July 01, 2006

BikeTown comes to Botswana

Bike Town, a bicycle donation program originally started by Bicycling Magazine for American communities, has launched its first African initiative. The BikeTown Africa program began in Botswana the last week in May through joint efforts between Bicycling Magazine, Kona Bicycles, Bristol Myers Squibb’s Secure the Future Foundation and ITDP. BoCap (Gaberone) and the Bobirwa ARV project (Bobonong) each received 100 Afribikes manufactured by Kona to aide them in delivering anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs provided free of charge by the Botswanian government to people infected with HIV/AIDS. Like the California Bike developed by ITDP and Trek, the introduction of Kona’s Africabike reflects a widespread need for higher quality bikes suitable for the harsher road conditions in many areas of Africa.

ITDP’s research indicates that in comparison to walking, a health care worker who uses a bike can reach 15 more patients a day. The California Bike Coalition’s director, Bradley Schroeder, describes what it was like to be part of the BikeTown Africa project:

Whenever a group of bicycle enthusiasts get together you can be sure there will be a relaxed air of fun until the first box of parts is opened. Then attention and energy turns towards the one thing that brought us all together, the bicycle, which in this case happens to be the Kona AfricaBike.

As the nine members of the BikeTown team and the various recipients began assembling the bicycles in Botswana for the first BikeTown Africa project, we got to know each other through exchanges like “Pass the wrench.”, “Are you done with the number 10?” and “Who has the spanner?” The nine of us spent the next week together assembling and delivering bicycles, as well as providing training to health care organizations fighting HIV/AIDS.

The first BikeTown Africa project took place the last week in May. We initially assembled the 200 bicycles, which took a day and a half, in Gaberone. We then handed half of them over to BoCap, an NGO specializing in HIV/AIDS counseling. We piled into two vans and started the long journey to Bobonong for the handover to the Bobirwa ARV Project.

Next year, Bike Town is considering a bigger event in another African country.

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