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Bicycle Ambulances For Rural Areas Without Ambulances

For those times when ambulances are impractical or too expensive, bikes are a useful substitute.

We’ve seen before how bicycle ambulances can be a useful mode of transport in places where motorized ambulances are too expensive or not available. CA Bikes operates in three East African countries with a fleet of covered rickshaw-type bikes. The bikes, created by Chris Ategeka, fill in for the lack of cars and trucks, and are particularly useful for women needing to rush to the hospital to give birth.

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Georg Siegel is working on something similar. His FABIO (First African Bicycle Information Organization) group has been in Uganda since 2009, working with Red Cross, other NGOS, government, and Unicef.


“The idea is to give health care centers bicycle ambulances to make them more efficient,” Siegel says. “Each ambulance has a mobile phone, so people in the villages can call [if they need help].”

One of the main aims of the project is to reduce child mortality, which is up to 30 times higher in Uganda than in the U.S. or Europe. Mothers can now get to hospital more easily, and trained teams, riding the bikes, can go village to village giving care.

Siegel is currently planning a separate FABIO workshop, which he hopes will open early next year. “FABIO will construct the trailers for the ambulances by itself and we will buy bicycles on local market or use second hand bicycles imported from Europe,” he says. “We’ll deliver the ambulances to chosen villages and health care centers.”


Rather than work with partner groups, Siegel plans to go alone and raise cash through a Kickstarter-type campaign. Donors will be able to contribute to each bike, so it can be built by local people in the workshop. The bikes will cost $400 each.

“The bicycle ambulance is the perfect option for rural areas where mortality rates are very high,” Siegel adds. “It is relatively cheap, easy to handle, and it can be driven on muddy paths, when often motorized vehicles get stuck. It enables the health care center to operate in a larger area.”

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About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.

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