BEN’s overall objective is to promote sustainable social and economic empowerment through the use of bicycles. We do this by ensuring a reliable supply of donated and affordable bicycles to disadvantaged communities and institutions. To do this we have to secure an ongoing stream of donated bikes from our donor partners. We distribute these bikes via various projects and through Bicycling Empowerment Centres (BECs), entrepreneur-based businesses that we help to set up in our target communities. We ensure that beneficiaries can maintain their bikes and that they know how to ride safely. BEN also engages with decision makers and stakeholders to ensure that Non-Motorised (NMT) Transport is properly integrated into transport planning.
Where our bikes come from
BEN has formed strong relationships with a number of international donor agencies, including Re-cycle (UK) www.re-cycle.org , Bicycles for Humanity (Aus) www.bicycles-for-humanity.org , SOTS (Norway), Bikes for the World (USA) www.bikesfortheworld.org, etc. We receive containers of used bikes from these agencies which we import, store and distribute. We also receive bikes from local donors, including individuals and corporate benefactors. BEN also acts as an implementing agent for the distribution of new bikes as part of the South African government’s distribution efforts. Details of our donors can be found here.
Bicycling Empowerment Centres (BECs)
A key mechanism in our distribution efforts are the BECs which BEN has established. These centres are managed by community-based entrepreneurs, who receive bikes from BEN and distribute them into their communities. They have been trained in small business management, and as bike mechanics and play a key role in ensuring the bikes are kept in a roadworthy condition. The establishment of BECs promotes employment creation whilst providing BEN with a good distribution network to ensure communities have access to affordable bikes. Details of our BECs can be found here.
We distribute a significant number of bikes through projects in partnership with other organisations and donors. Currently, our pilot School’s Cycling Programme distributes bikes into various schools around the Western Cape as well as providing mechanical and safety training for beneficiaries. The bikes used in this project were donated by Bikes4Humanity and the other distribution costs covered by other donors.
From a sustainability perspective, it is important for us to ensure that our bikes are kept on the road. We provide a range of mechanic training courses via our in-house workshop and repair centre. Our trainers are all experienced mechanics with significant industry experience. Courses range from one-day basic maintenance programmes, to comprehensive three-week long programmes covering most areas of bicycle repair. We try to ensure that all programmes and projects we undertake are supported by access to sustainable mechanical support.
Safety and rider training
Providing access to bicycles needs to be complemented by rider and safety training. All of our bike distributions are accompanied by appropriate safety training. We also provide safety training to schools and community organisations. We work closely with other organisations, including the Pedal Power Association (PPA) www.pedalpower.org.za in developing safety training methods and associated materials.
Lobbying and Advocacy
Part of BEN’s mission is to raise the profile of cycling through advocating the development of appropriate infrastructure and for a safer cycling environment. We use our voice strongly to ensure that Non-Motorised Transport (NMT) is integrated into mobility and transport planning. We engage with other like-minded organisations to build a cycling community in order to raise awareness of the mobility, social integration, health and well-being benefits of cycling.