By Ruby Brunk
As our nation warms to the environmental, health, safety and economic benefits of bicycling, more and more people are choosing to hop on a bike to get where they're going. But for those who don’t have cars and struggle to afford public
transportation, biking is not a choice but a necessity.
A number of organizations exist with the purpose of assisting those who need it most with this mode of transportation.
Many groups that assist the homeless refer to those who need their services as "clients." The Community Bicycle Project in Goshen, Ind.,
bridges the gap between volunteer and client, requiring that clients work for
an hour or more in the shop to get a bicycle. Many clients end up as
long-term volunteers. Good Karma Bikes in San Jose, Calif., goes a step further
with their Certified Bicycle Mechanic job skills training, a program for clients-turned-volunteers. Good Karma founder Jim
Gardner counts the personal empowerment he sees in his clients when they learn
how to fix something as his greatest reward.
In Portland, Ore., The Community Cycling Center’s Create a Commuter program uses the help of volunteers to provide fully outfitted commuter bikes and bike safety workshops to low-income adults. Wrench Raiders, also in Portland, brings its services directly to the homeless, setting up shop under bridges, and in the downtown area.
maintains that "bicycles are a tool for empowerment and a vehicle for change." Indeed, these organizations are doing more than just providing bikes; they’re
building community and empowering the individuals they serve.
Photo: Wrench Raiders at work, courtesy BikePortland.org
It's so true; easing access to bikes, advocating their use, and teaching basic mechanics skills to those who need it the most is an under-appreciated way to have a big impact on people's lives. I wonder if anyone has made a sturdy, cheap bike with simplified mechanics (e.g. fewer tools needed to fix) that could be mass distributed?
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