday and Thursday evenings (and consider becoming a regular shop night volunteer!). To provide help on the administrative level, please email our Executive Director, Nathan Woody at Nathan@sfyellowbike.org

san francisco yellow bike projectMia, a traveler from Switzerland, bought a bike from SFYBP and headed to LA on it the next day. Photo by Nathan Woody.

PUBLIC: Anything else you’d like to add?
Nathan: SFYBP was founded in 2011 as a response to the SF Board of Supervisors’ goal of reaching 20% bicycle transportation mode share by the year 2020. In a city suffering from social justice inequality and wealth stratification, SFYBP exists to serve all those that want our help. We do not judge by gender or race or socioeconomic status. We help people that respect our shop, our tools and our time. We help, we help others, we help others help, we help others help others.