Riding for peace

Noe Magana

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Author stops by SJCC on his US book tour

Bankrupted entrepreneur, successful humanitarian was on campus with his twoseater tandem bike in hopes of riding with San Jose City College students as he has done with strangers in 81 countries.

Jamie Bianchini, author of “A Bicycle Built for Two Billion,” visited SJCC on Tuesday Oct. 27 to speak about his book, which describes his experience riding his two-seater bike around the world in eight years.

Bianchini was living a normal life before he decided to hit the road; graduating from high school and college. He was working as an entrepreneur bouncing from business idea to business idea until he filed for bankruptcy when he was 28.

“I had a bunch of different adventures that I was doing,” Bianchini said, “from product design, network working businesses to inventing. I was trying to make money as fast as possible to go travel.” Before he bought a plane ticket to visit Africa with his tandem bike, Bianchini consulted people closest to him about his idea to ride his bike around the world and then made up his mind to follow his passion; biking and traveling.

Bianchini was 30 years old when he began his journey to travel the world in his bike and returned eight years later.

“Being on a bicycle is probably the most vulnerable transport you can be in. You have no walls, you have no shelter, somebody can hit you, steal from you, they can do a lot of things to you,” Bianchini said. “People, human beings, are intrinsically compassionate when they witness vulnerability.”

After receiving help from strangers on the road; food, shelter, and even medicine when he was sick, he was inspired to help the vulnerable too.

He began by visiting orphanages and delivering gifts to the children throughout Asia. In Africa, Bianchini worked with sponsors and anyone who was willing to help to donate 100 bikes to a township in South Africa, assisted to get Malaria medication donated to African communities from a Swiss pharmaceutical company and started a school for AIDS orphans in Uganda.

The idea for the school came from a conversation Bianchini had with a student
he has developed a relationship with ever since a simple bike ride. Bianchini met Innocent Tumuheki in 2007 when he gave him a bike-ride home from school. The weather prevented Bianchini from riding for the rest of the day so he stayed the night in Tumuheki’s house.

The following morning, Bianchini convinced the parents to let Tumuheki ride with him. With the parent’s approval, Bianchini and Tumuheki took a 12 hour bike ride up some steep hills and back. When they arrived home Tumuheki confided in Bianchini that he wanted to build a school for AIDS orphans. Bianchini advised him on what steps to take to build the school.

It took about two years of work, but the school became a reality. Today, the school has 175 students enrolled, and Bianchini keeps in constant contact with Innocent.

“I was surviving. I was living. I was thriving. I was traveling. I was doing what I love, but also finding ways to make a difference in the life of others,” Bianchini said.

The book tour has not stopped Bianchini from finding ways to improve people’s lives around the world. He used the money from the book sales to build a new water and sanitation system for the school in Uganda.

“It’s kind of early for me to say if that strategy works of the adventure of human connection and giving,” Bianchini said.

“Is it going to come and bite me when the kids (are) ready for school? I don’t think so. I’m optimistic that I’m not going to get to that point. That the good blessings, karma and good luck I’ve had up until now will continue to happen as I move into the next phase of raising my kids.”

Bianchini met his wife in the seventh year of his bike journey while riding through Spain. She was one of guest riding his tandem bike and they built a relationship that led them to ride in Latin America and have two children.

Eve Mathias, coordinator of the community and lectures program at SJCC, said that events like this on campus contribute to global peace because it teaches students that all the people in the world are the same.

“My biggest ally on the road taking the bike was using the spirit of play: thumbs up, smiling, pointing at the (bike) seat and keeping that childish spirit of play not expecting words to be necessary,” Bianchini said, “and making an expectation that it was going to be fun.”