What does your bicycle mean to you?

Escape?          Fun?             Exercise?

Guess what your OLD bicycle could mean for someone in poverty?

Independence.     Freedom.       Empowerment.      Control.

Perhaps you’ve seen posts on Facebook or Twitter where we’ve mentioned the hashtag #rebicycle and you’ve wondered what it means. Or maybe you’ve just wondered “Does this guy even know how hashtags work?!” (Incidentally, no, I do not.)

ReBicycle is an idea that has grown from a “What if…” to a “How could we…” and into a “When can we…” ReBicycle is about freedom given. ReBicycle is a chance for folks with very little to get a bicycle and potentially change the way that they experience life.

In Louisville, when the Burrito Riders org was very young, we got to thinking about empowering the people we were serving, going beyond the burrito, into something bigger and impacting lives more deeply. There was this idea that if we could pass along a bicycle, it would potentially make a big difference in the life of a homeless or impoverished person. If someone can’t even afford to ride the bus, how will they make it to work if they get a job? How will they make it to doctor’s appointments to take care of themselves? Even for getting basic services, the Huntington DHHR office is way down in the west end, a sizable hike from downtown.

We saw this one weekend during a Burrito Ride: Ryan meets Ray on a burrito ride one morning. Ray laments that he’s found work that he can do, day labor stuff, but that if he can’t figure out how to get himself down there reliably he’ll lose the opportunity for the work. The bus doesn’t go to where he needs to go, and they don’t go much of anywhere when he needs to go. Need work to escape poverty, too impoverished to get to work. Ryan finds a bike “free to good home” and makes the decision to rehab this free bike and gift it to Ray.

This was unofficially our first ReBicycle gift; we just didn’t know it yet.

So, what is ReBicycle anyway? It’s a way for people in the community to get a bike of their own, in part by giving back. This bicycle could be a way for them to find work, meet obligations, perhaps even just enjoy the pleasure that comes with riding a bicycle and feeling a sense of freedom. The way our program is sketched out at the moment is that we’ll provide opportunities for folks to give volunteer service in the community, a minimum of 10 hours, followed by a “workshop” which will be used to provide bike safety, maintenance, and riding information. After completion the participant will have earned their own bicycle. We have begun a list of folks interested in participation, begun collecting bikes and associated materials, and are in talks for a space to set up “shop” in.

Here’s where we need you. Help us spread the word! We need:

  • Donations of funds to buy supplies that can’t or won’t be donated.
  • Used bicycles to refurb and give out.
  • Helmets, because safety!
  • Decent locks so that they can protect their new bike (non-negotiable).
  • Tools, supplies for the shop.
  • You to volunteer your time (and maybe tools) on the mechanical and labor end of things!

Tomorrow, Wednesday the 21st, we will be doing our first ever ReBicycle Outreach event!  The Burrito Riders will be at Harmony House from 4:30pm until 6:ish providing free basic repairs and maintenance: fixing flats, adjusting shifters/brakes, chains, basically anything that we have the tools and parts to take care of. It’s not too late to donate for this first outreach. If you have tools, parts, or anything that will help us in our goal of repairing bikes for our community, please let us know and we’ll appreciate it so much!

Help us hit the ground running! The Burrito Riders have already given out a handful of bikes informally and seen the joy and purpose that accompany those bicycles in their new life. This is the beginning of ReBicycle, but it may also be the beginning of something much bigger in the community. Everyone has something to give… What have you got?

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