Durbin, Blumenauer Introduce The Bicycles For Rural African Transport Act

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-03) introduced the Bicycles for Rural African Transport Act, legislation that would establish within the Office of Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment at the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) a rural mobility program, using affordable, sustainable bicycles to support access and key development objectives.   

“U.S. foreign assistance makes up less than one percent of the federal budget—yet, it can yield millions in returns, both financially and in lives saved.  Sometimes, the simplest of tools, like a bicycle, can help make incredible progress,” said Durbin.  “Since 2019, I have worked through appropriations to push USAID to invest in bicycles, which help meet needs in health care, education, and women and girls’ empowerment.  This legislation will codify these important efforts and formalize the creation of a mobility program within USAID’s Office of Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment.  I thank my partner in the House, Congressman Blumenauer, for again joining me in this effort.” 

“This innovative policy would harness the power of bicycles to support key development objectives in rural Africa—from promoting access to clean water to improving gender equality,” said Blumenauer. “Access to bicycles is revolutionary.  As the oldest and most efficient form of transportation ever invented, bicycles are inexpensive, easy to maintain and they unlock a wealth of opportunities in rural and urban communities alike.”

This Bicycles for Rural African Transport Act builds on the work Durbin has done through the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPS) in the annual appropriations package in recent years, to provide modest funding and a comprehensive USAID assessment for a pilot program related to bicycles that has been successful at helping get girls to school, providing health services, allowing farmers to take their crops to market, and more.  This bill would effectively codify those efforts, and requires USAID to report on such projects from which the agency can continue to build.   

In 2021, Durbin discussed the need for bicycles in developing countries with Samantha Power, USAID Administrator, during a Senate Appropriations SFOPS Subcommittee hearing.  In the Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19) appropriations package, Durbin secured first-time appropriations language on mobility and bicycles, and since then Congress has appropriated a total of $10.5 million for these efforts through FY23. 

The legislation also emphasizes partnerships with existing entities, such as Chicago-based World Bicycle Relief, with successful models for providing access to affordable bicycles to achieve development objectives.  Founded in 2005, World Bicycle Relief partners with communities across nearly two dozen countries to establish and manage a sustainable transportation ecosystem that has delivered more than 700,000 sustainable bicycles and supported more than 3.5 million people.