Good biking weather is finally here, but what if you don’t own a bike? What if your family doesn’t have the money to afford a new bike? This is the conundrum for young people across Guelph who like to have a bike, but find that getting one is a luxury. Well, one school board trustee thinks a kids’ bike is not a luxury, and he’s started a new program to refurbish previously enjoyed bikes for new adventures with new cyclists.
“Bicycles really are integral to the productive growth period in kids’ lives, when I had a bike as a kid, it gave me the opportunity to be free and go where I wanted to go without having to wait for a bus, and certainly they’re environmentally friendly as well,” Upper Grand District School Board Trustee Mike Foley told Guelph Politico.
The pressures of inflation and supply chain issues are making it hard for families to get their hands on new bikes, so Foley had the idea to save bikes bound for the landfill, fix them up, make them safe and road worthy, and then give the out for free to kids in need.
“The idea is to take stuff that’s sitting in people’s basements or garages – in fact, some of the bikes I’ve picked up were from the city dump – and we’re trying to refurbish them, make them safe, and then give them to kids so that they can have a little bit of freedom, and some adventure,” Foley said.
So how does it work? Foley gets a bike, and he brings it to Guelph College Vocational Institute (GCVI) where students in the auto shop donate their time and their skill to fix up the bikes and make them road worthy. “It’s a learning experience for the students, and the students and teachers working on this have the opportunity to do something for the community. So it really is a circular process,” Foley said.
According to Foley, he should have the first batch of refurbished bikes ready to go by the middle of May or early June, around 30 in all. Foley said that we will be co-ordinating with community groups like Shelldale Family Gateway and the North End Harvest Market to figure the best way of handing out the free bikes. Naturally, this is not the end of the story.
“I’ve spoken to a couple of other people that want to pick up the mantle as well, and move forward with this,” Foley said.
Help with the free bike project comes in a couple of forms. The bike repair shop at GCVI will go on hiatus when school lets out for the summer, so Foley is looking for help fixing up the bikes, but more importantly than that, he’s looking for help getting vital parts.
“The biggest barrier right now is getting parts and getting them at a reasonable price,” Foley said. “I can tell you that the four biggest things that come up on every bicycle are chains, sprockets, new seats and brake pads. […] What it comes down to is getting the parts at a reasonable price, or though donation, and developing some sort of community partnership with somebody who can provide parts over the long term.”
“Nobody’s making a profit on this,” Foley added.
If you have a bike you would like to donate, or if you would like to donate your time or some parts to repair a bike, you can get in touch with Foley at mike.foley [at] ugdsb.on.ca.