First World Bicycle Day: PAY Namibia & Cycling

World Bicycle day acknowledges the uniqueness, sustainability and the versatility of the bicycle, which has been in use for 2 centuries. The bicycle is seen to be a fit, sustainable and environmentally friendly mode of transportation that fosters environmental presidency and health. [1]

The bicycle as a means of transportation has transcended over 2 centuries and still provides the same amount of utility as it did 2 centuries ago. The use of the bicycle has managed to ensure sustainable mobility for all people. It has for centuries ensured that people who walk long distances have access to a mode of transportation that allows them to conduct their duties in a fast and timely manner. The dedication by the UN, to recognise a day in celebration of the bicycle recognizes the longevity and equalizer the cycling tool has been to some communities.

On the 12th of April 2018 the United Nations general assembly agreed to declare 3 June as world bicycle day. The first world bicycle day was celebrated for the first time on 3 June 2018. Recognising the importance of the bicycle as a sustainable transportation tool that is directly aligned to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Initiatives were proposed to the General assembly to organise bicycle rides on national and local levels as a means to promote physical and mental health and well being in our societies.

In Namibia, the Physically Active Youth (PAY) is a civil society organisation (CSO) that provides after school quality educational services to children that reside in the Katutura Township. The organisation takes in approximately one hundred learners on an annual basis.PAY is well known for it’s after school academic support to the Namibian child, it includes  tutoring, overseeing homework followed by a structured sports programme. Physical education is a primary role of the organisation. PAY Namibia offers a variety of sporting choices of which cycling is one.  PAY emphasis  three main goals with regards to sport, which are:

  1. ‘To use sport as a tool to keep the youth engaged and off the streets’.
  2. ‘To integrate sport and life skills education in order to promote healthy lifestyle behaviours’
  3. ‘To develop the sport through breeding young talents and bringing opportunities to play for national teams and offer professional development opportunities’[2]

PAY’s cycling team is performing very well in the local mountain bike events happening in Namibia. One of the prestigious mountain bike events which the team have set their eyes on is the internationally recognised Nedbank Desert Dash, a premium cycling event attracting broad participation locally and internationally. The 24 hour mountain bike challenge is 369km ride from Windhoek to Swakopmund, riding through the Namib Desert. PAY’s cycling team would like to participate in this cycling event offering the youngsters the opportunity to compete alongside professional and amateur cyclists from around the world.  The PAY cycling team  are thus seeking assistance from individuals organisations and well-wishers who are able to donate in kind to enable the organisation to purchase additional bicycles for the upcoming Nedbank Desert Dash.

The bicycle is not just a mere transportation tool, through organisations such as PAY, the bicycle is a tool that is empowering young people to become physically fit and active and pursue a sport code which would have been inaccessible to them before. Cycling is helping to transform the lives of the young people at PAY, opening opportunities which previously did not exist, This is the power a bicycle has, when its potential to transform and change lives is harnessed as a tool to empower youth.

The bicycle is not just a tool to to effectively  promote good health and well being; it has a positive effect in being a sustainable and environmentally friendly mode of transport. Moreover, the bicycle also works a means to promote development, access to education, reduced inequalities and Gender equality. Gender plays no role over who takes part in a particular sporting code for PAY Namibia and all boys and girls are equally encouraged to take part in any sport of their choice.

Additionally the PAY cycling teams also take part in the First National Bank (FNB) schools league. This ensures the promotion of talent, but further ensures reduced inequalities for children from disadvantaged background showcasing their talents. The ability to achieve the 2030 agenda for sustainable development requires that all Namibians come together and contribute to enhancing the capabilities of young boys and girls in our communities.

One of the PAY learners, Tuhafeni Hamundjebo was quoted saying, that ‘it is a great honour to be part of PAY”, he benefits, when it comes to travelling for cycling races and academics support is free of charge’. Furthermore, a Grade 10, learner from Jan Jonker Afrikaner Secondary School who attends PAY, Passana Baisako stated, “in terms of academics I  get help with regard to Mathematics and English and the exercising aspect has a great impact on the physical well-being.”[3]

World bicycle day is already in our midst, and it is with great honour to be able to celebrate a Namibian civil society organisation that is making an impact in the community. This bicycle day, I urge all Namibians to take their hats off and applaud the incredible work being done by PAY Namibia and its staff. The organisation has managed to take the 2 centuries old tool and effectively use it towards providing equality and sustainable development in the lives of the Namibian child.