The global fossil fuel economy has created a complex network of connections between automobiles and poverty. On the most basic level, people without money tend to be people without cars. This simple fact is one of the major structural impediments to social justice in many parts of the world. Unemployed people tend to live in areas that are badly served by pubic transit – assuming they could afford it if they had access to it. And their children have to walk to school.
In some places, organizations are attempting to untie the knot that binds the car-less to their poverty. One such organization is BEN, the Bike Empowerment Network, established in Cape Town in 2002.
They run a threefold program importing used bicycles from Europe and China, lobbying for safe bike path networks, and distribution and training in schools and other organizations.
As they explain on their web site, the overall objective of poverty alleviation is built into each of these projects. Low Cost Mobility helps unemployed adults and youth find a way out of poverty. Providing affordable means of transport creates more opportunities for economic advancement and poverty alleviation. Training and job creation initiatives teach individuals to think creatively about jobs and entrepreneurial projects, linking the many uses of the bicycle to income generation activities. The project on bike lanes facilitates safe routes to schools/ work and also aims at facilitating safety of school children, pedestrians and commuters in general.