Cyclo Nord-Sud

Recycling bikes up North, transforming lives down South

By Jim Morrison

Glenn Rubenstein, Cyclo Nord Sud’s developmental officer, understands the concept ofthe community mobilization industry.

New York born Rubenstein acquired his love of cycling through Boston based “Bikes, Not Bombs”, which uses the bicycle as a vehicle for social change. The organization reclaims thousands of bicycles each year. They create local and global programs that provide skill development, jobs, and sustainable transportation. Programs mobilize youth and adults to be leaders in community transformation.

“I was attending a trade show eight years ago, and picked up information on Cyclo Nord Sud, and was lucky enough to get hired after applying,” recalls Rubenstein.

Cyclo Nord-Sud was born in 1998 in the basement of the St. Pierre Claver Church in Montreal. Its creation results from a great passion for cycling combined with a desire to provide Southern populations with the opportunity to have a more prosperous life by means of bicycle: a simple, environmentally-friendly and efficient means of transportation.

Founder of Cyclo Nord-Sud, Claire Morrisette, was inspired by the example of the Quebec Society for Cycling Education in Montreal, a Non-for-Profit organization founded in 1988; the goal is to promote cycling as a means of urban transportation.

Cyclo-Nord-Sud gathers up to 4,000 bikes a year in the Quebec and Ottawa regions. 75% of the collections are done through the 16 bike drives in various areas, 20% are through specific donations, and 5% are direct drop-offs at the organizations headquarters in St-Michel.

Cyclo Nord Sud works with partners in the south with a few models in place.

In Latin America, and Africa, a bicycle project is selected, a container of 400-450 bikes are shipped with parts, and tools, to repair by the partners in those countries.

In El Salvador, and Togo, containers are shipped in sellable conditions, and apprenticeship is offered from Cyclo Nord-Sud.

In Nicaragua, the partner has financial responsibility, to pay maritime shipping fees, and import tax

In the South, a bike can serve from five to ten people in addition to its buyer, including the immediate family, cousins, and neighbors.A bicycle is transportation for work, school, or the market, to sell farm products. Micro-businesses become viable, offering taxi, or delivery services, or shuttles to health care services.Mobility is crucial to people in the South. It enables them to improve their personal productivity. This can make the difference between poverty and a decent standard of living.Cyclo Nord-Sud ships to 18 countries, Cuba, Mexico, Guatemala, Haiti, Nicaragua, Peru, Bolivia, El Salvador, South Africa, Cameroon, Burkina, Ghana, Togo, Benin, Mali, Nambia, Burundi, and Sierra Leone. Cyclo Nord-Sud began with modest means by shipping 846 bikes in 2000. Manned with 150 volunteers, at present, the association has been able to grow exponentially since those early days. 

“We will ship our 50,000th bicycle this fall. We are a community mobilization industry,” a beaming Rubenstein told The Suburban.

For more information on upcoming bike projects, visit Cyclo Nord-Sud.
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