Bikes for Neighbors is a program that aims to increase personal freedom through the bicycle.
Originally called Bicycles for Refugees, this initiative began in November 2015 when a group of refugees in Harrisonburg identified transportation as a major challenge. For many refugees, bicycling is the most efficient and reliable transportation available. Since the Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition aims to foster all forms of cycling including for transportation, this partnership was a natural fit.
We have recently restructured and re-titled the program to better serve a broader array of people in the Harrisonburg community who are in need of a bicycle. The new name, Bikes for Neighbors, is inspired by the neighborly atmosphere of Harrisonburg and the “No matter where you are from, we are glad you’re our neighbor” signs, which originated in this lovely city.
How the program works
We partner with organizations in the area to connect with people who are interested in bicycling to commute to work, school, appointments, shopping, etc. (We have previously done most of our work with Church World Service, and we hope to connect with more local organizations!) Whether a person has known how to bike since childhood, or have never touched a bicycle, they are welcome at Bikes for Neighbors!
Once people are signed up, they attend a class taught by SVBC volunteers where they learn basic bike skills, safety skills, and bicycle-related laws. At the end of the 2-hour class, participants get to take home their bicycle, helmet, bike lock, and bike pump, which are provided through donations. If they want any additional help or teaching in the following weeks or months, we are happy to schedule supplemental one-on-one classes with them. To date, we have given away over 50 bicycles and taught over 60 folks cycling skills.