What you need to know:
- Couple yet to finalise on the rent price, but for a start, at Karura Forest, the bike could be rented out for about Sh1,000 for two hours.
Precious Mong’ina would walk several kilometres to get to school, a journey that would take one hour and 30 minutes on most mornings whenever bus fare was hard to come by. She would cover a similar amount of time on the return trip, arriving home way past nightfall.
The treks took a heavy toll on the 13-year-old girl, a learner at Bignet Education Centre, a primary school nestled in Dagoretti, a low-income neighbourhood on the fringes of Nairobi.
Today, she no longer has to walk to and fro school. Precious is among over 100 pupils in her school who have received free bicycles, cutting the journey to only 30 minutes.
Over 100 bikes out of 500 have been donated to the school, with others set to go to several other schools in informal settlements around Nairobi while about 150 have been lined up for a rental programme in an initiative that is being run by former Uber East Africa general manager, Loic Amado, and his wife Valery Super - Mr Amado oversaw Uber’s Jump bikes division on the US’s West Coast.
“The team and I looked at what to do with the bikes that were not going back into circulation after the Jump division closed and thought it wise to repurpose these beautiful bicycles and help solve transportation challenges faced by these young learners,” says Amado, a sustainability investor.
The couple plans to roll out a rental program of the bikes in national parks before starting the bike renting business.
They are targeting Karura Forest, Ngong Forest, Hell’s Gate, Diani Beach and Watamu. Also on their list are people doing short trips within the Nairobi CBD and suburbs such as Karen.
They are, however, yet to finalise on the rent price, but for a start at Karura Forest for instance, the bike could be rented out for as much as Sh750 to Sh1,000 for two hours.
The rental bicycles are electric-powered and come with the pedal assist feature, which means cyclists strain less when riding. They are also fitted with a battery that provides a boost while pedaling, and can cover up to 32 kilometres per hour, however, those that have gone to the school project have had the batteries removed.
Charging takes a couple of hours per battery, but for convenience and flexibility, users have the option of swapping depleted batteries for fully charged ones in just minutes. Besides benefitting the pupils, the bikes have created employment opportunities in the informal settlement.
“We have identified several mechanics that are well versed with the bicycles to service them,” says Amado.
Teachers at Bignet Education Centre were happy with the initiative, saying that it will reduce cases of absenteeism and fatigue, in the process improving the school’s mean grade.
Quite a number of hoops had to be jumped and balls juggled when shipping the two-wheelers. For starters, the bikes had to be transported within the US from San Diego to Los Angeles, then moved to Long Beach Port.
Kenya Bureau of Standards also required pre-inspection to be conducted in the US before a certificate of conformity was issued. This, coupled with charging delays and communication hiccups between shipping and logistics companies triggered re-inspection of all containers by US customs, resulting in cost overruns.
Once at Mombasa port, the containers were again re-inspected, further inflating costs - Kenya does not offer import tax exemption for donated goods.