Those who are even moderately fortunate can take for granted many things that other people may despair of ever having.

The ability to go from place to place whenever we choose is one of them. Some Americans may not have access to their own transportation, but they may at least be able to walk to a nearby bus station or call a taxi or a friend for a ride.

Or they may not. For some people in America and elsewhere in the world, having transportation can mean the difference between hopeless poverty and having some control over their lives.

This is where Bikes for the World comes in. It gathers used bicycles from people who no longer need them and sends them to other people whose lives they will change. (See: “Bike collection will return to Canal Place,” April 23 Times-News, Page 8A.)

The Western Maryland Wheelmen bicycling club and Cumberland Rotary Club team up annually to collect and ship as many used bicycles as possible for Bikes for the World. This year’s effort will take place May 18 from 10 a.m. to noon at Canal Place.

The Bikes for the World website (www.bikesfortheworld.org) says that to date, nearly 146,000 bikes have been donated to people in 29 countries, and that has resulted in more than 582,000 improved lives.

America is one of the countries where the recycled bicycles are distributed, and Bikes for the World works with at least five programs in America to this end.

Financial support is needed, along with donations of bicycles. Shipping costs overseas can run from $17 to $30 a bike, so those who bring a bike to donate are asked to give $10. Even if the donor can’t give the money, no bike is refused.

For two weeks up to the collection, bikes and shipping donations can be brought to Cumberland Trail Connection, where they can be stored by business owner Doug “Hutch” Hutchinson. He donates the use of his tools and tables for the collection.

“Bikes Not Bombs,” a study performed by Brown University, discussed organizations that bring bicycles to third-world countries “as a vehicle to promote peace and provide an alternative in technology to practices of warfare and environmental destruction.” 

It said “The potential offered by bicycles in many African countries is tremendous. In rural Kenya, for instance, women will often spend between three to six hours walking to get water, which requires about a quarter of their daily energy intake. Bicycles would reduce this time by at least a half and energy expenditure by a third.”

People in developing countries may have no access to public transportation, if it even exists. Simply walking to school or taking goods to a market may take hours, and sick people may walk for days to reach a health clinic. Bicycle ambulances can be sent to help them.

Research by BicylePotential.org indicated that in some countries, having a bicycle can increase a family’s income by more than a third and allow a child to go to school or an adult to get a job.

A story provided by collection coordinator Valerie Van Hollen for our Slice of Life section in May 2016 was told from the perspective of a bicycle that started life in Cumberland as a gift for a 10-year-old boy and eventually wound up with Akosua Mussah, a cocoa farmer in Ghana, thanks to Bikes for the World.

The bike allows Akosua to travel four times faster to the market four and a half miles away and carry four times more of her product, than she would on foot. 

Bikes for the World works with Abilities Bikes, which employs people who have disabilities to repair and refurbish the bikes ... something Akosua’s bike said it needed.

“I’m totally impressed with this woman who besides having a family, grows cocoa,” said the bike. “I love our trips into the market where I see so much cocoa and sometime see bikes I’ve met before. I love Ghana and my life here, especially knowing how helpful I am to Akosua.

“A bicycle does not need as much rest as I got when I was idle in the basement and garage for so long. I needed to be ridden and put to good use. I have found my purpose as I assist Akosua in finding hers,” it said.

To read this story, ask our website to search for “lifeline in Africa” and be sure to use the quotation marks.

Bikes for the World donations are tax deductible. For more information, visit www.bikesfortheworld.org or call Van Hollen at 240-727-3533.

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