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close this bookEnvironmental Limits to Motorisation (SKAT, 1993)
close this folder6. Towards a strategy to promote NMT
View the document6.1. Efficient production of NMVs
View the document6.2. Facilitating access to bicycles
View the document6.3. Urban planning for a bicycle-friendly "climate"

6.1. Efficient production of NMVs

In many countries, the low use of bicycles, tricycles and similar non-motorised vehicles is due to production problems. A famous example comes from Tanzania, where a large bicycle factory did not produce even a single bicycle due to lack of raw materials. The production requirements for bicycles are often not well understood.

6.1.1. Production of cheap bicycles and tricycles

Even a simple bicycle is made of more than 1'000 different parts, each of which requires different production technologies: frames, saddles, brakes, spokes, tires, chains, etc. are all made in a completely different way.162 It is therefore not economical for a single factory - not even the largest one in China - to produce complete bicycles. Nevertheless, some countries have tried to do this like the government-owned "Bangladesh Cycle Industries", which is laid out to produce complete bicycles. Yet, instead of the planned capacity of 20'000 bicycles a year, it produces hardly 2'000.163

The wrong layout of this factory and the necessary tariff protection are two of the main reasons why bicycles and bicycle parts in Bangladesh cost about double the world market price, and instead of this high price being an incentive for production, it is one of the biggest constraints to bicycle use in Bangladesh.

Cheap bicycle production is only possible with a high degree of specialisation and division of labour. Even in the Netherlands, with its substantial bicycle industry, where seven producers account for 850'000 bicycles per year, 65% of the parts used in the industry are imported from all over the world.164

In India, where the largest producers make up to 8'000 bicycles a day - Hero Cycles is mentioned in the Guinness Book of Records for being the largest producer - there are more than 800 sub-contractors specialising in producing specific parts. The whole industry is concentrated in Ludhiana (Punjab) in order to facilitate this extensive sub-contracting.165 India too is dependent on imports, not for making the simple roadster-bicycles, but for the export of quality bicycles. For this, special alloy tubes are imported.

It is indeed possible to produce bicycles without importing spare parts, but very often, the result is poor quality. In Colombia, for example, about half of the 500'000 bicycles produced every year are manufactured by small workshops, but their main problem is that they have to use plumbing tubes (i.e. water pipe) instead of high quality tubes for making frames. These bicycle frames are therefore much heavier and much too soft.

An efficient bicycle production depends on a liberal import regime for parts; protection for bicycle factories may act more as a blockage of production than as an incentive. Competition may be encouraged in many cases, as there seems also to be cases of monopolistic prices. A study in Malawi revealed quite excessive bicycle prices due to various reasons, but mainly due to monopolistic attitudes of the dealers.166

The case of the NABICO bicycle industry in Tanzania is a sad example of a complete failure: after investing more than 10 million dollars in a very sophisticated bicycle factory with a capacity of 60'000 to 150'000 bicycles a year, production finally had to stop. The in-house production resulted in bicycles costing 180 dollars compared to 28 dollars for an Indian bicycle.167

For small countries to start up a bicycle industry, a phased approach is needed, as the example of Nicaragua shows below.

6.1.2. Nicaragua: how to start production

In 1986, SKAT (Swiss Centre for Appropriate Technology), CESTA (Centro Salvadoreno de Tecnologia Apropiada) and "Grupo Sofonias" (a Swiss-Nicaraguan NGO) started pilot a study of bicycle production in Nicaragua.168

Instead of starting with a factory, it was decided to start with assembly workshops, and the bicycle parts were imported in CKD condition (Completely Knocked Down condition) from India. A 20 ft container of CKD bicycles can carry about 600 bicycles and it took a workshop about 12 months, as a learning process, to become fully operational. It was also necessary to provide some training and after the learning process, production stabilised at about one bicycle per worker per day.169

Up till now, about 20'000 bicycles have been produced in this way and it seems that the technology is well managed. However, quite difficult economic conditions were prevailing, as the official exchange rate and the market rate differed by more than 100%. In this respect, the project had to start under somewhat artificial conditions. As the workshops were not led by experienced entrepreneurs, it cannot be denied that there were some management problems associated with the running of the workshop.

The main lessons that can be drawn from this example are that it is a good approach to start bicycle production with assembling; also it is better to involve small entrepreneurs with management training and skills from the beginning. The approach was, in any case, much better than the projects which gave away Russian bicycles, or imported 3'000 Chinese bicycles without considering the capacity to assemble them.170

The next phase - starting the production of frames - is only possible after the technology is well known, and when a network of repair shops has been set up and also when the market is large enough to absorb a minimum of 2,500 frames a year.

It is also evident that bicycle manufacturing is an excellent opportunity for stimulating "South-South-trade"171, as the countries with the most experience and the biggest comparative advantages are in the South.

6.1.3. Improving traditional non-motorised transport

Unfortunately, many of the traditional "intermediate" vehicles in the Third World are not well-designed. For example, the rickshaws of Bangladesh are very poorly designed, and their design has not changed in 60 years172: the gear-ratio is inappropriate, steering is difficult, the rickshaw lacks suspension and rear brakes, etc.

There have been attempts to improve Bangladeshi rickshaws, but all of them have failed for various reasons. Instead of introducing gradual improvements, they tried to introduce a completely new design. Another mistake was that the project did not work closely enough with the mainstream rickshaw industry; the work was done by universities and NGOs, instead of co-operating with the owners of rickshaws. For "purist" reasons, the improved rickshaws were sold only to co-operatives.

There is therefore plenty of scope for improving the design of tricycles. The examples of Pepsi Cola in El Salvador and Ponque Ramos in Bogota (see above) are striking: it is indeed possible to replace 5-ton trucks with tricycles, provided these tricycles are well-designed. They must be extremely sturdy, well-shaped ergonomically, and made exactly to the optimal size, which may require tailor-made marketing studies. Therefore, the work of institutions like IT Transport (UK) or CICAT (Delft University) in design support is crucial.

As well as improving the design of existing vehicles, there is also a need for new specific designs and special vehicles, which are unknown in places to be widely publicised. For instance, the bicycle-trailers widely used in Switzerland by the postal services for distributing mail are unknown in most parts of Africa, Latin America and even India. But they could provide excellent services for rural and urban transport.

6.2. Facilitating access to bicycles

6.2.1. Access to credit

There is a saying in Switzerland: "if all cars that are not fully paid were painted yellow, one would feel, one was in New York". Indeed, there are lots of credit facilities for buying cars or motorbikes, both in developed and developing countries. But, ironically, only few banks will lend money for a bicycle. One of the reasons is that transaction costs for small loans are quite high, another reason is that poor people are quite often not bank worthy.

There are, however, some credit schemes for NMT:

1. The Government of India is supporting - within its small-scale and cottage industry programme - the manufacturers of ox-carts and similar equipment with credits;173

2. The "Grameen Bank", an NGO in Bangladesh, and other credit programmes for the poorest, provide loans for bicycles and rickshaws. No collateral is needed, the loans are guaranteed by group solidarity. The loans are given mostly to women's groups of four; only when the first two of the four have paid back their, loan do the other two get one.174

3. In several countries, there are credit schemes for rickshaw co-operatives, with the purpose of increasing the number of rickshaws owned by the pullers themselves.175

4. Another interesting example of NMT credit is "Ciclo Credito", a private initiative in Bogota (Colombia) to sell bicycles in instalments against the co-signature of another person as warranty. If the first credit is paid back, a second credit is given without warranty. There are nine bicycle shops in Bogota belonging to Ciclo-Credito.176

There is no doubt that credit facilities would drastically increase the use of bicycles, because of the potential economic benefits, they offer to the poorest. the demand is there, and when the bicycle becomes affordable, as in China, ownership has grown very fast. In most credit schemes for the poorest, bicycles and tricycles should be bankable, because they often represent an investment with high economic returns.

6.2.2. El Salvador: bicycle loans for employees

Transaction costs for loans can be reduced remarkably if companies provide loans for bicycles to their employees. It is thus possible to provide loans in a package form and recover them by salary deductions.

CESTA (Centro Salvadoreno de Tecnologia Apropiada), started a bicycle production workshop in 1988 with initial capital from the Inter-American Foundation. The unassembled bicycles were imported from Taiwan, and due to the hilly environment, the focus was on mountain-bikes. As a sales and marketing strategy, it was planned to get firms interested in selling the bicycle to their employees in monthly instalments equivalent to the bus fare that they would otherwise spend.177

The initial phase showed that this concept is valid and could work on a larger scale with some modifications. It was proven that workers are indeed interested to buy bicycles in instalments. But the bicycle must be cheap, cheaper than the present high-quality mountain bikes which cost up to 250 dollars. A market survey in 1988 showed that the capacity to pay is about 50 colones per worker and per month. At that time, this was 10 dollars, but today this is only 6 dollars due to the devaluation of the colon. The capacity to pay has not significantly increased in the meantime and remains around 50 colones monthly. It is therefore necessary to provide much cheaper bicycles than earlier anticipated, if the loan period is not to exceed 12 months.

A very important side-effect of company loans to its employees is the fact that the whole firm can become interested in bicycles, including the middle management, especially if higher quality bicycles are offered too. Such a marketing strategy can therefore be the entry point for the creation of an ecological and bicycle friendly company culture. By involving the middle and top management, it is possible to create a positive image for the bicycle. If the personnel manager, the accountant and even the director become interested in cycling, even if it is just as a sport on Sundays, it may be possible to overcome the image of backwardness and of " the poor-mans' vehicle". Such initiatives are also very successful in Europe: When "Body Shop" (a chain of cosmetic shops) offered large discounts to 400 of its employees on new Raleigh bikes, half of the eligible staff took up the offer.178

CESTA has embedded the whole promotion approach into a larger ecological awareness campaign of national significance. Even if this public awareness is now still mainly concentrated on deforestation and water pollution, it is an asset which will pay back later on, when sustainable transportation strategies will be seen more clearly in this context. The fact that the ecological campaign involves firms, Rotary Clubs, trade unions, etc. gives it the potential to de-marginalise the movement.

6.2.3. Ghana: women's access to bicycles

When the World Bank transportation economist Thampil Pankaj visited Ghana in 1984, he was struck by a strange paradox: in villages just outside Accra, women were selling locally-grown oranges - each with a basket-load on her head - and were asking desperately low prices yet still finding few buyers. But, less than 10 miles away in Accra, fresh oranges were expensive and hard to find. The World Bank, in a move which was somewhat out of character, supported a contract with London-based Intermediate Technology Transport Ltd. to investigate the potential for meeting short-haul needs - such as collecting water or firewood, or bringing farm goods to the market - with non-motorised vehicles.

The resulting field studies found that a bicycle could increase a person's travel capacity (calculated by speed and payload) by at least five times over that of walking. Attaching a trailer to the bicycle doubled this again.179

The TCC (Technology Consultancy Centre) in Kumasi is now promoting the production and use of bicycle-trailers and hand-carts, including a cycle-trailer ambulance. Before this initiative, the existence of intermediate means of transport was almost unknown in Ghana, and there was virtually nothing between a truck and head-loading.

The pilot component focused primarily on introducing bicycle-trailers and farm vehicles. The former carry about 120 kg, and can be hooked to a bicycle or pushed or pulled separately. The latter have one wheel at the centre so that the weight is on the wheel and not on the hands which push it, and are suitable as carts on bush tracks. About 600 vehicle units were manufactured and distributed to user-groups in villages, mainly women. The designs have since been modified based on the feed-back. Rural women are the main beneficiaries, since head-porterage is generally done by them.

The response to these vehicles, mainly the trailers, has been enthusiastic. Women in Northern Ghana, who did not ride bicycles before, have taken to bicycle riding and using the trailers; they also use the trailers as pull-carts.

Affordability is a problem. The local per capita income is about US $ 220; whereas the cost of a bicycle is $ 120, imported and assembled; the trailer costs $ 150; the ambulance-trailer $ 220. Another problem is the commercial producers' inability to respond on a large scale. The Government, through its Ministry of Local Government, has provided initial revolving funds to some local communities to start hire-purchase programmes (over 2-3 years) for bicycles and trailers. Other group purchase schemes involving NGOs are being explored.180

It is interesting to listen to Thampil Pankaj181 in his office amidst photos of bicycles and trailers describing how he overcame government reluctance. First, he was told that "women in Ghana do not ride bicycles"; secondly, government officials perceived intermediate means of transport "as an attempt to push them backwards to the age of bicycles". But the success and acceptance in practice has given NMT a lot of credibility and the government is now keen to implement a larger programme, including an urban programme with cycle facilities.

6.3. Urban planning for a bicycle-friendly "climate"

6.3.1. Cuba: in 18 months, a country of bicycles

When Cuba ran out of fuel and foreign exchange, it initiated a dramatic transformation of its public transportation system.182 The government declared as a "periodo especial", reallocated fuel to priority sectors such as tourism and biotechnology, and put the rest of the economy on a survival mode.

In January 1990, when the decision "to enter the bicycle era" was announced, Havana, with a population of two million, had an estimated 30'000 bicycles on the road. Since then fuel consumption has been reduced by about two-thirds in the last two years, the public transport fleet was reduced from 2'000 to 1'000 buses. In early 1992, Havana had 700'000 bicycles, 1'000 cargo tricycles, and an experimental fleet of "ciclo-taxis" operating from the train station and a suburban hospital."

It is assumed under this de-motorisation programme that if the national truck fleet of 100'000 motorised vehicles is eventually reduced by half, fuel savings could total US $ 500 million a year. The cost of the ordered 1.2 million CKD bicycles is about US $ 50 million plus US $ 10 million for cargo tricycles, a one-time capital outlay which will never require any fuel.

Bicycles are distributed through workplaces and schools and paid for in monthly instalments over periods of up to two years. For a Chinese-manufactured "Flying Pigeon" bicycle, a worker or professional pays 130 pesos and a student 80 pesos. Monthly incomes range from 300 pesos for less skilled workers to 1'000 pesos for top professionals. Hence, affordability is not a problem due to this financing mechanism, which is the key to the programme's success.

Cuba's experience of "flooding" with bicycles in a short time presents a real challenge for the traffic planners, especially as three years ago, the city's principal urban planner answered clearly that they "were doing nothing" regarding bicycles. Now, there are 12 planners in Havana working in several institutions on various aspects of NMT. For example, at the city's Planning Department, one architect is assigned on a full time basis designing a city-wide system of NMV parking lots.

6.3.2. Planning for the bicycle: acquiring the know-how

Planning for a bicycle-friendly traffic environment is an art which requires a lot of intelligent fine-tuning, knowledge and experience. The experience gathered in bicycle-friendly towns in Europe is now systematically documented and exchanged. More and more design standards have been approved by Transport Ministries.183 These experiences are now regularly exchanged in national and international seminars and conferences. The "Velo-City" conferences are now taking place annually in OECD countries, yet hardly any planners from developing countries are participating.

The knowledge in developing countries about planning for NMT is extremely poor. Many urban planners in Latin America acquired their knowledge in the USA, and never heard a word about bicycles in their curriculum. Similar conditions are prevalent all over the world.

It would therefore be highly recommendable and fruitful to start training programmes, exchange programmes and seminars on bicycle planning between European/Japanese planners and developing countries, and especially by South-South exchanges, where the experiences of China, India, etc., can be made available to a wider public.

6.3.3. Networking local experience: Curitiba, Bogota

Even in Latin America, which is not at all a bicycle-friendly continent, there are very relevant experiences available. Curitiba, a modern city of 1.5 million inhabitants in the south of Brazil, became a "model town" during the 12 years of Jaime Lerner's period as mayor: a car-free inner-city, efficient promotion of public transport and a network of cycle ways can be mentioned, together with other examples of good urban management. The busways in Curitiba, designed over a decade ago, are especially efficient.

A few years ago, a very interesting experience was introduced in Bogota, the capital of Colombia, with 5 million inhabitants. Bogota had a severe pollution problem and traffic was so aggressive that nobody ever walked in the streets. In 1986 Mayor Ramirez Ocampo started the "ciclovias dominicales"(Sunday's cycle ways)184 consisting of 80 km of avenidas (avenues) closed for motor traffic on Sunday morning from 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.. The response of the population was enthusiastic: every Sunday, more than half a million people went out on bicycles, roller skates, skateboards and celebrated a public festival of joy and fun. Interestingly, this also made cycling attractive to the upper middle class, and the lawyers and managers changed their black suits for T-shirts: On 27-gear bicycles, even the most vain yuppie in Bogota could celebrate his fashion show, together with the day-labourer from the slum on his single gear-bike. Bogota suddenly became so peaceful that lots of street cafes opened, and even the famous "gamines" (pick-pockets) enjoyed life on Sunday instead of doing their job. The "ciclovias" showed the citizens of Bogota what quality of life was possible in their streets if cars are banned.

In Santiago, the capital of Chile, a pilot "cycle-path and metro-link" project was opened in May 1991, which includes parking at metro stations.185

Bicycle-friendly environments can also be found in many smaller towns in Latin America, such as in the banana-regions of Honduras (El Progreso, San Pedro, Sula), where the plantation companies have given bicycle loans to their workers in order to reach the extensive fields easier. Similar programmes exist in the sugar-plantation towns of Palmira (near Cali) in Colombia.

It is therefore important to organise seminars and other opportunities where these different experiences can be exchanged and made public. The Earth Summit in Rio, for example, is hosting a seminar on "sustainable transportation", which was expected to bring around 150 NGOs together. The "Institute of Technology for the Citizen" in Rio has been organising this conference, and at the same time lobbying for a cycle way-network in Rio.186

Through regional networking, a lot of experience in bicycle-friendly urban planning can be exchanged and documented; it seems well worth supporting such initiatives among NGOs.