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Re: WorldTransport Forum Rebuilding Haiti - who said you have to ride the bikes?

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  • Dave Holladay
    Henryka I d point out that the Swiss Army (Switzerland has a lot of high hills called mountains) had a standard issue bicycle issued from around 1900 untiil
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 6, 2010

      I'd point out that the Swiss Army (Switzerland has a lot of high 'hills' called mountains) had a standard issue bicycle issued from around 1900 untiil the mid 1970's.  It was 'sturdy' (heavy) in order to carry the soldier and their kit and had just one gear - with no freewheel.  When the hill is too steep to ride you push the bike and although I've yet to see any quantitative research in this I know that when pushing a bike the walking action (impact of feet on ground, cycling variation in height of centre of gravity of pedestrian and load) are greatly smoothed out making it considerably less effort to walk, especially when transporting a load.   I can walk steadily at 5.5 to 6 mph pushing a bike (Eric will probably now go out and try this!)

      The result of this is that a) you can walk faster when wheeling a bike than without (it is a sort of mobile zimmer frame for anyone with an injury - and I know of some amputees who modify their bikes to use as form of scooter when they cannot ride them), and b) you can carry considerably heavier loads over distances than a simple pedestrian, with 80Kg being about the limit for a fit, trained, pedestrian, but 250Kg being proven by the Viet Cong whose soldiers each carried this sort of load on bicycles being walked (you don't have to ride them to make them useful as a mode of transport) South along the Ho Chi Minh Trail (sic) which consisted largely of bomb craters and broken bridges.  The US army discovered to their cost, whan over 50,000 tons of supplies was delivered without infrastructure, or fuel (2 things in rather short supply in parts of Haiti)  and almost immune to any of the issues that block motorised transport of bulked up loads.

      As one who has (and still does) cycle in hilly places (Bradford, Glasgow - and visiting San Francisco and Seattle which have some fairly impressive hills too) I'd suggest observing the way people there ride bikes, and transport in times when human or proper horse-power were the only options.   We travelled along the contour lines  (old roads follow contour routes and did not waste energy smashing holes through hills, as the builders had to use their own energy to move the muck) and where a hill needed to be climbed, by large flows of traffic, the permanent routes were carefully laid out to present a steady and manageable gradient - there is just such a road alignment which is still partly used from Hebden Bridge to Keighley in Yorkshire, it was built by prisoners of war (Napoleonic), set your heavy horses off at a steady rythym and they just keep climbing.   Generally it is only (and famously in New Zealand) where  planners on another continent designed the road layout and insisted on it being built as planned to we have the spectacle of 'impossible' streets - what's the name of that road folks?

      The Viet Cong, once they had unloaded their bikes, removed the bamboo extensions to the handlebars and seat posts (used to control the loaded machine), and rode the bicycles back North for more supplies)  This it strikes me is a modus operandi which is well suited to a location where supplies come in to the coast and need to be delivered inland and uphill, with the empty bicycles returning downhill.    



      Henryka Manes wrote:



      Just came back from Haiti and going back in a few days.


      It seems to me that the people involved in this discussion have not been to Port au Prince yet.  The city is full of high hills, the reason bicycles have not taken root is because only those who train for the Olympics can use them in Port au Prince.  The range of where one could go is very limited given the terrain.  




      From: Dave Holladay [mailto:tramsol@...]
      Sent: Sunday, January 17, 2010 10:41 AM
      To: WorldTransport@yahoogroups.com
      Cc: the-commons@yahoogroups.com; 'Alanna Hartzok'; 'GEOACT'; alon.rozen@...; 'Henryka Manes'
      Subject: Re: WorldTransport Forum Rebuilding Haiti


      There is one detail which could be spelled out more clearly or even added to the list - transport, the glue that helps to bind in the links to education, water, moving the crops to the people, so that each crop requiring a particular growing regime can be grown in places where that can be established in a sustainable way  (without having to force changes on the soil, or 'push water uphill').

      That transport should also be, as far as possible, capable of operating without any imported fuel or materials, and to that end the bicycle fills that role in a very effective way - it requires considerably less infrastructure than motorised transport, and in the crudest form, as seen in Africa, it operates with no requirement for tyres or brakes (imported consumables).

      Not only that but proven by the recovery process of Sri Lanka after the 2004 tsunami, the bicycle can be running and fully functional as a transport system as soon as the wheels hit the ground - no need to consider fuel bunkering (and the inherent security issue - given the break down of public order) and special equipment/spares to keep the fleet running.  Bikes can get running repairs by the roadside.  The UK's mail service renew their fleet on a 7-year rotation - that's around 6000 bikes per year and I'd guess the French do likewise along with other operators of cargo bikes.  A cargo bike fleet could mobilise the fit population otherwise likely to create a problem and distribute the supplies in a large number of small shipments, less vulnerable to having the delays or diversions/hold-ups that will impact on a large shipment on a single large vehicle. 

      Dave Holladay
      Eric Britton wrote:



      I think that Ms. Hartzok's list (http://www.earthrightsinstitute.org/) give us a good point of departure, to which I invite your comments and suggestions. I am working on a revised version of it from our perspective here which I shall send on later today along with a broader call for support for next steps in Haiti.


      My reason for trying to work this through has to do with an eventual new mobility collaborative effort we have been discussing  in Haiti before this tragic event. We need to see whatever we might be able to offer or do in the broader context.


      I look forward to your comments and suggestions on this.


      Eric Britton



      On Behalf Of Alanna Hartzok
      Sent: Sunday, 17 January, 2010 03:59
      Subject: Rebuilding Haiti


      Our compassionate hearts are deeply touched by the tragedy in Haiti. And from this event, many are learning about how it came to be that Haiti is the poorest country in the Western hemisphere and one of the poorest in the world.


      We as populist leaders and activists need to  come together with great clarity concerning the fundamentals of economic justice in order to build a powerful force to create a fair global society - a world that works for everyone.


      The tragedy experienced by the people of Haiti can help serve this larger purpose. Here are the basics and a post acute crisis proposal:


      A very few individuals and corporations own and control most of the land of Haiti. Their cash crops are exported. Most of the people are landless or have insecure land tenure. Vast numbers have been trying to survive on just one or two dollars a day. Children scavenge garbage dumps for scraps of food leftover from the plates of US soldiers stationed there.


      In order to build a just society with basic needs secured for all after this acute crisis the land problem in Haiti must be addressed via land reform and land value taxation.


      There needs to be:


      * Establishment of  community land trusts and allocation of land for ecological villages.

      * Implementation of a transparent public finance system based on land value taxation as called for by UN Habitat and the Global Land Tool Network.


      On the basis of secure and equitable land tenure these are some details of what then can be established in order to meet basic human needs:


      1. potable water

      2. reforestation

      3. agricultural fields (rice and root crops) and appropriate technology
      4. wind and solar energy

      5. dairy farms (goats, cows)

      6. cotton and hemp fields for fabric and building material

      7. mangosteen, mango, pineapple, papaya, trees

      8. nut trees/ coconut trees, ground nuts (peanuts)

      10. Affordable heath care.

      11. educational institutions

      12. cooperatives.

      13. small industries.


      One way we can help Haitians build a better tomorrow is to convince global creditors to cancel Haiti’s $890 million international debt. Doing so will help make sure that every possible future dollar goes towards rebuilding a stronger Haiti, not to servicing old debts.


      Alanna Hartzok, Co-Director Earth Rights Institute

      Ame Johnson, PROUT New York



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