This past Sunday I helped load a shipping container full of used bikes, which was to be trucked to Delaware, and from there put on a freighter and taken to Guatemala. The event was put on by Bikes Not Bombs, and over the past 23 years, they have shipped numerous containers to various programs in countries around the globe. The bikes are donated by BNB, but the recipients of the bikes cover the shipping costs, which can run anywhere from $5,000-$9,000. Once in Guatemala, a group called Maya Pedal turns the bikes into human-powered machines that can be used to grind corn to cornmeal, shuck nuts, blend soap and shampoo, and plenty of other things that I’m sure haven’t been devised yet. The machines are then turned around and sold to farming and production cooperatives in the community, many of whom have received micro-loans to be able to afford these resources. Getting together to ship these bikes was such an incredible experience, and such a powerful thing to be part of. It’s great to see ways that bikes can change people’s lives without hearing a single mention about bike lanes, carbon footprints, or flip-flop hubs.
There is so much more than the simplicity of loading bikes into a trailer may suggest. Every step of these bikes’ journies much be meticulously orchestrated, and nothing is by accident. The recipients must pay the freight charges to show that they have a plan for these bikes rather than to give them away as junker on-way riders, the bike-machines are sold rather than given away to stimulate cash flow through that economy and give a stronger sense of ownership to the resources, and I still am trying to figure out just why each individual volunteer to get greasy in a big warehouse for a Saturday afternoon. It was a great group of folks, many of whom knew each other quite well from attending weekly volunteer night every Wednesday. (see you soon!) Follow the jump to see some photos of what the bikes will turn into at their final destination.