Every so often, an idea rolls around. Sometimes the idea starts locally (in Minneapolis) and then grows to other places, and it’s such a good, unassailable idea that you think, “If this is what unfettered growth looks like, I’m for it. Within reason. Especially if bicycles are involved.”
Here’s the idea: Very often, we have dusty bikes with flats or a rusty gear chain lying about that someone could actually use if the bikes were theirs and not ours. We’ve outgrown them or replaced them with newer ones, or maybe our children have moved out and left a couple of bikes behind.
Let’s donate these bikes to a group that can dust them off, clean them sparkly, fix them up and partner with other community stakeholders to distribute the bikes, free to new owners, students in fact, and give the students free fitted bike helmets at the same time. Ideally, the bicycles and helmets would be received alongside solid bike safety education, through bike rodeos, safety courses, summer programs and in physical education classes at local schools.
Here’s the reason this is such a good idea. We’re looking at the cradle-to-cradle life cycle of a useful thing, in this case, a bicycle. We are not filling up a landfill with the useful thing but restoring it to its former glory, giving its rider pleasure, exercise and transportation. Best of all, for many students, we’re introducing an active way to transport ourselves from Point A to Point B, be outdoors in our beautiful state, have fun with friends and family, get regular exercise and enjoy the scenery along the lanes and trails.
Before we can have fun on the road, we need to first have foundational safety skills to navigate the neighborhood. Throughout the years, many New Mexican students have been the beneficiaries of the city of Albuquerque’s Bicycle/Pedestrian Safety Education Program. With the momentum now occurring nationwide with bicycles and bike safety, New Mexico is poised to replicate this outstanding program in other parts of the state.
There’s a new nonprofit in our state, Free Bikes For Kidz NM, and it is hustling to get more bikes to kids who don’t have a bike at all. They are coordinating bike collections in Albuquerque, Los Alamos and Santa Fe. One is happening at 11 a.m. Sunday in Santa Fe, at the Santa Fe Place mall, in the parking lot near Applebee’s. There will be a second location, also from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, at BTI Warehouse, 33 Velocity Way, out by Santa Fe Community College. Your donated bicycle is tax deductible. (See fb4knm.org for more information.)
As a parent of children who ride bikes, I have always had a couple of extra bikes stashed in some corner, shed or overhang where the bikes gathered dust and an occasional black widow’s web. Over 27 years, bicycles have come and gone, sometimes literally taken out of the driveway (sorry, black Schwinn Typhoon, that I didn’t lock you up properly, sigh) to nest in other alleyways/pathways/driveways of friends and friends of friends, fellow Scouts, or to be won at a school raffle or bid on by neighbors at the library in annual fundraisers.
Much of the time, the bikes needed new inner tubes and a little TLC, but then they were usable again and valued by someone else. Sometimes they were brand new, but usually they were just gently used. We have often traded bicycles or found bikes at yard sales, and when a visiting relative of a neighbor family needed three bikes, we were ready. Bicycles are a great way to learn a place — not too fast by rushing by in a motor vehicle and not too slowly, picking up longspine sandburs as we stroll along.
Please consider donating your bicycle(s) to FB4KNM Sunday, and if you can’t make it to a drop-off point this weekend, give a call to Chuck Malagodi 505-239-7210 or Elena Kayak 505-206-9032 and we’ll figure out Plan B(ike) for processing your bicycle donation. FB4KNM is also accepting cash donations and volunteer mechanical support; visit fb4knm.org for more info. In the meantime, get outside for a spring ride — solo, with kids or with friends but always with helmets!