Bike it Forward Program Going Strong in 2017

Editors: This story was originally published in Issue 159 of our quarterly Tube Times magazine, one of many perks of membership in the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

“This is what Bike it Forwards is all about: helping give others opportunities to share knowledge, build relationships, learn safety and grow to be better people,” Ingrid Wynn said after attending a Bike Build at Northridge Cooperative Housing. We were inspired by Ingrid and the hundreds of other folks we met during a banner year for our Bike it Forward program in 2016. Last year, we hosted 13 Bike it Forward events and distributed over 280 bikes. We’re looking to build on that momentum by dramatically expanding the reach of our Bike it Forwards in the year to come.

Our Bike it Forwards program collects unclaimed and abandoned bicycles from the San Francisco Police Department, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency and other agencies. With the help of volunteer mechanics, these bikes are repaired and provided to folks who want to bike, but for whom bikes are otherwise out of reach. Mechanics also teach participants the basics of bike maintenance so they can continue to care for their bikes. Every recipient leaves a Bike it Forward event knowing how to safely ride a bike in San Francisco thanks to an Urban Bicycling workshop taught by an SF Bicycle Coalition staff member.

To get even more people on two wheels this year, we are partnering with PODER, a local advocacy group that works with Latino immigrant families and youth, on a new bicycle storage and wrenching space. This new facility means that we have more space to store tools and bikes. It also opens up the possibility of offering mechanic skill-building trainings for Bike it Forward volunteers.

“We strategically looked for a storage and wrenching space in Bayview-Hunters Point because we want to be close to the communities we aim to serve through our Bike it Forwards program,” Program Director Ana Vasudeo said. “At these events, all skill levels are welcome and apprentice mechanics can gain more experience by volunteering for this great community-building initiative. As long as you’re comfortable getting your hands dirty, we’ll teach you what you need to know to take care of your new bike.”

None of these events could succeed without the dedication of our volunteers, who generously donate their time to help us achieve our mission. Mechanical skills aren’t required to pitch in; we also need help registering recipients, distributing helmets and organizing tools. Among these wonderful Registration and Tool Guru volunteers is member Cathy Kora, a constant presence at our Bike it Forward programs.

“Looking at the recipients’ faces when they are given their bikes is a priceless moment,” Cathy said. In addition to spreading joy, our Bike it Forwards program also helps address the increasing price of living in our city. Transportation is the second-highest household expense in San Francisco, putting a strain on already-overburdened budgets. New Program Coordinator Miles Stepto aims to reach as many people as possible who might otherwise not have access to the affordable transportation that they need and deserve.

“We all have places we need to be, whether it’s work, running errands or doctor’s appointments,” Miles said. “Through our Bike it Forwards program, we’re working to make those essential trips possible and more affordable for folks.”

It’s not just freedom from high transportation costs that Bike it Forwards attendee Rheema Calloway appreciates, however. She also believes biking gives people the chance to be more connected with their surroundings and explore their city in a healthy way: “Riding a bike gives you the opportunity to see your community from a different perspective.”

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