Loading Bikes for Ghana

by Tom on April 25, 2010 · 11 comments

in advocacy and activism,Afribike,bikes abroad,Mozambique

There are many great organizations that take discarded bicycles in good shape, and ship them to Africa. In poor communities, a bicycle can literally have a transformative impact on someone’s life – shortening the many miles walked to school, or work, or to a clinic for regular appointment, helping transport goods to market, or becoming an essential tool for a rural health care worker visiting patients.

Recently in Mozambique I came across a sight that shouted “bikes made a lot of lives easier today.” At a rural Catholic hospital, the waiting area was literally over-run with parked bicycles. I counted more than 100.


In fact, the bikes carried little tags on the handlebars just like you would get for your SUV in the hospital parking lot in America. Except there was no car parking lot at this hospital – none of the patients, and only a handful of the clinicians, can afford a car.


So this weekend, we were happy to be able to help the Village Bicycle Project load their 100th container of bicycles, bound from Seattle for Africa. VBP has been shipping bikes for more than 10 years, and has shipped over 45,000 bicycles. And they have a good system on the ground in Ghana and other (primarily West African) countries to ensure that these bicycles have real impact. They run classes, train mechanics, and emphasize getting girls on bicycles.


The bicycles are staged outside the container and then loaded by size like a giant jigsaw puzzle.


After 100 containers, experienced VBP volunteers have it down to a science how to pack the maximum number of bicycles into a container.

Village Bicycle Project is one of the many organizations on the list of international bike nonprofits I am developing. I still welcome your contributions to that list – I have gotten a lot of email about it, and will post an update soon. But meanwhile, check out VBP’s new website, and join me in congratulating VBP on reaching the 100 container milestone. That’s a lot of bikes!

PS: My wife Lyanda also posted her perspective on this on her blog The Tangled Nest. It’s a family blogging affair!

Post to Twitter

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Ken April 26, 2010 at 11:20 am

We’ve loaded and sent 3 containers over the past 2 years. Our loading technique looks very similar to yours. With all of your experience, how many bikes are you getting in each 40-footer?

David April 26, 2010 at 3:50 pm

Of course it depends upon the mix of adult bikes and kids bike. With adult bike, we like to get 18 across and 3 levels high, then front to back there should be about eight rows. That math come out to 432. There is still space on top for more adult bikes, or a lot of kids bikes. The total can reach 500. Other variables are how many wheels and frames go in. If you pack well, you should be able to get a lot of tubes and parts tucked into the air space that is all over the place.

cookie April 26, 2010 at 3:52 pm

I appreciate the utilitarian and needed and practical aspects of this blog. The sheer beauty, however, of these assembled and displayed parts–in shape, in color, in line–also needs somehow to be noted. A painting of one of these parts scenes could be absolutely gorgeous. It would out-Pollock Pollock. Surely there’s an artist out there who could do it!

Pastor Bob Schooley June 17, 2010 at 7:37 am

Thanks for that wonderful work!

How much does the shipping cost?

asif ali September 13, 2011 at 11:09 am

hello deer I m from pakistan.I m a amuture cyclist and I need a road bicycle. I can not buy it just because of money .the bike much expensive in are country I thankful of your I m waiting your E mail.

sell my house September 17, 2012 at 2:34 am

I like this blog so much, bookmarked. “Respect for the fragility and importance of an individual life is still the mark of an educated man.” by Norman Cousins.

insurance for pets July 5, 2014 at 7:37 pm

I’m extremely inspired with your writing abilities and also with the structure to your blog.
Is this a paid topic or did you modify it your self? Either way stay up the excellent
quality writing, it is uncommon to see a nice weblog
like this one these days..

Leave a Comment

{ 4 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: