Through our Community Bike Build program, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition has given away hundreds of bicycles, spreading the joy of biking and providing San Franciscans with an affordable and environmentally friendly way of getting around. Thanks to a city ordinance, we receive abandoned bikes from city agencies like the SFMTA, refurbish them and distribute them to low-income residents across the city through partnerships with community-based organizations.
When the program was started over five years ago, we worked with community members to repair a bike that would then become their own. Since then, the program has changed to reflect an increase in demand and feedback from the community: many people who couldn’t afford to purchase a bike also could not afford to spend the time required to learn to repair a bike. In order to connect more people to sustainable, inexpensive transportation, we no longer ask community members to repair their own bikes. Instead, we focus on the safety of recipients. Recipients are required to attend our urban bicycle education class before they are fitted to their new bicycle, practice safe biking skills, and leave with a helmet, lock, and lights.
This evolution means that the name of our program is now a bit of a misnomer. We no longer “build bikes” with recipients, which has caused some confusion among potential partner organizations, and with people who want to volunteer or donate parts or bikes. We have made the decision to rename the program to better reflect the direction of the program and work that is being done. Bike It Forward, a play on Pay it Forward, embodies the spirit of the program, the way we are able to accomplish the work being done, and the hope that recipients will be inspired to help other community members connect with bikes in the future. We feel that the name will be a better fit as the program continues to grow and evolve.
If you’re interested in helping us get more San Franciscans on bicycles and learning about bike repair, volunteer with us! Any and all skill levels are welcome to wrench with us each and every Wednesday at Community Repair Night. Learn more sign up at sfbike.org/volunteer.