A Bicycle for Life: Realization

During her design process, Niki Dun decided that to make her Bicycle Ambulance idea useful in the real world, it needed real-world testing. So she took her design out of her university class in Vancouver, Canada and around the world to Malawi, East Africa.

In assembling the project, Niki made extensive use of the Internet. She joined Web discussion forums and emailed Transaid, a UK-based non-governmental organization (NGO). The people at Transaid were so intrigued by her idea that they offered Niki money and support to set up and carry out a pilot project – a real-world test – of her Bicycle Ambulance in the Salima District of Malawi.

It was a great opportunity, but it also presented great challenges. Niki was tested intellectually and culturally as she tried to adapt to ways of life and thinking that were very different from what she was used to in Canada. For instance, in Malawi, women are seldom employed in trades like design and engineering. As a result, the local men were not used to working with a woman.

Testing the Bicycle Ambulance in Malawi resulted in some important changes in the design as well as in the team dynamic.

“We brought a prototype to Malawi that we made here in Canada, did some testing, and there were definitely things that changed because of that. We realized the roads were bumpier than we thought, so we needed to increase the clearance of the ambulance. We discovered that the strapping for the headrest wasn’t strong enough. That was actually a helpful problem to encounter – it wasn’t fatal, but it showed the group that I didn’t know everything.”
– Designer, Niki Dun

Canadian Heritage Information Network
Bruce Mau Design, Institute Without Boudaries

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