Bikes for Neighbors Updates!
Hi all! My name is Nicole Litwiller. I am completing my practicum with the Bicycle Coalition this summer/fall, specifically focusing on the Bikes for Neighbors program. (If you want to read more about me and why I’m working with this program, click here!)
Hopefully, you have heard by now that what used to be Bicycles for Refugees is in the process of transitioning. Most significantly, perhaps, we have decided to change the name of the program to Bikes for Neighbors. In the five years that this program has been running, it has become clear that there is a need in the community for bicycles that extends beyond Harrisonburg’s refugee population. We want to be able to connect with anyone (including but no longer limited to refugees) in the Harrisonburg area who is in need of a bicycle to increase their sense of personal freedom. The overall structure of the program will remain the same, with a few tweaks here and there to ensure that the program functions smoothly.
So, what is Bikes for Neighbors, you ask? Here’s a brief outline:
- Donate: We take in donations of money and bicycles.
- Repair: Local partners (Wyse Cycles and other local bike shops or mechanics) fix up the donated bikes.
- Connect: We work with partner organizations (like Church World Service) to connect with folks who are in need of a bicycle and may not have the means to purchase one. We set up a time for a Bike Safety Class with the people interested in a bike.
- Teach and Learn: Volunteers help to teach the class for a few hours. (Prior to the class, volunteers go through their own training.) During this class, participants learn some “rules of the road,” discuss the routes that are safest for navigating the city and finish with a group ride to the participants’ respective homes. The participants wrap up class with their new (to them) bicycles.
- Follow-up: Some participants would like a bit of follow-up to help them feel more comfortable and confident with their new mode of transportation. We want to do our best to make sure participants have the tools they need to make biking a sustainable part of their lives, so we are committed to working with participants as needed beyond the initial class.
Of course, this is not a program that just magically happens. We need additional support! Here are a few ways that you can contribute to the program:
- Donate! As we are preparing to get these classes up and running again, we are in need of more bicycles to offer to participants. We would love to have a large stock of bikes ready for when we re-launch! If you have a bicycle you would like to donate, the wonderful people at Gift and Thrift accept donations for this program specifically. When you donate, just make sure you put a tag on the bike indicating that you would like it to go to Bikes for Neighbors. We are also, of course, always accepting monetary donations!
- Offer Your time! We already have a list of volunteers for the program, but we would love to see it grow! If you would like to volunteer to help teach a class, please reach out to us or add your name to this listserv! You do not need to be an expert in any sense to teach these classes. We are looking for friendly, patient, passionate, and welcoming people to volunteer. In an effort to make this program accessible to the most people possible, we are especially in need of volunteers who speak a language (or languages) in addition to English.
- Become a partner organization! For this program to function well, we have found that it works best to partner with organizations that may work with folks who would have an interest in bicycles for transportation. This primarily means that the organization will be the middle party for communicating with us and the participants. If you are a part of an organization that you think could have a mutually beneficial partnership with us, please take a moment to fill out this form!
We are still working to get the nuts and bolts of the program straightened out. When we relaunch, we want the program to be sustainable and beneficial for all those involved. We are excited about the direction of this program and hope that you get involved in some way! We welcome your feedback and participation.
Email: [email protected]
Bikes for Neighbors website: www.bikesforneighbors.org