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.