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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

Studying at Cambridge


William Young

Redesigning Bicycles in East Africa

Relative to other modes of transport, bicycles have a low lifecycle cost and a small physical space requirement for use and storage compared to the transport outcomes they provide. However, in East Africa, the minimal bicycle industry, and insufficient income to import bicycles, means these communities are not considered in the design and manufacturing of bicycles. Consequently, the unique culture, infrastructure and needs of the region are not catered to. Bicycles remain relatively unaffordable to a significant portion of the population who are also four times less likely to have convenient public transport than in the UK, according to the United Nations.   

This thesis focuses on how domestic bicycle production will allow bicycle design to better suit the region and to reduce the cost of production of new bicycles. It explores the sustainability benefits that come from using local materials such as bamboo for the frames and the practical benefits of design changes that allow bicycles to better manage the terrain and transport cargo and passengers efficiently and safely. Insights were gathered from a critical analysis of written literature and a comparative case study was conducted between Rwanda and the USA. This is supported by a success case of the locally made Chukudu bicycle in Goma, DRC. The study concludes that increasing transport access in this way can enhance transport equality for the lowest income segments, the women and the children of the region to increase opportunity and empowerment.