by Nicole Odell
A few weeks ago, I stopped by Mountain Equipment Recyclers to drop something off at the Shift Thrift store that was being housed in the back. When I was parking my bike, I saw a familiar sign out front, but it looked out of place…I hadn’t seen it there before.
I went inside and ran into Jake from the Pedal Station; it was their sign. Turns out they had just moved into the MER location, and I hadn’t known that. I don’t think many people did, as the official press release came out later that day on some big changes taking place and the explanation of the move.
About a week later, I was able to sit down with Daniel Byrd, the Executive Director of Kids on Bikes, to learn a little more. Daniel was very welcoming, extremely energetic, and you could see the passion in his eyes about his role in the community. Founded by Paige Carmichael, Kids on Bikes has been a Colorado Springs non-profit for almost 12 years. It works to bring the joy of bikes to the community.
“Our three priorities are to provide access to rideable bikes, empower kids and families in bike safety, and create a healthy community that explores neighborhoods, parks and trails together.”
Kids on Bikes has programs similar to those of other youth-focused cycling non-profits, such as their Let’s Pedal Earn-A-Bike program in elementary schools, bike camps, and group family rides. One day on a whim last summer, I actually joined in on the group PopCycle ride to the “PopCycle Bridge,” a recently renovated bridge on the local Greenway trail, because I’d heard great things about this ride. Sure enough, smiles were everywhere as kids and adults alike had an amazing time pedaling in the Colorado sunshine!
One of the unique things noted by Daniel is that many cycling programs with which he is familiar grew out of a community bike center, whereas here in Colorado Springs the community bike center, the Pedal Station, grew out of the need to expand Kids on Bikes programs. For their first decade, Kids on Bikes didn’t really take bike donations as they didn’t have space for the bikes. But they saw the need and decided it was time to start taking bike donations.
To accomplish this and pay for the space, they secured a location in downtown Colorado Springs, and in May of 2016, the Pedal Station opened. They sell refurbished used bicycles and parts to support anyone in the community who needs a bike. Community members can come in at designated times to volunteer wrench on bikes that need some work. Introducing the Pedal Station to their program has significantly increased the amount of bikes distributed.
From 2005-2015 approximately 1300 bikes were given out through the Earn-A-Bike programs. Since the Pedal Station opened to when I met with Daniel, over 300 additional bikes had been distributed. Think about that…in less than a year, Kids on Bikes was able to give out almost a quarter of what was given out over a decade. Impressive!
Another great thing Kids on Bikes does is create Bike Libraries in neighborhoods. They are creating increased accessibility to bicycles. Old shipping containers are transformed into hubs for bicycles to borrow, and these libraries also have tools, parts, and an outdoor repair station. One of the goals of Kids on Bikes is to increase the numbers of these Bike Libraries throughout Colorado Springs and the Pikes Peak Region.
These renovated containers act as a meeting spot for rides within neighborhoods where kids can borrow a bike, learn about bikes, and then have the opportunity to earn a bike after some of the basics about bicycling are learned. This approach has enabled Kids on Bikes to empower community centers and schools to run bike programming for themselves, using refurbished bikes, and thus increasing the number of opportunities kids have to earn a bike of their own.
Kids on Bikes is a committed player in the Colorado Springs community. It has 10 voting board members, and over 500 volunteers to help at events throughout the year. Their year to date stats (as of Feb 6, 2017) are 844 volunteer hours fixing bikes, 309 kids have earned bikes, and 366 bikes have been saved from landfills.
Now, why is Kids on Bikes’ social enterprise, the Pedal Station, now being housed at Mountain Equipment Recyclers?
The founder and current CEO of MER approached Kids on Bikes almost a year ago to see if and how his social impact business could be owned by a local non-profit. Kids on Bikes was humbled and thrilled by this opportunity and is now in an arrangement, with the help of Denver-based Beanstalk Foundation, for Kids on Bikes to work towards having the opportunity to take ownership of MER over the next few years. This whole process and partnership is amazing and what is also great is the social impact business model of MER, which donates a percentage of their profits to local charities, continues to have a direct impact on the community. The goal for Kids on Bikes in working towards taking ownership is to greatly increase their capacity to fulfill their mission and break down barriers to bicycling throughout the city for kids and families.
I really appreciate the time Daniel took out of his busy schedule to speak with me and share the great things that Kids on Bikes is doing for the Pikes Peak region. We both think the readers of 303cycling will agree – bikes are the best, and the more that communities embrace bicycling, the better!