For over 12 years, BikeAthens volunteers have been fixing up donated bikes and giving them back to folks in Athens. Working with our social service partners, we give bikes to people who need them as cheaper, faster, better transportation. As good as the Athens Transit bus system is for its size, it does not run 24 hours a day, and its routes and schedule do not work for everyone. A bike can save someone a lot of time and a lot of walking. Our program director, Scott Long, has heard how bikes have helped people stay employed and housed.
We recently received a bike request that crystallizes the need for transportation options. It underlines why a bike can be a great tool to help people become more independent, stabilize their finances, and connect with community. We have edited the request lightly to maintain anonymity:
“We are working with a client who is just getting back onto their feet after a difficult time. They are making strides and recently became employed but they are having difficulty accessing transportation to maintain their employment and allow them to get to different community events that would allow them to set down roots and build community as this is a new town for them. Could Bike Athens please assist them with acquiring a bike? Although they are recently employed, their financial situation is still precarious and so they do not have much financial ability to purchase a bike on their own.”
This is why we do what we do. Our volunteers donate thousands of hours a year to help fellow Athenians have an easier time getting around town, put down roots, and get / stay employed. The stories behind these bike requests also influence our advocacy. Once we give someone a bike to get to work, we want to make sure everyone has a safe place to ride (acknowledging that street safety may look different to different people). We know that riding a bike is not limited to one demographic or income group. Streets that support walking, biking, and transit help folks live fuller lives. Hearing how beneficial a bike can be is why we believe affordable, accessible transportation is a critical component for social and economic mobility.