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Motorcycles Saving Lives?

We spend a lot of time in the moto-press thinking about what bike is the fastest, coolest, most exclusive or most fun. We don’t waste a lot of mental calories thinking about the practical applications a motorcycle might have, other than occasionally using it to get to work. British motorcyclist Mike Norman, however, spends some of his time thinking about how to use motorcycles to help people in poor and developing nations.

Back in 1997, Norman, after watching a TV program raising money to buy ambulances in Africa, decided a sidecar motorcycle could do the same thing for a lot less money. That led to the development of the eRanger. It’s a lightweight sidecar rig based on a small 200cc dual-sport with a large cargo platform. That platform can be used as a base for a variety of vehicles useful in underdeveloped areas.

An ambulance can carry a patient across rough terrain to medical facilities, or there’s a mobile immunization clinic that a hotshoe doctor can drive out to remote villages. There’s also a mobile “classroom” that carries a movie screen, projector and AV equipment: everything necessary to present information to an entire village. Civilian authorities can use the “Rapid Response Unit” as a mobile command post, fire-fighting rig or ambulance, and eRanger also sells a portable water-purification unit. A variety of commercial models can serve small entrepreneurs.

The best part is that in addition to being easy to use (drivers need just 5 hours of training, claims eRanger), these vehicles are much less expensive to purchase and operate than heavy, complex four-wheeled vehicles, with the ambulance costing just $6633. This is a huge advantage in countries where annual per-capita income is less than what you’d spend on a set of tires. As of April, 2009, UNICEF has funded the operation of five of the ambulances and hopes to send five more. You can help UNICEF here.

It’s nice to see the creativity and passion we find in our community being used to help others in need, especially in unexpected places. You can find out more about eRanger at its website.

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MD Readers Respond:

  • When I first saw the headline above, I figured the article would be something like it was.

    However, while motorcycles can be dangerous things, in my opinion motorcycles have been saving lives for a great many years. I’ll make this brief: during some of he most emotionally trying times of my life, marked by depression and angst, if I could just get to the seat of my motorcycle for a ride, my strength would be renewed to the point I could face another day, as if a few of those burdens I carried were born away by the wind. And, with time, and putting many of these days together, I have lasted til the tide had turned and I found my way to enjoy life again……I expect the same can be said by many folks.

    In this fashion, indeed, motorcycles and the people around them have been helping save lives for a long, long time. Greg

    P.S. Reminds me of the sticker: “Motorcycles. Cheaper than psychiatrist

  • Absolutely!

    I had the privilege of working with Simon Milward, who like Mike Norman, worked to raise money and awareness to utilize motorcycles in poor nations. After working with FEMA, Simon embarked on a globe spanning ride with a home built bike. He set out on 1/1/00 to raise money for Doctors Without Borders (www.msf.org) and Health for all (http://www.motorcycle.org.uk/Simon_Millward_Millennium_Ride/flores/flores_summary.html)

    The Millennium-Ride was his ultimate fund raising adventure. Sadly, he was killed in a 2005 motorcycle accident while working in West Africa. Let’s hope others are inspired by Mike’s and Simon’s efforts.
    Here’s a link to his page. Take some time to browse, it’s a great story and accomplishment.

    http://www.millennium-ride.com/

    Thanks again for a great site, Chris

  • That’s too cool! Proof that necessity is still the mother of invention. Great Article. Richard