BFD, Anti-Racism, and Gender-Based Violence Prevention

Author: Jessica Nachman

As part of our Bicycles for Development (BFD) research, we are currently working on a project with BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and persons of colour) and QTBIPOC (queer and transgender BIPOC) cyclists to explore how bicycles and BFD may be used to contribute to anti-racism and gender-based violence (GBV) prevention within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Jess Nachman is the lead researcher on this project.

Previous work on BFD has shown how bicycles can: provide a safe and inclusive space for marginalized youth in urban areas; increase mobility and access to economic resources for refugee and immigrant women; and act as a development tool in the global South. Beyond developmental goals, literature on bicycle justice demonstrates the various ways in which the bicycle can be used for addressing systemic poverty, racism, and inequality more broadly. With this in mind, we should consider bicycles as a potential tool to address exacerbated systemic racism and GBV as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In this blog post, we briefly look into the work that has been conducted in relation to bicycles, anti-racism, and GBV, to contextualize the work we are currently doing as part of our BFD research. 

BFD and Anti-Racism

Systemic racism, as well as pre-existing and related socio-economic inequalities of income, housing, food insecurity, etc., have been on the rise due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There is thus an urgent need for anti-racist work in planning for (post-)pandemic recovery. BIPOC cyclists have historically been pushed out of White and upper-class areas of the city in North America. Governments and media typically privilege the needs of White cyclists to increase White ridership, while BIPOC cyclists’ perspectives are ignored within decision-making processes. In addition, BIPOC cyclists may be dangerously visible in public spaces, contributing to systemic issues such as racial profiling and risk of deportation that make cycling unsafe for BIPOC. The bicycle is therefore implicated in the systems of racial inequality that have inhibited BIPOC to move freely and safely across urban cities. 

At the same time, bicycling has been taken up by BIPOC cyclists to resist systems of racial power. As examples, cycling has been used for: safer and more empowering mobility for BIPOC who feel unsafe driving or walking; an educational tool to teach an area’s history of racism through bicycle tours; and creating community through community-based workshops

BFD and Gender-Based Violence Prevention

The role of bicycles and BFD programs in addressing GBV are particularly important since COVID-19 has created a de facto “shadow pandemic,” in which there has been increasing rates of violence against women and girls due to the strain on services that support those who are vulnerable to violence. Women and girls of colour as well as queer and transgender persons have been made increasingly vulnerable to violence. A response to the pandemic using a gender lens is thus urgently needed to focus on the specific risks and vulnerabilities women, girls and QT people face due to deeply entrenched inequalities that shape how people of all gender identities experience COVID-19

Previous feminist work has illuminated the bicycle as a potential source of empowerment for women. Many women have reported experiencing unsafe cycling experiences due to their gender, and that their experiences are vital to creating renewed cycling infrastructure. Women who cycle reported a heightened fear of experiencing GBV and harassment when cycling, due to their increased visibility. The bicycle is implicated in gender inequality and resulting GBV, and therefore BFD may be a useful space to challenge gender inequality while paving new lanes for safe transport and recreation in urban areas.  

BFD Research with BIPOC and QTBIPOC

BFD can provide an influential site to investigate and challenge the inequalities of GBV, systemic racism, COVID-19, and other socio-economic issues. Those involved with BFD, especially cyclists that inhabit marginalized identities that are traditionally absent from decision-making and planning, are vital to informing wider bicycle advocacy and policy. Several studies have echoed the need to amplify the perspectives of women, BIPOC, and other cyclists who inhabit marginalized identities to create safe and inclusive cycling spaces for all. This can be applied both within organizations implementing bicycle programming, as well as city spaces for cycling. Amplifying these voices may be especially important given the existing research on bicycles, anti-racism, and GBV.

Feel free to reach out to us for more information: jessnach@yorku.ca

Bicycles for Development Workshop: Exploring a Community of Practice

Written by: Jessica Nachman

On January 31 at 9am EST, the York University Bicycles for Development Research Group hosted a Bicycles for Development virtual workshop. Bicycle organizations from all over the world tuned in for research presentations and a community workshop. It was the first meeting of introductions, meant to explore the possibility of pursuing a Community of Practice for the transnational Bicycles for Development space.

We started off the call with a Padlet where workshop attendees could post their organization activities, aspirations, and contact information on a virtual map. We filled it up with 38 posts! Check out the Padlet here, and feel free to add your organizations.

We were excited to share findings from phase 1 of the BFD project (2017-2021, funded by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Insight Grant). Dr. Mitch McSweeney – a postdoctoral fellow at the University of British Columbia (School of Kinesiology) leading the project provided an overview of ‘Bicycles for Development’: Findings and recommendations from a five-year study in Nicaragua, Canada, Uganda, India, and South Africa. Some highlights from the research findings included:

The Benefits of BFD

  • The bicycle as a transportation tool, and an enabler for women.
  • The bicycle as a tool for independence, self-learning, and skill mastery
  • The bicycle as a means to challenge cycling identities, construct safe spaces, and disrupt gender norms.

The Challenges of BFD

  • Bicycle infrastructure and safety.
  • Gender norms, relations, and inequalities.
  • Intersecting considerations and exclusion of particular identities.
  • Environmental conditions, bicycle structure, and government regulations.
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For phase 2 of the BFD project (2021-2026, also funded by a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Insight Grant), the research will take place in Canada, Uganda, and Nicaragua, with a specific focus on social entrepreneurship, reducing gender-based violence, and ‘green recovery’ in a (post-)COVID-19 context. The team will be utilizing participatory mapping, visual methods, and a trauma-and-violence-informed approach. Stay tuned!

Susan Bornstein (Global Director, Institutional Partnerships & Influence) from World Bicycle Relief (WBR) presented the research findings from Wheels of Change: The Impact of Bicycles of Girls’ Education and Empowerment Outcomes in Rural Zambia.  Susan shared WBR’s Bicycles for Educational Empowerment Program (BEEP), which provides bicycles to students, teachers, and school volunteers to improve access to education. The World Bicycle Relief research team conducted a randomized control trial, and key findings included reduced absenteeism, reduced travel time, and increased punctuality for students who received bicycles. Currently, WBR is undertaking the 2022 BEEP Zambia follow-up research to assess long-term outcomes. WBR and USAID are partnering for an upcoming project called “Bicycles for Growth to improve bicycle availability and uptake for mobility in sub-Saharan Africa.

Next, Jonars Spielberg from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology D-Lab presented findings from the project Improving Access to Affordable Bicycles in Africa. Jonars discussed the factors influencing access to cycling, including the purpose of the bicycle (e.g. load carrying), the COVID-19 pandemic, cycling conditions, ownership, procurement, and maintenance of the bicycle. Barriers and enablers were also discussed, including affordability, personal attitudes and perceptions, design and quality, and personal riding experience. For more information, feel free to contact the team via email.

After presentations, Jess Nachman from York University facilitated a workshop on the benefits of Communities of Practice and how to create a collaborative space for the BFD space. We then went into breakout rooms to discuss how we might benefit from a Community of Practice, or simply a collective space to connect.

Once we returned to the large group again, breakout rooms shared what they had discussed. Folks shared some discussion around barriers that organizations have been facing, including: a lack of spare parts and supplies; volunteer availability due to COVID-19 and the winter season; and research and distribution costs. Folks also shared that a Community of Practice may be potentially useful for:

  • sharing research resources (e.g. infrastructure, data, questions, methods, and findings);
  • sharing data collected by various stakeholders;
  • sharing transnational work being done;
  • facilitating partnerships and connections on joint advocacy (e.g. making bikes more accessible, supporting access in rural areas, global taxes and duties to ship bikes, government policy); and 
  • amplifying our individual voices through shared advocacy.

This feedback was incredibly useful for beginning to brainstorm how staying in touch with one another might take shape. While this workshop was just an introductory meeting, we hope to facilitate a space for folks to take part in whatever way they can and want. This might be in the form of 2-4 BFD meetings per year, a virtual repository for sharing information and resources, or even just dialogue on Twitter. To assess how organizations want to be involved, we are sending out a survey to workshop attendees to provide input. Our organizers are also looking to host a BFD conference in June 2022 in Toronto, Canada. All this is to say – we are SO looking forward to what is coming up in the BFD space!

BFD in Canada

April 30, 2018

Author: Mitch McSweeney

The ‘bicycles for development’ ‘movement’ operates in countries around the world – including within Canada. See the links below for videos and information about some BFD organizations based in Canada:

https://www.ctvnews.ca/canada/you-can-make-a-difference-by-donating-your-old-bicycle-1.3381313

https://toronto.ctvnews.ca/africycle-bike-donation-program-to-help-thousands-ride-in-malawi-1.2334066

Devra Waldman – Back from doing ‘bicycles for development’ research in Pune, India

February 7, 2018

Author: Brian Wilson

In December 2017, Devra Waldman – funded by a SSHRC Insight grant entitled “Cycling Against Poverty? Researching a Sport for Development Movement and an ‘Object’ in/for Development” – spent time in Pune, India with girls and young women who are involved with an NGO that works in multiple villages to equip young girls with the skills necessary to overcome forms of discrimination and exclusion from formal education. One of the barriers to rural girls’ access to education is physical distance between their villages and the closest high schools. With unreliable or unavailable public transport, for most, the journey to high school would be too far to take. Recognizing this barrier, the NGO began a Bicycle Bank – which provided all girls with bicycles in order to help them complete their high school education. Devra interviewed young girls and women who had been recipients of bikes about their experiences receiving and using the bicycles. Devra also began a project with the girls and women that was inspired by digital participatory methodologies, where she asked the participants to take photographs that would represent the range of their experiences with their bicycles. After giving the participants time to take photographs, Devra met with them again — and the participants then shared their favourite photographs and had a conversation with Devra about what the photos represented to them. The goal of this methodology is to centre the girls’ voices and experiences in the research and in the analysis, as well as shift the focus to the bicycle as an object of/for development. The hope is to go back to the villages in the near future to  continue this work, with more participants, and over a longer time frame.

 

The Bicycle as Pockets of Activism and Development

 

Author: Mitch McSweeney

After the bicycle for development research team began to delve for insights and themes into data on the BFD movement, the use of the bicycle can be considered as a multi-faceted tool of empowerment towards (but not limited to) gender empowerment and community development. Overall, the initial insights and experiences of BFD executives and some participants further demonstrates that the BFD movement operates as pockets of activism and development on an international scale.

Here are a few links to explore how bicycles and BFD organizations create/continue to have an impact:

The Unlikely Source of Social Change

Re-Cycle

The Cycle of Giving

Madison Ardizzi – Back from doing ‘bicycles for development’ research in Uganda

February 7, 2018

Author: Brian Wilson

As part of her MA thesis research – that is funded through this SSHRC Insight grant entitled “Cycling Against Poverty? Researching a Sport for Development Movement and an ‘Object’ in/for Development”- Madison Ardizzi traveled to Uganda in the Fall of 2017, spending time in Lira, Gulu, Amuru, Tororo, Kadama, Mbale, Jinja, Kampala and Mbarara. Her goal was to learn more about: how bicycles are being used for development purposes in the Two-Thirds-World; the politics and complexities of bicycle-driven development work; assumptions that underlie the use of the bicycles for development purposes; the perspectives of those involved in such bicycle-driven development on their work and industry; and the structure and goals of organizations involved in ‘bicycles for development’ (BFD). Madison conducted 18 interviews while in Uganda with founders, volunteers and beneficiaries from 7 different organizations doing BFD work tackling a range of issues related to, for example, health, women’s empowerment, and sustainable tourism