Mobility is a challenging issue, especially in the poorer areas of Cape Town. Public transport in the townships is very wide-sprawling and not affordable to many of the residents. It is also observed that bicycles are rarely used as a mean of transportation within the poor communities. Since 2001, the Aachen-Cape Town LA21 Partnership’s project (i.e. the Bicycling Recycling Project) seeks to promote sustainable mobility and poverty reduction in partnership with the Bicycling Empowerment Network (BEN).
It all started with 180 bikes sent by Welthaus Aachen, Germany to Cape Town. These used but still roadworthy bikes were collected from individuals by Welthaus in Aachen and packed in a container which was shipped to Cape Town, for refurbishment and distribution to poor residents. The project continues today thanks to the support of the Welthaus in collaboration with the Aachen branches of two big German transport federations (“Allgemeiner Deutscher Fahrrad Club” and “Vekehrs-Club Deutschland”), which are actually situated at Welthaus. Until now (2014) more then 2200 bikes found their way from Aachen into the low income communities in Cape Town.
The first bikes where used in self-help projects in Khayelitsha to facilitate staff and the participants’ mobility. The latest bikes have been distributed to community based organizations that were in need of low-cost transportation to assist staff to reduce the cost of transport. In addition, the bikes enabled them to increase projects outputs significantly as a result of easy transportation and mobility.
Also the schools who participate in the Partnership could apply for bikes for learners and staff members. At Phoenix High School in Manenberg actually a bicycle club was started with the Aachen bikes in 2012. At the Primary Schools most of the bikes are used by the additional staff like caretakers and cleaners who gained more mobility.
Since 2002 the Bicycling Empowerment Network (BEN) has played a key role within the Cape Town Aachen LA21-Partnership by empowering people to use non motorized transportation which subsequently contributes to poverty alleviation though reduced transport costs and improved health benefits. It also helps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as a result of reduced dependency on fossil fuels for transportation.
BEN distributes bicycles to low income areas and trains the recipients to use them safely and sustainably. They are trained in matters of safety and maintenance. To date BEN has also introduced 17 Bicycle Empowerment Centre’s (BEC’s) within the Cape Region so as to enable entrepreneurs to run their own bicycle repair business. People who are interested in running a BEC are trained in both bicycle mechanics and bookkeeping. After being trained, qualified entrepreneurs receive a start-up kit which consists of 30 bicycles; a set of tools and a shipping container that is used as a workshop. BECs repair and sell bikes and in so doing also promote the safe use of bicycles in schools and surrounding communities.
The project is sustainable and successful in many ways:
- It promotes sustainable mobility in Cape Town
- Youth from disadvantaged areas in Cape Town receive low cost transportation to school and/or their work places.
- Used bikes from Aachen are turned into a meaningful use and benefit poor people.
- The project is also used as a marketing tool for Aachen-Cape Town LA21 Partnership in Aachen.
Find detailed Information on BEN on www.benbikes.org.za