It all started when Steven Thomas of Day Trippers mentioned that he had a number of old mtb's which needed to find new homes.........
Being the persuasive person that I am, I eventually arrived in Prince Albert with a trailer-load of bikes and parts. Thank you Steven and Di.
As many of you will know, owning a good bike (even an old one) can be a life-changing experience. Add to that the fact that most workers in Prince Albert walk to work and you can see where we're heading. Initially we had thought of starting a "cycling club", but after a few false starts I realised that these bikes would have the most impact if they were owned by people who had job, people who were walking to work.
I started a process of identifying people who would make the most use of the bikes, but almost more importantly, people who would take care of the bikes and act as role models for other potential cyclists
So often, when introducing resources (in this case bikes) to resource-poor communities, a range of factors come into play which can cause more harm than good. My years in the NGO world were spent working with impoverished rural people, there I learned the importance of not introducing resources faster than they could be assimilated meaningfully. It's a very fine line between wanting to "help" and causing an undignified scramble for the new resources. We've all seen it and it is both de-humanising and frustrating for all concerned.
After careful consideration, I decided to do this one differently. Bike recipients would be responsible people who have a clear, identified need for a bike while being the kind of person who would take care of the bike. I eventually identified ten people from a broad range of Prince Albert's community, people who are seen as role models, people who would effectively be ideal "marketing agents" for the cycling lifestyle.
My thinking was that these initial bike recipients would pave the way for any future cycle transport work in Prince Albert; and that is exactly what has happened.
I now have daily requests from people who wish to part of what's "going on". My response is simple: "Speak to one of those who has a bike and they will introduce you to the "scheme".
This way we have a network of people who are introduced to the "scheme" who have undergone some form of vetting or approval by existing cycle commuters. This distances me and filters out any who might be tempted to trade the bike for a papsak (a very real prospect in this part of the world!)
Well now that we have the first ten cyclists out there strutting their stuff, I feel that things are finally moving. An extra ten bikes, ten more people who have more time in their day, ten people who might be getting fit while riding, ten more people who have dramatically improved mobility.
Here they are:
Neels and Shuleen
Jan and Gollie
Gert and Arrie
Anna and Abie
Valencia and Petrus