It’s time for Bikes for Humanity’s first external event of the year: the Fix-it Fair at Ron Russell Middle School, Saturday the 23rd. This will be the second of the season and we will be spending it outside the main exhibit room fixing up bikes and engaging folks about our mission. It runs from 9:30 til 3, so we will be meeting at the shop around 8, loading up the trailers, and bike moving there around 8:30. Volunteers don’t have to get up on a Saturday at the crack of dawn to participate: there are shifts starting at the school at 9am, noon, and 2:30 for those who want to do the bike move back to the shop.
This is a great opportunity to work on your bike mechanic skills, whatever stage you are in your wrenching journey, and give back to the community at the same time. Of course for anyone not looking to get greasy we always need help talking to folks about B4H, taking pictures, or even giving a flat repair tutorial if you’re up for that. Best of all, the fine folks at the Fix-it Fair will feed us. Here’s the sign up!
If anyone needs inspiration for bike-related resolutions for the year, we have received another dispatch from Steven’s bike adventures. He made it to the top of Taiwan’s highest point, Hehuanshan, also known as “Joy Mountain,” a serious ride on its own, much more so after three months of continuous touring and constant on-the-road repairs. “After two days of repairing a flat tube, blown tire, and broken spoke, plus steep climbs and camping in near freezing temps, I finally reached the main peak of Hehuan Mountain (3412 meters elevation), just above Taiwan’s highest elevation highway point of Wuling.”
Steven realized during the ride that biking to its summit is not to be recommended because of “the downhill buses, trucks, and cars pass each other at narrow sections illegally at reckless speeds.” He wrote, “I had one would-be head-on close call that quite scared me.” The way to do it, apparently, is to hitch a ride for the ascent. “The whole way up, I did not see any bicyclists ride up, but saw quite a few cars carrying bikes going up and some bicyclists coasting down.”
Whatever bike adventures you have planned for 2016, we at Bikes for Humanity wish you the best! And of course, we’ll be around to help you choose a bike, get some gear, or learn how to maintain and fix your ride. Happy new year from B4HPDX!
One of the great joys of maintaining Bikes for Humanity’s presence on the internet is checking in to see what’s happening in the wide world of bicycles through twitter, from Portland on outward. I personally enjoy the Bicycle Lobby’s tweets, and other activists who use parody or other forms of satire to bring to light bikey issues. Another method of course, is to retweet folks not so thrilled about increased biking infrastructure, and to point out a bias, fun fact, etc. As it is with twitter, such differences of opinion can quickly become confrontational with the original tweets deleted and the ensuing conversations thus gone forever. This one luckily has not been deleted (as of 12/28), from the day before Christmas, as a driver stuck in London traffic looks longingly at the unused bikeway:
I was very happy to find that, in spite of the negativity of the original offending tweet, bicycle advocates remained quite civil when taking issue with it. There are many implicit arguments in the motorist’s perspective to take apart here, and a couple dozen users and lovers of bike infrastructure relished in sharing their counterarguments:
- Just because there remains one unused vestige of public space not dominated by a single interest, does not entitle that single interest to just because they have used up their own finite resources. “look at the sky too, that is completely empty,” from @tallmoner. The same logic can be extended to the barely used pavement, as @Mindful_man writes, “The pavement is hardly being used. Shall we scrap that too and turn the city into a giant car park?” In other words, just because folks are not enjoying the sidewalks and bikeways in full force on one of the shortest, coldest days of the year, doesn’t mean that making a viable and safe bike option is a “superwasteofmoney.”
- Another fun and polite argument to raise is that a bikeway is not a waste of resources, but rather a means of empowering individuals who are not wasting resources, in that they are human-powered, and not taking up a space meant for five people, what one may term a responsible and reasonable allocation of resources, compared to using a car to transport a single human. “What is absurd is all those cars with one person in them, queuing to go where they need to. The folk on bikes are already there.”
- Along those lines, one might as easily argue that the bikeway is not “unused,” it is simply a functioning means of transportation, and so, in this stretch where there is no intersection, there are no bikes clustered together struggling to make forward movement. One user was helpful enough to upload this video from the perspective of someone riding this route on a busier day, passing clusters of cyclists at intersections. Another writes, “the absurdity of drivers sitting in a traffic jam of their own making.” As it turns out, contrary to the motorist’s assumed logic, increased capacity does not reduce congestion. What instead we have found by handing over more and more lanes and space to cars over the last century is that it just provides more space for more cars to sit in traffic, and, in some cases, increased congestion. A Swanky Bicycle Being puts it nicely, “its not ‘unused’ it’s clear because cars cause jams, not bicycles,” and also adds the helpful observation that it is not safe to drive and take pictures on your phone. This addendum was a little less civil, though: “Put your damn phone down, idiot.”
- Of course folks with completely opposite perspectives and ways of life could argue back and forth forever, which is why it is important to remember that we are all just humans making transportation choices that change from trip to trip. A viable bikeway simply allows the option for folks to ride a bike. Having one less lane on which to temporarily idle your car does not suddenly create safe mobility that prior to did not exist. For the multi-modal, bicyclist/transit-riding drivers, these truths are obvious. “It’s views like this that proliferate an ‘us & them’ mentality which only damages road safety. FYI 80% of cyclists have cars.” That strikes me as a British statistic, but all the same: “Ironically cyclists are MORE likely to have cars than the overall population average.”
Whether urban areas should be freely accessible to cars, or instead geared toward public transport, bikes, and taxis as London has become, is an argument to be made at a later date, and that question pertains more to London than any American city at present. Civil, empathetic, and positive discourse will be necessary as we make future decisions. What I’m presently not sure of interested in answering is whether this is a parody account of a hypothetical “cars in the streets, EVERYDAY!” motor enthusiast, or someone who really, sincerely wants more cars on city streets:
Not all questions are answerable.
While we may have already provided over 1,000 free repairs for the people of Portland and our bikes at external events, we are having one last impromptu event to show the community we want them to keep riding bikes. We also need them to know that we want to keep doing so, and what better way than to prove out commitment one last time?
We will be at the 6th corner of 7 Corners (depending on how you look at it) just north of Division and west of Ladd from 7AM-1PM, and then at the People’s Co-op Farmer’s Market from 2PM-7PM.
Please come and support us, help work on bike’s if you’re so inclined, or get some free work done on your bike!
There will be pastries, pizza, and coffee, and probably rain. And bikes: all a Portlander could ever want!
The mission of Bikes for Humanity has been put into action this year like never before.
That mission, to substantially increase public access to affordable and safe bicycles while empowering self-sufficiency in bicycle maintenance and commuting, has been implemented this year at free tune-up clinics at bike fairs from Beaverton to Gresham, and everywhere in between, with over 1,000 free repairs provided for free to the Portland community at 20 events.
On Earth Day B4H was able to run two free tune-up clinics at two separate external events as well as our daily volunteer repair clinic at the shop.
Through our bike grant events and financial aid programs we have given away over 100 bikes to kids and commuters in need.
Our Chain Reaction co-op mechanics training has allowed 25 of Central City Concern clients to build their own bike, know how to maintain and repair it, and open up opportunities for employment. 6 clients have returned as volunteers to Chain Reaction, several have been able to bike to job interviews, and one gentleman is already making a living through bike deliveries on the bike he proudly built himself.
Our volunteer mechanics class has trained 70 volunteers in the full suite of bike repair and overhaul in 6 8-week sessions, with current session holding a record 20 students.
Our organization has not only been able to do more of what we do best, but also seen some changes. Most notably, Steven has retired from the organization he began over a decade ago to embark on an epic bike journey around the world. You can read about his adventures on our blog.
We have been able to bring Chris Nelson, who has been B4H’s volunteer instructor for years, as our full-time shop manager. Our location on Powell is no longer a volunteer/classroom space, but a fully equipped professional bike shop, where tune-ups, repairs, and even consignment sales by volunteer’s refurbished bikes are available to the public.
We have also been able to hire our programming coordinator, Scott Anselmo, to run the shop the other half of the week, allowing him to focus full-time on Bikes for Humanity.
We could estimate the number of bike donations that have been turned into safe, working commuting machines instead of scrap metal and trash, along with the number of volunteer hours logged in conjunction with all of these milestones, but it would not be precise, for there’s always the squeak of brakes on the wind, which means only one thing: someone needs a break adjustment, and that’s where our precision is needed. We do know we have made over 1,000 bikes more rideable, or rideable at all, as a service for the community, and granted over 125 bikes that otherwise were not in use or working condition to people who need them.
This year has been a testament to the power of volunteers, and the need for our organization, and its mission and work, in Portland.
To make sure Bikes for Humanity can continue into 2016 with this momentum WE NEED YOUR HELP. Slow shop sales have made it clear that our organization needs public support to continue running through the winter. While Steven was volunteering full-time for the organization we were able to proliferate without fundraising.
However, that model has changed, and we need the financial support of everyone who believes in our mission and programming. And since we live in Portland, we know that support exists, but not everybody knows about us.
That’s why we need your help in spreading the word of our work and our needs, and to contribute whatever you can to our year-end fundraising efforts!
For over ten years the face of Bikes for Humanity was its founder and lead volunteer, the unique and amazing Steven Kung. The organization began as Community Exchange Cycle Tours, dedicated to using bicycles to create community. Inspired by his experiences of touring around the world, Steven wanted to replicate the feelings of welcoming and collaboration he felt when arriving in a new town on his bike. In single moments friends are made and someone in a position to help lends assistance to someone in need of it.
From this original idea have come a series of spaces hosting free mechanics classes for the community, and hundreds of group rides between friends who were strangers moments before–bike moves of everything essential to a bike shop to dozens of Sunday Parkways and other events, to a group ride up the Historic Columbia Highway featured in this movie about Portland bike culture from almost a decade ago:
Since Steven has retired from the organization in September, he has ridden his bike west from Portland, south along 101 through the redwood forests, the Bay Area, Monterey and Big Sur, on through southern California to Ensenada, Baja California, back to Los Angeles, and on a plane with his bike to Taiwan to see family and enjoy the holiday season.
Cycling in Taiwan as he describes it sounds amazing. Touring on bike is safe and common there, with a network of bike infrastructure surrounding the whole island.
He met fellow cyclists such as Mr. Yu, “who was traveling with only a nap sack on his back going in the same direction, and he rode with me for many hours. He had started riding south that day at 12AM from Tauyuan, and met me after he had ridden continuously for 120 miles. He then decided he would ride past his own destination and accompany me until I reached mine that day, bought me lunch and beverages along the way, and help me find lodging for the night, before he turned around to ride back home.”
Steven’s finding his philosophy to hold true, it seems: bikes bringing people together, breaking down barriers, and encouraging those who can help to give to others. Mr. Yu sounded like an incredible character, as Steven continues to describe him.
Mr. Yu rode extra 75 miles beyond his original route that day for a total of 220 miles over 21 hours continuously!! For the 6 hours or so he was with me, he drank only a small bottle of Coke and a cup of green bean smoothie, ate no food, smoked 4 cigarettes (lit them while riding), and did not visibly sweat. Turns out he is 11 days older than me (52 yo in Jan. 2015), and has been doing this type of endurance recreational riding for years. He has just rode from his house to visit his mom in Tauyuan 145 miles north the same weekend and was on his way back home so he can go back to work Monday morning. He was very impressed with all the luggage I was carrying, and I was floored with his physical endurance. Without him riding along side me, I probably would have not ridden the full 100 miles and stopped much earlier. (He was actually trying to encourage me and ride with me 30 miles more to reach Kaohsiung so I can arrive at my mom’s home the same night! It would have taken another 3 hours, but I was already exhausted obviously. If we had done that, it meant he would have ridden 280 miles for more than 26 hours straight when he got home; he was fully capable of doing that from what I saw.)
Portland is full of amazing programs that bring bicycle access, education, and safety to its residents, and Bikes for Humanity is just one organization in a huge community trying to make it easy, affordable, and possible for folks to get on bikes.
Safe Routes to School (SRTS), run by the Bicycle Transportation Alliance (BTA) and the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), is one such program. The BTA sends staff to Portland Public Schools to educate students on how to safely walk or ride to school, and start their day energized and empowered, knowing they brought themselves to class on their own steam.
Bike safety begins at grade 4, and the BTA brings in a fleet of geared bikes for the kids to practice on. For many this is the child’s first opportunity to graduate from single-speed coaster bikes to these more commuter-oriented ones, or the first time riding a bike at all. These kids learn the skills, gain the enthusiasm, and feel empowered to become life-long commuters. The only problem is, what happens to the kids whose families cannot afford to buy them the bike, lock, helmets, and lights they need to continue to develop those skills, that enthusiasm, and that empowerment? Where do those skills and that momentum go?
That’s where our partnership with the BTA comes in, and the Bike Buddies program: we fill that need by granting safe, working geared bikes refurbished by our trained volunteers and checked by our professional mechanics, along with locks, helmets, and lights donated by our many partners. The BTA’s bike safety education team works with teachers and administrators at Title I schools to identify deserving kids to receive bikes and accessories, and Bikes for Humanity volunteers prepare for months to get the bikes ready before our weekend giveaway events, which include free repairs and limited free parts, and free helmets.
Our first event took place at Lent Elementary in June and included 40 bikes granted to students from 4 Title I schools in Southeast Portland.
Bikes for Humanity volunteers demonstrated using a u-lock to keep the bikes in the hands of the kids, fitted and fine tuned the bikes, and fit helmets for the bike adopters and community.
Our next bike grant event was for students in St. Johns in North Portland at Sitton Elementary, right after the beginning of school. We granted 30 bikes and tuned up a half dozen of bikes from the community. It was a great opportunity to bring bikes, mechanical knowledge, and resources to an under-served community.