For many of the readers here on VeloReviews, the bicycle is, in essence, a luxury item. It is something we enjoy for fun, fitness, to satisfy our competitive impulses or some combination of those. For the smaller number of us who are daily bicycle commuters, this, again, is by choice, not necessity. I use my bike to get around San Francisco because I enjoy the exercise, the freedom and the lack of stress that a car in the city can bring. I commute by bicycle and choose to leave my car at home.
Those of us in that situation can often forget that for a great many people, riding a bicycle isn’t a choice, but a necessity. For many, the bicycle is the only form of transportation available. I’ve been reminded of this a lot recently as I’ve been looking more and more at organizations like World Bicycle Relief. WBF helps deliver bicycles to communities where other transportation options are not available. They take it a step further – they also train folks in those communities on how to work on and maintain the bicycles.
Maintenance is a critical aspect that is often overlooked by other charitable, bicycle give-a-way groups. Another good example of how important the maintenance piece is can be seen in the actions of Sacramento, CA non-profit Cycles 4 Hope. As detailed in a recent Sacramento Bee article, Cycles 4 Hope works with the local homeless community to offer free bike maintenance services. This all volunteer, all donation effort goes out to the community to do repairs:
On the second Saturday of every month, a crew of bike enthusiasts packs up its tools and sets up an efficient mobile bicycle repair shop just north of downtown Sacramento. The volunteers work from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., tackling everything from flat tires to faulty brakes to missing pedals.
The line for help typically forms at dawn. The crew usually gets through 40 or 50 bikes, while turning away a similar number.
For those looking to help out in your area – see if there is a Bike Kitchen, bicycle repair co-op or parts-share already in place. If not, look to start one of your own. Better yet, look for organizations like Cycles 4 Hope in your community, or more global efforts like World Bicycle Relief.