Introduction and key findings
As part of a USAID-funded project, Access to Affordable Bicycles, an MIT D-Lab CITE team has been conducting research to understand the background, current state, and opportunities for bicycles to benefit underserved communities, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa. In the initial phase of the project, the team conducted a literature review and key informant interviews. This paper outlines the key findings from the first phase of the research. The team has also identified some gaps that could be addressed in the next phase of the research.
Although the literature on bicycles is limited and some of the sources are older, the team was able to identify a number of opportunities and challenges related to bicycles. The benefits include improved gender norms, improved access to education, increased productivity and income, and improved efficiency and time savings. Although there are several benefits, there are also a variety of challenges and barriers to adoption, which include cost and access to credit to pay for bicycles; high transportation costs, tariffs, and taxes; government regulations that restrict access to bicycles; social and gender norms; difficult terrain, weather and inadequate infrastructure; design of bikes often not suited to use case or user; safety concerns; spare parts and aftermarket services may be limited and repair costs can be expensive; and organizational capacity to implement and evaluate programs may be limited.
Kendra Leith, MIT D-Lab Associate Director for Research