Africa: claiming a place on the road for cyclists

Africa: claiming a place on the road for cyclists

There are many reasons people choose to use
bicycles as transportation in West Africa.
Four main categories of bicyclists (youth,
entrepreneurs, racers, and tourists) stand
out and each one benefits from expanded
opportunities in unique ways. Better access
to education and healthcare, business
ventures, competition and comraderie, and
the opportunity to explore new places are all
worth the potential risks of bicycling on West
African roads.

1. Youth
Children and young adults (mostly girls)
receive bicycles through non-government
organizations who want to help improve
the next generation’s access to education
and healthcare. In Burkina Faso alone,
several local and international organizations
provide bicycles to girls and young women
so that they can bike the 30 kilometers often
necessary to reach a junior or high school
institution. Likewise, the bicycles make
healthcare more accessible, reducing travel
times for patients and doctors who would
otherwise walk.

2. Entrepreneurs
Individuals and small business owners
realized decades ago that investing in a
bicycle might increase their earnings. 
A free bicycle program in Burkina Faso
sponsored by CooP-Africa (Cycling out
of Poverty) collaborates with community
development initiatives such as solid waste
management programs. Recipients of bicycles
from Bike2Clean's Solid Waste Management
Program can earn money by collecting and
sorting waste on their cargo bikes, then
transporting the “goods” and garbage to

3. Racers
In West Africa, racers often belong to a
country’s national bicycle federation. These
federations not only organize races, but also
spearhead bicycle events for local residents.
While some may see these racers as a bit elite
on the streets of some of the poorest countries
in the world, in Sénégal their passion drives
them to engage people from all sectors of
society. This commitment is evident in
Dakar’s bicyclist club motto: “A bicycle for
everyone.” Their passion has the potential to
boost the number of commuting and hobby
bicyclists across the region.

4. Tourists
Bicycling is now a hot tourism activity for
people from many European countries,
the U.S., and Canada. Bicycle tourists find
an increasing range of amenities within
and between West African countries. For
example, Burkina Faso has a strong local
bicycling culture, even in its busy capital
of Ouagadougou, where most major
thoroughfares have separate motorbike and
bicycle lanes, some with their own traffic lights.

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