World Bicycle Relief


Nov 2, 2011
Outside Magazine
World Bicycle Relief

World Bicycle Relief    Photo: Courtesy of World Bicycle Relief

BY THE NUMBERS: More than 88,000 bikes distributed and sold in developing nations since 2005
WHO'S IN CHARGE: F. K. Day, 51, executive vice president of SRAM Corporation, the largest bicycle-component manufacturer in the U.S.
WHAT IT DOES: Shortly after the 2004 tsunami hit, Day traveled to Sri Lanka, saw the apocalyptic devastation firsthand, and realized there was a simple, brilliant invention that could speed reconstruction and improve lives: bicycles. Bikes are at least four times as fast as walking and can carry up to five times as much cargo as a person. They improve access to health care and education and facilitate commerce. To put more of them in service, Day created a virtually indestructible, easily fixable bike that costs about $134 to produce. By 2006, World Bicycle Relief (WBR) was born and, in partnership with the NGO World Vision, had distributed more than 24,000 free bikes to Sri Lankans. Since then the organization has built assembly plants in Kenya, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, trained locals to construct bikes, and taught some 700 local mechan­ics how to maintain them. Now it partners with reputable NGOs already in the field to identify populations in need and create contracts with individuals who promote using the free bikes for productive purposes like getting to school. In 2010, they spent $2.5 million on bikes, plants, and programs.
EXTRA CREDIT: WBR tracks the effects of its programs through third-party studies. Day was picked as one of the top 25 philanthropists by Barron’s and the Global Philanthropy Group last year.
LOOKING AHEAD: The bikes are so sturdy that volunteers at organizations like the World Health Organization and Catholic Relief Services in Africa requested to buy them. Two years ago, World Bicycle Relief initiated a program to sell bikes to organizations; proceeds benefit WBR charitable ­programs. In 2012, WBR will open a fourth ­assembly plant, in South Africa.