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Providing Essential Transportation

Essential workers in DC got a lift from Bikes for the World last month through a local initiative to bring safe alternative modes of transit to the city amid the coronavirus pandemic. The group BikeMatch DC is pairing up donated bikes with essential workers who are facing limited public transportation options or may not feel comfortable riding Metro or using a shared bike service.

As soon as DC started shutting down and the spread of COVID-19 started growing, essential workers were faced with a dilemma; how to get to work. Back in mid March, Metro was still running on a full schedule and bus routes were running normally; however, concerns about using public transportation were growing. We visited Children's Hospital in March and even then employees were looking for bikes. 

The folks reporting to work at hospitals aren't just doctors and nurses- it's still a functioning hospital. The parking garage is still open, the front desk is staffed, the cafeteria is open for parents and staff. I was there to donate platelets and the blood donor center was fully staffed. Some of them live in the city and don't drive. They were facing a transportation crisis that was about to get worse.

Yvette Hess, regular platelet donor

From there the problem grew. Metro started running on a modified schedule. Daily routines were upended. Shopping for groceries became a burden. What once took a quick 15 minutes became a worrisome time suck. Standing in line outside a store, socially distancing, navigating one way aisles, empty shelves, buying enough food to last until the next shopping trip, carrying it all home...all while working stressful shifts at their essential jobs.

At Bikes for the World we know how liberating a bike can be by allowing the freedom to set your own schedule. Time and again our beneficiaries around the world tell us how much time they save and stress they avoid once they no longer have to rely on irregular public transportation schedules. Now all of a sudden our neighbors at home were facing some of those same limitations. And just like they do overseas, we knew bikes could be the key to keeping essential workers rolling during this critical time.

When we heard about BikeMatch DC we knew we had to get involved. BikeMatch DC was started in March by two local cyclists, Rachel Maisler and Rudi Riet. They modeled it after a similar program in NYC established to curb the spread of COVID-19 and combat transportation concerns among New Yorkers. The idea was to match donors with workers based on their location, type of bike needed, and of course size. Not every bike is suitable for every person and here in DC, Rachel and Rudi became the human algorithm that figured out the equation to bring them all together.

This immediately got Bikes for the World thinking...we have a ton of bikes in storage, there must be a way we can help. Once our warehouse operations stopped on March 12th so did our shipments. Executive Director, Taylor Jones and Operations Manager, Jonathan Carney got on the phone to figure out how we could put our bikes to good use immediately right here at home.

Not long after that Jonathan was working with Rachel and Rudi to make those essential matches. Everything is done online and handoffs are as contact free as possible. The bikes donated need to be in good working condition, which made our bikes key. Jonathan had the luxury of searching our stacks for suitable bikes and making sure they worked before handing them off to frontline workers.

Anyone in need of a bike to get to work or run a critical errand can apply. BikeMatch DC will then try to make a match. These essential workers can now get around the city on their time frames in a safe, socially distant manner. Thank you to our donors and supporters who helped us make this critical connection possible for our own community. We are proud to be able to put your old bikes to good use.

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