Taking Action With Bicycles: Q&A With Dan Austin of 88Bikes

88Bikes in Vietnam88Bikes in Camobodia88Bikes in action88Bikes in Mongolia88Bikes in Cambodia

Bikes are big right now, both at home and abroad, and if we're certain of one thing it's that riding a bike makes people happy. One of our favorite organizations working with bicycles is 88Bikes. Co-founded by this Mountainfilm 2011 special guest Dan Austin, 88Bikes endows orphanages, ashrams, schools and villages throughout the developing world with bikes for every child, sponsored one-to-one by individuals. We caught up with Austin to learn more about the organization, how bikes are changing the world and who inspires him.

What inspired you to launch 88 Bikes?

88bikes was purely serendipitous.  My brother and I wanted to do a bike tour through Cambodia and give our bikes away at the end of the ride to two lucky kids... We found an orphanage through some friends at Nat Geo, but realized a couple of weeks before we left that 2 kids would be thrilled, but 86 kids, pretty left out.  We launched a fundraiser with the help of our friend Nick and had all the money raised within 4 days.  The Moment of Happy was such a glorious show of unbridled exuberance we knew we had to do it again.

There seem to be a lot of bike-focused organizations doing good work all around the world. Why do you think bikes play an integral role in international development?

Bikes help people get around.  They help kids get to school and products get to market.  They help families and friends connect with each other.  In many of the areas where we work, distances are vast, public transport non-existent and roads rough at best.  Bikes can be the key link between villages, schools, markets.  Most of all, they help kids to be happy, to have a degree of autonomy, to explore their world. 

You have committed your life to creating positive change in the world, what is one thing you tell people when they ask how they can do the same?

My brother and I never intended on started a nonprofit--it just happened. If you do what you enjoy and seek to embrace the world, good things happen. 

Can bikes change the world?

In and of themselves, I don't know if bikes can change the world, that's a lot to ask of a bike.  But the feeling you get when you kick your leg over the saddle and head on down the road or trail, that feeling can change the world.

How do you inspire others to be catalysts for positive change?

I'd much rather point out the folks that inspire me, folks like my friend Ben Skinner whose work, passion and encouragement is a huge motivation to continue our work; folks like Walter Ocan, a boy in Uganda to whom we gave a bike a few years ago and who, like too many children in war-torn Africa, is both big brother and father to his several younger siblings, following the death of his parents; folks like my brother Jared whose idea it was to go to Cambodia in the first place--the best brother and confidante you could ever hope to have--and whose skills as a pediatrician and care for all the children we meet never fails to impress me; folks like my friend Shannon Galpin whose dedication to the women and children of Afghanistan and sheer gutsyness always inspires me to feel more impassioned and capable... and many many more. 

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The Conversation

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