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Big Boda and World Bike:  Bike Technology Solutions for “the Other 90%”


Big boda picture taken from —

East African residents have long relied on bicycle-taxis, called boda-bodas, for personal and commercial transportation in the same way that developed countries utilize trucks and school buses. In Uganda alone, more than 200,000 men are employed as boda-boda drivers. Unfortunately, the majority of the bikes are ancient roadsters, engineered in the 1930s, which have serious maintenance, safety, and capacity issues resulting in accidents and chronic health problems for the drivers. Due to the roadsters’ dangerous qualities, locals call them “Black Mambas” (after the very deadly snakes found in Africa).
The U.S. nonprofit organization Worldbike takes an open-source and partnering approach to solving these problems, innovating modifications to bike frames to allow greater stability, carrying capacity, and safety. It offers blueprints, instructions, and support for all its designs on its website, In addition, it works with partners in local communities for manufacturing and distribution, creating income-generating opportunities for the world’s poor. In May 2007, Worldbike was selected by the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum to have two load-carrying bicycles—the Big Boda and the Worldbike—in their “Design for the Other 90%” exhibit.
For example, the Big Boda is a simple add-on bike frame that extends the bike’s wheelbase, allowing two adults, three children, or bulky cargo to ride with greater stability. To achieve this, several alterations are necessary: Long rear and side steel rods are added at the back of the frame, the back wheel is pushed back, and the wheel base is extended. The Big Boda sold for around $110 in 2006; although 40% higher than the price of a typical bike, the increased capacity allowed the bike to pay for itself in only 3 to 4 months.
Newer developments by Worldbike include a new process of modifying a mountain bike, rather than adding on to the 1930s-era Black Mamba. This utility bicycle modification is less expensive and faster/easier to build since the extension is welded directly to the existing mountain bike with fewer materials and less labor. Mountain bikes have many benefits compared to Black Mambas, such as safe breaks, more gears, and a stronger frame.

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