BikeAbout is a non-profit organization specializing in Internet adventures that promote education, peace and cooperative understanding through bicycling and the improved use of technology in all learning environments.
For more information, please read the Executive Summary.
WHAT DOES BIKEABOUT AIM TO DO?
BikeAbout aims to increase awareness and access to world regions and their people by traveling by bicycle, meeting the people, and using the unique capabilities of the Internet to share information with students, teachers and other on-lookers around the world. Networked schools and enterprises following the Journeys via the BikeAbout site on the World Wide Web join in a shared adventure of discovery and exchange. The subsequent web of contacts spun by BikeAbout riders and collaborators helps make it possible to continue to share information about the world with the world.
For more information, please read What Is BikeAbout?.
WHAT IS BIKEABOUT-THE MEDITERRANEAN?
BikeAbout-the Mediterranean, BikeAbout's inaugural endeavor, was the first fully "wired" circumnavigation of the Mediterranean Sea by bicycle. The all-volunteer, international expedition and team effort was designed to foster an understanding and sense of unity in the Mediterranean through the use of modern technology and cycling.
For more information, please read BikeAbout -- The Mediterranean and An Approximate Timeline.
WHEN AND WHERE DID BIKEABOUT-THE MEDITERRANEAN TAKE PLACE?
Beginning on September 25, 1997, a team of four (or five) BikeAbout riders (also known as IJs, or Internet Jockeys), equipped with portable computers, set out from Tangier eastward along the Moroccan coast and bicycle the full circumference of the Mediterranean, finishing in Gibraltar in June 1998, more than 10,000 miles later.
The journey took BikeAbout and an excited Internet network of schools and enterprises through Morocco, Tunisia, Malta, Egypt, Palestine, Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Turkey, Greece, Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, Monaco, France, Spain, and Gibraltar. Unfortunately, political and security considerations required the riders to make detours around Algeria, Libya, and Yugoslavia.
A great many things have been planned, but they can be broken down into three basic categories, roughly corresponding to the three basic What Is BikeAbout? beliefs:
For more information, please read What Does BikeAbout Do?.
BUT WHAT IS THE BOTTOM LINE?
The bottom line is that there is no bottom line. BikeAbout isn't about one thing in particular; it is about all the things described elsewhere in this FAQ and throughout the BikeAbout Web site. But these seemingly far-flung components do fit together into a composite whole -- an interactive, collaborative experience with a lasting legacy.
One of the trunk roots keeping BikeAbout standing is the belief that:
In other words, anger and xenophobia stem from ignorance more than they do a genuine dislike of the way others live their lives. And so BikeAbout labors to improve all possibilities for cultural and informational exchange, especially in a youthful educational context where knowledge and sharing are at a premium and will have a life-long impact.
One of BikeAbout's fundamental objectives is to gather as much contemporary cultural information as is reasonably possible and disseminate it to as wide a world audience as technology and resources permit. Whereas in the past this type of event was an exercise in futility, hindered by limits on the reach and availability of telecommunications technology and local cultural access, today the changes wrought to lifestyles around the world and the reduced cost of computers have made face-to-face and terminal-to-terminal contact much easier. And today, while universal Internet access is far from being a reality, there is enough of a critical mass of people around the world with first- or second-hand access to communications equipment to make BikeAbout and BikeAbout-type endeavors worth everyone's while.
For more information, please read BikeAbout -- the Mediterranean and BikeAbout: Fulfilling a Need.
WILL THIS REALLY BE USEFUL IN EVERY CORNER OF THE WORLD?
The debate about the validity of BikeAbout-type endeavors, given the dearth of computers and basic materials required for reliable communication in many countries, is a valid one and will be incorporated into the discussions prompted by the riders. But it should not be allowed to color the success of the trip. Let us quote a sentence from a group in Cambridge called the 2B1 Foundation that is holding a series of discussion groups about this.
We at BikeAbout agree. As with so many other things in the world, the computer and the Internet are coming. They can't be stopped. They won't be stopped. Whether or not anyone likes it. So the idea today should be to help places that have recently received Internet access and places that are looking to get it, to use it the RIGHT WAY. It's not the Internet itself that's dangerous, it's how people use it. We believe that BikeAbout and BikeAbout-style endeavors ARE a productive way to use it. And so, if schools that we visit don't have Internet access, then yes, we believe that they should have it, that they should be actively encouraged to get it, and that it will benefit them. We would like their first surf to begin with the rewarding vision that BikeAbout can be.
We are researching an Internet-to-print distribution option, whereby the material that BikeAbout publishes on the Web gets printed out and distributed as hard copy digests to schools without connectivity solutions. We are working hard to guarantee the inclusion of the unconnected schools in an ongoing dialogue.
BikeAbout is working with many local and international organizations that will make the gathering of genuine, relevant and up-to-date cultural information an exciting exercise in human communication.
Right now there are two international groups that have offered particularly comprehensive possibilities for local participation in the Mediterranean:
There are many other organizations like these working on local, national, regional and international levels. We would like to reach out to and collaborate with them in the interest of stronger Mediterranean networks.
Basically, the BikeAbout Journey is an opportunity for every Mediterranean community to "put its best foot forward" and we hope that everyone will do just that, using a discussion of culture as the proper arena for shared communication.
BikeAbout collaborated with Computer Curriculum Corporation (CCC) on the development of an interactive World Wide Web educational project based on the BikeAbout-the Mediterranean Journey. This project is available on CCC's award-winning education Web site, CCCnet, and provides classrooms everywhere with an opportunity to use the timely information and contacts gathered during the 10,000-mile journey in a novel, practical and engaging educational context, as well as enabling students to communicate with the BikeAbout-the Mediterranean travelers. CCC is the leading provider of educational software and services for the school market and a unit of Simon & Schuster, the world's largest educational publisher. CCC's software is installed in more than 16,000 schools and has been used by more than 10 million students worldwide. CCC has been delivering education technology solutions for 30 years.
The BikeAbout project on CCCnet was completely free and open druing the journey. Anyone who connected to the CCCnet site from the BikeAbout site was able to get to the BikeAbout-relevant pages and use them. This basically meant that anyone who has Web access can use the ideas. For a subscription fee, educators and students can access additional projects on the CCCnet site, which regularly maintains both free and subscription-based areas.
We planned school visits in the Mediterranean in cooperation with Computer Curriculum Corporation and the many international networks that have joined in the project.
The BikeAbout riders made visits to local secondary schools at each stop and led discussions about the goals of BikeAbout and its member organizations. They recorded the reactions of the students and teachers. To that end, they developed a short list of questions that have to do with an understanding of identity and the future and that touch on contemporary life and culture, sports (cycling) and technology (the Internet) in education, the environment, the Mediterranean, international relations with close neighbors and the US, and the future (both what it could bring and how to go about helping to bring it about). The recorded information is being shared with schools on the BikeAbout Web site and using the CCC-designed curricular events.
A maximum of four per stop (which was approximately every other day or two), or two per team of two or three riders, since the team could be split. In most cases they were able to keep it to one or two, and particularly tried to arrange visits to one school with an Internet connection, and one to a school without an Internet connection (to encourage a link between the two schools).
There were none. If a school was interested and on the itinerary, the BikeAbout riders made an attempt go there (within reason). Of course, schools with a connection to the Internet enriched the dialogue created through the BikeAbout Web site. And yet, part of the BikeAbout vision is to bring a taste of the Internet to those schools that do not have it, in which case the visit was in part to encourage them to get connected and give them the details (and perhaps even an incentive) for a possible connection.
After arranging in advance with the teacher or principal or director of a school, the BikeAbout riders visited as a group of as few as two and as many as five. After a brief presentation and explanation of the BikeAbout objectives, collaborations, activities, etc., they led a discussion and activities with the students, using questions, some of which were prepared for use in every country and others that are specific to a country, a region, a culture or a city. A record was made of their responses in the form of daily rider logs, or dispatches, published on the BikeAbout site for use by schools using Computer Curriculum Corporation-based curricular event.
When possible, the BikeAbout riders made short, follow-up, return visits to the previous day's host schools and unveiled the Web pages that were developed using sound, photographs, video and content culled from cultural visits and the students' and teachers' comments from previous visits.
These were not hard and fast questions, but just as an example:
More specific questions of particular relevance to the local culture were designed as a function of the place being visited, of the CCC curricular content requirements, and of individual rider projects, etc.
Activities included making audio recordings of simple phrases in local languages, filming short video clips, taking a few photographs, and, depending on the school's degree of involvement and enthusiasm, a bike use, safety and maintenance clinic and/or Internet tutorial.
Riders also solicited help from teachers and students for other things related to independent research, visits to cultural sites (World Heritage or otherwise), preparation for the following days' visits, writing up the daily dispatches, up- and downloading information, Web research, etc.
Finally, every Wednesday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. EST, the BikeAbout riders answered questions live in a Chat `n Debate Web Conference Room operated by CCC on the CCCnet Web site.
The information that we gathered was transmitted periodically, using the Internet, to our Web site. These dispatches continue to be available on the BikeAbout Web site.
Schools that have an Internet connection were encouraged to continue to participate in and enrich the BikeAbout online event through threaded Web conferences, e-mail interactions, and projects involving other students around the world. Those that didn't have a connection were able to see what we have done using the BikeAbout computers while the riders were present. It is our fervent hope that they will be excited about getting Internet connections to continue to participate and use other resources to which we link.
Yes and no. Yes, BikeAbout is a live and living experience in the Mediterranean delivering new learning possibilities to schools in the U.S. and the Mediterranean. What CCC is doing is connecting BikeAbout's live experience in the Mediterranean with national education standards and curriculum objectives -- through the technology of the Internet. CCCnet's projects give teachers a simple and compelling way to integrate effectively the Internet into their classroom. The CCCnet/BikeAbout-the Mediterranean project stays in tune with classroom objectives while bringing the excitement of technology and foreign places to life. But a live schoolbook? No. A schoolbook is self-contained whereas BikeAbout is an open door that helps teachers and students realize the potential of the Internet as a learning and classroom tool, by providing access to real-live resources and constantly changing possibilities.
Every day from Monday to Friday, the riders assembled and wrote about the details of their day. The group dispatches included basic group "rider notes" describing and commenting briefly on the activities of the day, and all the specific and expanded information asked for in an almanac of basic facts about the day, or the Fast Facts (weather, time, latitude/longitude, elevation, food, word, featured person, site, etc.)
Similarly, the riders were responsible for getting an Internet connection as frequently as possible and making sure that the dispatches were properly sent to the right places. It was our intention to have the dispatches sent at the latest by 7 p.m. every day (Monday to Friday) from the western Mediterranean and 8 p.m. from the eastern Med. Technology constraints, Internet availability, limited time, and the scope of the reports made daily dispatches impossible, however. Instead, we chose to make our reports more comprehensive and detailed, sacrificing speed for quality.
BikeAbout's Internet connectivity in the Mediterranean was assured in a number of countries through agreements with local Mediterranean Internet Service Providers (ISPs) pledging local dial-up Internet access to the BikeAbout team and some Web space on their servers for nation-specific BikeAbout pages of particular relevance. We had such relationships with local ISPs in Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Palestine, Israel, Turkey, Albania, Yugoslavia, Croatia, Slovenia, Italy, France and Spain. In areas where these arrangements could not be made in advance, we relied on Internet cafés, schools with Internet connections, and other sources.
Individual, long-term and skill-specific projects. Each of the BikeAbout riders is developing an ongoing written commentary on a topic of his or her choice across all of the countries visited. These commentaries have not been completed, but the rider notes will contain areas for specific rider comments when they are available.
Other activities. We were able to document our journey through still and motion photography, data collection, database management, etc.
We worked with hardware and software vendors to provide videoteleconferencing, sound, and still or moving "capturing" solutions for our scheduled updates to the BikeAbout web site through which the visual element of our experiences was communicated.
National cycling federations, cycling clubs, bicycle advocacy groups, etc. were contacted in many countries. We encouraged other local cyclists in all corners of the Mediterranean to join us over any leg of any ride. In a few places we were able to partake in formal events promoting cycling as a sport and as a basic means of commuter transportation over long and short distances.
The idea behind the trip made many of the route decisions easy and evident: stay with the coast. When the only road moved inland, we followed the road. When there was a major point of interest (city, World Heritage site) not too far off the coast, we went there. When there were schools or organizations that requested a visit, we tried to go there. And when there were major destinations within pedal-shot -- such as Cairo, Jerusalem, Istanbul, Sarajevo, Rome, etc. -- it made more sense to make the detour than it did to pursue the "coast only" logic to the hilt. The itinerary unfolded as we rode. Although we had general milestones to meet, the specific route and schedule were developed day to day.
Since we were visiting and then revisiting schools, there were many days when we did no real riding at all. That said, when we were riding, especially later in the trip, we were responsible for covering a lot of ground -- sometimes as many as 100 miles at a time. Usually less.
We were entirely self-contained. No chase vehicles. We brought everything with us, in panniers, on bike racks and in two bike trailers.
BikeAbout is an ongoing project, with future journeys in the early planning stages and continued development of the Mediterranean resources already underway. Therefore, we have to think about and would give great value to your help in solving problems related to:
If you would like to help, please use our online form to contact us.
HOW DOES BIKEABOUT SURVIVE?
BikeAbout survives and grows through the charitable donations of volunteers' time, corporate in-kind services and material contributions, and financial gifts from individuals and companies. If you would like to help, or know of any companies that might be willing to step in and assume some or all of the expense involved in some aspect of the BikeAbout project, please let us know? And please join our growing list of supporters by using our online contact form.
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