A bike is a toy, a bike is a tool

As we began looking into the feasibility of the Ready-to-Go Bikes model for delivering bikes to survivors, I began to call around to different aid organizations that already engage in immediate disaster response. I asked them if they’d be interested in serving as ‘hubs’ that would be willing to receive donated bicycles and deliver them to disaster sites for survivors. But I encountered an unexpected source of resistance to the idea. Representatives from these large disaster response NGOs simply did not see the value of a bike in this setting. There was not even a well-reasoned response as to why they would not consider delivering bikes to survivors. Instead they seemed to reject the idea as if I were suggesting that they help to deliver balloons or cotton candy. I spoke with bike advocate and bikes-in-disaster-response consultant, Joe Partridge, former Deputy for Planning and Preparedness for the Emergency Management Division of Multnomah County in Oregon State. He understood this phenomenon (of obliviousness among NGOs regarding how bikes could be useful in disaster) as having to do with the bike being perceived by many, particularly among older generations, as a toy or a piece of recreation equipment. Many do not see the bike as a tool; a means of human transport and a tool to haul cargo. I had never thought of a bike as a toy and so this idea of an alternate perception of the function of a bike was a revelation to me. It has important implications for how we go about promoting use of bikes for survivor-led disaster recovery. How do you convince operations managers of large NGOs of the need to incorporate bikes if they still see bikes as toys or recreation devices?


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