World Bicycle Relief Spreads the Power of Bicycles Far Beyond the Race

Watching 144 of the best athletes in the world speed their way to the finish line of the Amgen Tour of California is an amazing sight. It is hard to imagine a world in which 24 of those athletes — more than one on each team — are infected with HIV/AIDS. Or one in which 14 of them grew up as orphans. A world in which each of them knew they were only expected to live 40 years.

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Released February 16, 2007 by World Bicycle Relief 

Watching 144 of the best athletes in the world speed their way to the finish line of the Amgen Tour of California is an amazing sight. It is hard to imagine a world in which 24 of those athletes — more than one on each team — are infected with HIV/AIDS. Or one in which 14 of them grew up as orphans. A world in which each of them knew they were only expected to live 40 years.

Yet that is exactly what faces the inhabitants of Zambia, a nation in Southern Africa. Out of a population of 11.5 million people, 16.5 percent of the adult population lives with HIV/AIDS. More than 1.1 million Zambian children are orphaned or considered vulnerable.

However, it is not a world without hope. And hope, in this case, comes in the form of a bicycle: 26,000 of them, provided by World Bicycle Relief, a public charity dedicated to providing access to independence and livelihood through the power of bicycles.

"In Africa, healthcare and health education are not reaching the people who need it the most," according to F.K. Day, president of World Bicycle Relief. "By providing bicycles, we ensure that healthcare workers and disease prevention educators reach even the most remote communities."

World Bicycle Relief will have a booth at the Tour of California's Lifestyle Festival in each of the Tour's finishing cities. The group hopes to connect with race fans in each location to spread its message of empowerment.

The bikes themselves are not the sleek machines powered by racers over the roads of California; rather, these are purpose-built, culturally appropriate tools assembled in Zambia to meet the needs of the local populace. World Bicycle Relief has partnered with RAPIDS, a USAID-funded consortium of six relief organizations, to provide the bikes to home-based, community volunteers caring for their HIV/AIDS-infected neighbors.

These caregivers utilize the bicycles to increase their reach fourfold: while walking, they might cover 2-1/2 miles per hour; by bicycle they are able to go 10 miles. This allows them to better attend to their caseload, and at the same time decreases fatigue and helps them to further contribute to their families and communities.

It is contributions such as this that form the cornerstone of World Bicycle Relief's philosophy. "The bicycle is a vital link to access healthcare, education and economic development," Day said. "This creates a cycle of continuous improvement in the lives of every person they touch."

The organization plans to extend its scope in the future by helping create micro-lending opportunities in Zambia and other countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. At the same time, Day said, he is working with suppliers to increase the quality and durability of the bicycles available.

More information is available on the group's web site, http://www.worldbicyclerelief.org.