In 2017, the first installment of the Bicycles for Development (BFD) research project was launched with the support of Social Sciences and Research Council of Canada (SSHRC). From this research, three key findings were established that highlighted the bicycle as: 1) a means through which to access to healthcare, education and livelihoods; 2) a tool that promotes independence, self-learning and skill mastery; 3) an avenue to challenge mainstream cycling identities. At the same time, several challenges were highlighted, including: 1) bicycle infrastructure and safety; 2) gender inequality; 3) environmental conditions; and 4) government regulations. In turn, some of the key recommendations from this research included: 1) more clearly focusing on developing policies that create and/or improve bicycle-related infrastructure in rural and urban areas; and 2) promoting non-motorized transport and the integration of the bicycle in environmental sustainability policy.
Based on the feedback from key stakeholders involved in our previous two workshops (held virtually in January and June 2022), we will be hosting our third workshop in February 2023. The workshop will feature three panelists who will engage in discussion about policy development, change and advocacy strategies through bicycle-related social justice work. We seek to build on the expertise of our panelists, all of whom have experience in producing, shaping and advocating for policy change in relation to one or more of the following areas: participatory planning, informal urban transport, urban and rural mobility and/or accessibility in urban design.
Louise Uchôa | Analyst of Institutional Development, SampaPé! (Brazil)
Brazilian architect and urban planner, MSc in Architecture by Politecnico di Milano. Analyst of Institutional Development at SampaPé!, involved with initiatives that value and raise awareness on the importance of fairer and more walkable cities.
Ingrid Buday | Advocate, Safe and Active Streets (Canada)
Ingrid is an advocate for safe and active streets and calmer, more peaceful communities by reducing unnecessary noise. She uses GIS tools to collect data and share it with the public to influence change. By working with grassroots organizations, their messages are amplified on a municipal and provincial level for policy change.
Susan Bornstein | Global Director, Institutional Partnerships & Influence | World Bicycle Relief (USA)
Susan is passionate about business solutions to poverty. She leads World Bicycle Relief’s institutional partnerships and influence strategy. Earlier she was Deputy Director at The BOMA Project, working to to end extreme poverty in Africa’s drylands, led strategic partnerships at Land O’ Lakes International Development, and directed program development at TechnoServe.
We are excited to be making connections with BFD organizers and practitioners from around the world through a type of collective space! After the January workshop, we emailed a survey to determine what folks in the transnational BFD space wanted to see in upcoming workshops. Survey results included: building connections with other BFD groups; sharing best practices and resources; strengthening our collective voice; and equitable access to bicycling. With these survey results in mind, the York team hosted a virtual summer workshop for BFD organizations and practitioners to connect and discuss equitable access to BFD programs.
Julia and Tayler, research team members from York University, facilitated a workshop on trauma- and violence- informed practice and programming. Julia and Tayler took us through the current research on trauma- and violence- informed approaches, namely, how to create safer spaces for folks who are vulnerable to trauma and violence, which are often products of systemic inequality. Applying a trauma- and violence- informed approach to BFD is one helpful way to improve equity and access to bicycling.
After the presentation, we split off into small groups to introduce ourselves, our organizations, and discuss how we are addressing access to bicycling within our organizations. We returned to our large group to share our small group discussions. Some important discussion points came up:
Gender dynamicscontinue to impact access to bicycles and BFD programming. In Uganda for example, women are often expected to take on household responsibilities, which can act as a barrier to bicycle access. At the same time, a BFD organization in Uganda has shown that women are using bicycles for their livelihood, and bicycling can help promote healing from trauma.
There is a need to mobilize evidence and research about access to BFD to influence policymakers and reach key stakeholders. Since this research often sits in academic journals, we need to consider how we can discuss and share about the importance of bicycles with stakeholders such as funders, practitioners, and communities.
Using visual means (such as photos and digital stories) can help BFD participants share their experiences and even promote fundraising for BFD organizations.
As always, we were so grateful for the opportunity to connect with folks doing incredible work in the BFD space. You can also check out the video recap of the event on our Knowledge Translation page.Stay tuned for future workshops!
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.
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.
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.
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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.
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!
Interested in how the bicycle has been portrayed in culture and society through literature and film? Check out this book review by one of the BFD team members, Mitch McSweeney, of “Culture on Two Wheels: The Bicycle in Literature and Film’:
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.
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:
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