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Cycling to a sustainable future

Updated: Nov 13, 2019

Location: Harare, Zimbabwe


UWC Maastricht: Lily Kabade, Daisy Akoth, and Astrid Zibrandsten

Aim: The initial aim of the project was to research the general attitude that people had around bicycles and from that see how best, just like the Netherlands has done, make the use of bicycles a main means of transportation thus encouraging more sustainable ways of living in Zimbabwe also tackling issues like climate change, girls and boys having safer and quicker ways to get to and from school.

Motivation: Why did I start this project? Zimbabwe as a country is facing a lot of problems in a lot of areas, more so economically and I was always looking into ways that are not that hard or demanding to implement that would build the country up again and still have major importance and impact. I remember learning in one of our Youth Mayor meeting that we should be able to learn from other countries that are doing good things that work and that’s when the idea to learn from the Netherlands cycling culture and try to implement it in my home country came from




What I am offering a solution to?

The project itself is a solution to multiple issues the country is facing such as:

The lack of fuel which is causing high prices for any means of transportation(a lot of people are dependant on each other to get around). The lack of both girls and boys to get to school because it is too far away and unsafe and transportation is unreasonably expensive. The lack of a sustainable living lifestyle in general

How did I discover and identify this particular challenge or need?

Growing up in Zimbabwe exposed me to all these different issues but l truly understood the depth of all these issues when l was away and studying in the Netherlands which gave me drive and motivation to look at them more in-depth.

What inside knowledge did I gain to ensure I knew what was necessary to make this project meaningful?

We learnt all the basics, which seems irrelevant but played a bring role in how the project moved forward. We learnt to approach people in situations were our project was involved, we needed to fully understand how the Netherlands successfully continues to uphold this culture so no to make irrelevant assumptions. We needed to have a clear plan on the steps to take to move forward so that despite our age people would take us seriously.


What steps did I take to turn my identified challenge into ideas for a project?

Coming from Zimbabwe were l was dependant on other people to get around and being given an opportunity to come to the Netherlands and learn how to get around by myself and be very dependant is sort of the thought process that l went through to come up with the project idea.

How did I collect my ideas? Who took part in this process?

The youth Mayor's team played a Major role in our collection of ideas, giving us their opinions of if we took certain routes what outcome would come from it and those people also reaching out to people of this specific field to give us critical advice

How did you involve the local community/participants in collecting ideas?

No actual steps were taken to get ideas from the local community but it was incorporated in so many conversations on different everyday occasions and we were able to get other peoples thoughts as well


How did I developed my project?

In order to develop the project, we sat down before the project started and wrote down what we wanted to achieve after the project was done or during the project and divided areas of expertise for each member. We reached out to different people who might have been able to get us more ahead before we actually left for example the Zimbabwean National Committee and Lodewijk, our head of school.

What was needed to ensure the project would be a success? (Local involvement,

funding, engaging with different stakeholders, partnerships, collaboration, etc.)

It's hard to call the project a success yet since it is a long time project which requires more than just a summer to complete but l would say that the project is on the right track due to the funding we received to initially be able to go to Zimbabwe and do some first hand prototyping in schools and the general public and the now formed partnerships with The Vaya Uber department under Econet and with an environmental architecture Mick Pierce.


This is perhaps the most important step in the entire process.

How did I carry out the project? What I actually did:

As we are all studying in the Netherlands, we chose to carry out the project over the summer. Our initial aim with the project was to do research on whether our idea would tackle the issues we had identified, and what the approach was in our target group. To do this we carried out surveys at several schools in Harare, including public and private, girls and mixed as well as different age groups. The survey revealed several issues which we hadn’t thought of, but also confirmed several of our assumptions. After the survey, it was clear to us that safety was the main issue we needed to address to make our project successful. We, therefore, considered to implement bike lanes, and specific bike paths to increase safety.

Who was involved? How long it took? What was the cost? How did I secure the funding?

To ensure we were heading in the right direction we contacted a local architect who works in sustainable development to gain his view upon our idea. He presented us with a better understanding of the dynamics of Harare and suggested methods on how to gather data on where to implement the bike lanes. In the process of gaining ideas and data, we were contacted by a local firm, who had heard about our project. We were therefore invited to a meeting where we got to present what we had found out so far, and what we needed to move forward. The cooperation expressed interest in starting a partnership, providing us with a number of bikes, and on the long term a closer collaboration. This led to us contacting the local university, as we decided this was the most suitable place to do a pilot. The university campus in Harare is rather large, and walking from one class to another easily takes 30 minutes. By using the university we would tackle one of their issues regarding large commuting time, and simultaneously tackle several of our issues identified in the survey regarding stigma and safety.

The project itself!


My personal evaluation of the project: What went well? Why? What went wrong or could have gone better? Why?

The project is still taking shape and is still in its first stages. However, reflecting on what has been achieved so far we are happy with how far the project is compared to the expectations. We have established a stable partner that will help us in reaching our initial goal. However, we faced several challenges in our data collection, including communications with local schools as their access to the internet slowing down the process, as we needed to physically had to go there, and needed to carry out the data collection in hard copies, increasing the burden on the environment, and increasing human errors as the data had to be transferred onto a computer afterwards.

A major challenge we are facing at the moment is the contact with the university. As they don’t use email were we required to hand in a physical request, which still hasn’t been answered. The fact that we are all studying in the Netherlands has caused trouble as we can’t physically go there to remind them of our request. We have some contacts within the university, however, the process is almost standing still, and we are stuck until the university is getting back to us.

My reflection on key lessons learned, what is my advice for you?

When starting a project the issue which it’s trying to solve should always be kept in mind, even though the approach to get there might change. An important lesson learned during this project has been to reach out to people in the local community. It’s better to get multiple views on your idea, as it might make you see things from a different perspective. In addition, making and having contacts within the community is essential when reaching for chance, and realising that help can be given to you when you ask for it.

Now is your turn. Get a ride to a sustainable future!

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