International Bicycle Fund
The Earth has Greenpeace. Human
rights has Amnesty International.
Bicycles and sustainable transport
have the International Bicycle Fund.
“The bicycle is the most civilized conveyance known
to man. Other forms of transport grow daily more
nightmarish. Only the bicycle remains pure in heart.”
— Iris Murdoch, writer (1919-1999)
What is IBF?
Established in 1983 and spearheaded by David Mozer,
the International Bicycle Fund (IBF) is “a non-governmental,
non-profit, advocacy organization, promoting
sustainable transport and international understanding”.
Through its website and newsletters, IBF operates as
a portal for people to get information about everything
from economics to engineering through links
and online articles. IBF also gives assistance in setting
up and maintaining various programs related to
bicycle travel. Through the site people can get
connected to programs like used bicycle donations,
activist groups and the wonderful ‘Street Theatre’ …
not what you might think. Over the years IBF has
helped educate and promote its principles to thousands
of people. The IBF network is extensive with
over 3, 000 people on its mailing list, not including
list-serves. Grants are also offered when funding is
How do you get involved?
Volunteers are welcomed at IBF and you can do it
from your own home! Volunteers can do support
work for the head office, research and write articles
for the website, and help maintain the website. For
example, the main page is available in different
languages to explain the basics about IBF but volunteers
can add more information, through translations
or original articles, in those languages.
Private donations and funds raised from IBF’s
related organization, ibike, keep IBF running and
able to offer grants. Check out the ‘Cycle and Recycle
Calendar’ that lets you donate and give a gift that
really keeps on giving!
After a day riding in the warm African sun, your belly full of delicious
local fare, your head full of the day’s conversations with your
fellow riders and information from the local craftsman whom you
met this afternoon as your group passed through his village, you
settle between clean sheets to rejuvenate your body for tomorrow’s
ride through more villages, markets and breathtaking scenery you
thought only existed between the pages of magazines.
But wait! Maybe it’s not Africa you’re in. Maybe you spent the
day pedalling through the countryside of Korea or villages of
Vietnam or Ecuador or Guyana. Your pack and camera are bursting
with souvenirs and memories. Your palate has expanded to new
flavours you didn’t know existed and food you will be seeking out
again in your hometown. Your perception of the local people has
totally changed and widened.
Is this picture just a tale made up for your reading pleasure?
Certainly not. This description is typical of an ibike tour.
What is ibike?
Ibike began in 1983 as Bicycle Africa with a twofold purpose. One
was to raise funds for the International Bicycle Fund and the other,
by offering bicycle tours, “was to demonstrate a practical use of
bicycles” and dispel myths for both participants about Africa and
for Africans about transport in developed countries. As tours in
other countries were added to the roster the name ‘ibike’ was
adopted. Ibike also offers travel consulting services and self-guided
Ibike tours operate on a unique principle called ‘E3’. E3 programs
are “environmentally friendly (using primarily non-motorized
transport, but reflecting all aspects of the projects including
printing, selection of energy efficient lodging and local produced
food and goods), economically beneficial (supporting the decentralized,
indigenous economy, including locally produced food and
goods) and educational/enriching (exploring the diversity and
complexity of the local natural and human ecosystem.) If you draw
these as a triangle, each element reinforces the others.”
What is an ibike tour all about?
When you’ve had enough of the bus tour rat race, hop on your
bike and take a vacation that offers more than any whirlwind
tour of 15 countries in four days ever can. Ibike programs are
designed to be “accessible to ordinary active people who seek
moderate adventure.” Groups are lead by experienced and
knowledgeable local guides with planned excursions to experience
festivals, see historical sites, meet local artisans, workers
and people and of course, sample the local fare! Participants
may be lucky enough to experience local housing as nightly
abodes along the tour route range from local housing to tented
camps to hotels and dormitories.
Tours last two weeks with a max of 12 people per group. Two
different programs in the same region can be done consecutively
for people interested in longer vacations. Tours operate at times
with great scenery and optimal weather conditions for riding
Goldilocks would have approved of, not too hot, not too cold,
but just right. Through ibike’s website you can book your trip to:
African destinations including Uganda, Mali, Tanzania, Tunisia
and Guinea; Eastern and Southern Korea; Vietnam; North America
and Ecuador and Guyana in South America. Tours were previously
offered in Cuba and Nepal but due to government intervention
and safety issues respectively these tours have been suspended.
Tours are aimed at people who are healthy and prepared for
moderately difficult riding. Participants usually use their own
bicycles, mountain bikes generally, and carry their own gear
on their bikes. Distances average less than 40 miles per day
(64kms) and vary due to the location conditions and points of
interest. Before you depart, ibike will send you a pre-departure
information pack to help you make not only preparations but
to give information about the culture you will experience.
Whether an ibike tour is for you or not, you can give someone
a different kind of present with an ibike gift certificate. If money
is a problem, ibike offers some interesting, and easy, ideas for
fundraising; details are available on the website.
Creating an ibike tour
Currently there are no ibike tours available for Japan but the
possibility is ripe. David Mozer, head of ibike and the International
Bike Fund, is open to creating programs in other countries.
Mr. Mozer says, “If someone is interested in collaborating on
starting a program they need to contact us. We will send them
our criteria for programs (www.ibike.org/ibike/criteria.htm) and
work with them to construct an itinerary — but we also need
time in our schedule to do a lot of research on the country at
our end as well. It usually takes at least a year to design a new
program, and so it can be two years from the start before it gets
on the schedule. It takes time to inventory the ‘diversity and
complexity’ of an area, plot these on a map, select what is
practical to include and connect the dots, and then figure out
the safest route that has appropriate logistical support (adequate
and appropriately spaced food and lodging.)”. So all of you bike
enthusiasts, what are you waiting for? Who better to help set up
a program than those who are intimately familiar with the area
and the best places to ride?
Be an iBike volunteer
ibike is primarily a volunteer organization. People who are
interested in getting involved with ibike tours can volunteer as
Leaders and Assistant Leaders on the actual tours and in other
capacities. Check www.ibike.org/ibike/jobs.htm for more info.
Ibike also offers assistance to bicycle advocacy organizations
around the world, mainly in the form of technical expertise. Ibike
is also contacted by organizations in different countries looking
for volunteers who can do things like “provide bike mechanic
training or advanced technical assistance, either in transportation
planning or organizational development”. Before you set
out on your next trip, ibike may be able to enrich your vacation
by connecting you with a group in your travel area.