Donating bikes locally is not something that comes easy for Bikes for the World, at least not in bulk. If you consider the number of bikes we collect and donate a year (12,000) versus the number of full time trained mechanics we have in the warehouse (2) you might get a better idea of why. Also consider how/why bikes are donated to us in the first place...most are in need of repairs and/or replacement parts ($$). When the rubber hits the road it all comes down to time, space and money.
When Bikes for the World relocated to our current warehouse in Rockville we made a lot of changes. First, we downsized considerably, as this space was our first ever rented at the going commercial rate. But that also came with a list of upgrades, like electric and running water. We moved to creating an environment for our volunteers that was comfortable, organized, and conducive to learning. So while we created a better educational experience for our youth volunteers we sacrificed even more space.
Before we had a warehouse that could hold close to 10,000 bikes at a time, now that's closer to 1,000. Basically we cannot 'sit' on bikes. They come in, and we turn them around and send them out, in bulk. During an average month we are still bringing in and sending out 1,000 bikes a month. Many of our local partners are accepting bike donations as is, meaning they have a team within their organization that will repair and tune up the bikes donated. But they, too, also request and receive their own donations from individuals, often more than they can absorb (see above constraints).
When possible, we do try to help out with requests that come in outside the bike community, like for families relocated through a refugee program. This year, we were fortunate to have bikes on hand when the requests came in that not only fit the people who needed them, but were also in decent working order. Through these initiatives we were able to assist half a dozen families from Afghanistan and Ukraine with bikes for school, work, and recreation.
We also partnered up with a program out of Fairfax County called Stepping Stones that helps rehabilitate youth offenders through positive development. This is a pilot bike program where we initially donated five bicycles. Ideally the bikes will be used for transportation to work, recreation, and also team building exercises.
One of the biggest impacts we've had in a local program this year, however, didn't even involve bicycles. The crew seen above is a group of students from Dunbar High School who are part of a group called Prime Ability which was started by Alex Clark a PE teacher at the school. During the pandemic, Clark recognized the negative impact the pandemic was having on his students and quickly devised a counter plan. He started a bike club and invited students to join him on rides. He started a GoFundMe page and bought bikes and asked for bikes donations. Before long he had dozens of students involved in this safely distanced, social activity even during the height of the pandemic.
The program grew in popularity and evolved into something more than just rec rides through the city. He was taking kids to see and feel things they never experienced before. He was giving them an outlet to relieve stress and creating a community to survive hard times. Today, Prime Ability has a racing team and bike room where students will be learning basic and more involved mechanics. The school has received grants from Trek and Specialized to help create this learning environment for kids in the program.
Bikes for the World has donated racks, tools, stands, and heavy duty shelving units to help build out this space for mechanics and cyclists in the program. We have also passed along boxes and crates of new parts and accessories to help revive the bikes they received through donations...so many in fact, that they turned around and donated some of those bikes to us!
So our impact in our community is not always just about bikes....it takes a lot more than just bikes to build a cycling community and keep it rolling. We are proud to do our part and contribute what we can when we have it. So far in 2022 we have donated 554 bikes to a dozen different local efforts. This is nearly double what we donated locally in 2021 and it just keeps growing.