In Lund, Sweden (the 2011 climate smart capital of Sweden), there are bike lanes a plenty, awash with students and Swedes bouncing along cobbled medieval streets who don’t think twice about how easy it is to get around (decades ago the city started planning a design that removed cars and much traffic from the central city, and instead promoted busses and bike lanes). But there is a dark side to this…an underworld in Lund… in strategic spots around the city are abandoned bikes, discarded and left to rust and die a cold lonely death in the streets.
So, with a passion for bikes, an irritation at litter, and an education in life cycle thinking for products, I couldn’t handle it any longer. I’ve decided to support Bicycling Empowering Network, who work in and around Cape Town, South Africa. For 10 years Andrew Wheeldon and the team at BEN bikes have been taking donations of used and second hand bikes from abroad, and using these bikes to fuel a growing network of bike shops around the area. They train mechanics who can then fix the donated bikes and sell them on locally, extending the life cycle of the bicycle and providing sustainable transport to the community. By working with youth in Lund (a collaboration of high school and university students) we have combined to make a knowledge sharing and educational experience out of taking action in the community.
And now we are really starting something. Nearly 6 months after Moving Planet Lund we are now the group Livscykel: Bikes for life – with the life cycle of the bicycle at its heart but also the strength of community here (in Lund) and abroad (in Cape Town) as a priority. We already decided that we cannot jeopardise the good work that already happens here to recycle or up-cycle bikes, we must enhance on that. Our starting point is to get people here to ride bikes or fix them locally. But if they can’t be bothered doing that, then we will take the trouble for them by sending them to people that really want them. We also want to make sure it is worth our emissions of a container ship from Scandinavia to southern Africa. My early thoughts on this is that the quantifiable calculations of the container ship will be difficult to equate with the qualitative benefits of knowledge sharing and inspiring youth here to make a change; them learning from other young leaders and communities in Scandinavia and South Africa; the benefits of safer and healthier transport (here and in SA); and the satisfaction of actually doing something long lasting that comes out of a day of action, will be hard to beat.