The SRAM Corporation, one of the premier high performance bicycle parts manufacturers in the world, has another side to their operations besides crafting award winning cycling components. They are involved in bicycle advocacy with the SRAM Cycling Fund and are closely related to an offshoot non-profit organization, World Bicycle Relief. These two ventures promote the increase of cycling (an eco-friendly form of transit and a great way to stay fit) as a form of transportation in two very distinct, yet vital ways.
The SRAM Cycling Fund is a 5 year fund that aims to increase advocacy around cycling infrastructure and sustainable efforts to increase cycling in the United States and Europe (with a 60/40 focus, respectively). The fund was started in 2008 and is set to expire in 2013. In that time frame, SRAM plans to utilize $10 million in increments of $2 million a year. The fund's creation, in the words of fund Director Randy Neufeld, was a "way for investors to feel a part of the SRAM philosophy and also a thank-you to SRAM customers".
Some of the activities that the Cycling Fund has been up to recently include:
- Taking CDOT employees to a bicycle conference in Copenhagen, which will lead to the development of an experimental bike lane on the Southside that will have a barrier
- Sponsored a trip to Seville, Spain for three Chicago Aldermen (Rey Colon, Joe Moreno and Ariel Reboylas).
- Supported the creation of the Urban Bikeway Design Guide.
As to the second point, M. talked with Alderman Colon about his experience at the conference in Seville. He was quite impressed with the prevalence of bicycle lanes and the amount of ridership. He feels that this is an important issue for Chicagoans and has been doing work in his ward to increase bike lanes and signage, but believes that it will be a city-wide effort to make bicycling a safe and viable mode of transportation for all (current and potential) cyclists.
Some of the things the fund is working for in the near future are helping developing European Countries establish a strong bicycle infrastructure and working with the US federal government to maximize the amount of funding cycling infrastructure will receive in the upcoming federal transportation bill, which Mr. Neufeld is hoping to see this fall. According to Mr. Neufeld, "The cycling fund is an indication of SRAM's passion about cycling and giving back." He sees it as a "gift" that they will work to maximize in order to grow cycling in America and Europe.
The other initiative that SRAM sponsors is World Bicycle Relief, a separate non-profit organization that was established in 2005. Started in part by SRAM Executive Vice President F.K. Day, the organization provides access to independence and livelihood through the power of bicycles. The efforts of WBR are concentrated overseas and some of the past things they have worked on were Tsunami relief (donation of 24,400) bikes to Sri Lanka after the 2004 tsunami, AIDS/HIV relief in Zambia in 2006 and the Clinton Foundation HIV/AIDS Initiative (CHAI).
|A Buffalo Bike, the 55 pound bicycle that is distributed by World Bicycle Relief.|
Currently, WBR is focusing on their Bicycles for Educational empowerment Program [BEEP], a partnership with international relief programs to distribute approximately 50,000 bicycles to students, teachers and volunteers in Zambia. The program will have a unique focus on girls, with 70% of recipients to be schoolgirls. The reasoning is that young women in Zambia have additional barriers to school completion as they tend to have a number of extra responsibilities along with travel difficulties. The "Buffalo Bicycles" that WBR provides are simple, yet high-quality bikes that are not only means of transportation but also economic engines, as the organization also helps establish distribution centers and mechanics that can assist with maintenance of the bicycles. In terms of metrics, WBR has distributed over 10,000 bicycles and have trained 170 mechanics in the course of this program.
M. also spoke with some of the WBR development staff, which are housed at the Chicago office (which is also the U.S SRAM headquarters). On of the staff members, Beth Howard stated that one of the best things about the bike and the program is that "It is focused on the end user" and is a way to connect people to the manufacturing of the product. The bike, which only costs around $135 total is, in Miss Howard's words: "Amazing for what impact it has".
If you are interested in donating to this great cause, go to http://www.worldbicyclerelief.org/donate/.
A group of children use their bicycles to haul water, getting their chores finished in half the time.
Photo credited to Leah Missbach Day