ST. PAUL (WCCO) — The Twin Cities metro area is consistently ranked among the most bike-friendly communities in the country, but people in some neighborhoods still struggle to find affordable rides.
The Nice Ride bike share program, which charges a rental fee, has provided 657,000 trips in its first three years. But there’s a place in St. Paul where you don’t have to rent or buy a bike; you earn it.
It’s called Cycles For Change. At its shop along University Avenue, several young people are nearing the end of their week-long program of assembling, repairing and cleaning bikes that they’ll soon be able to take home.
“I really like the old kind of bikes, like this is a Schwinn,” said Spencer Brusletten, 13. “It looks kind of like it’s from the 1960s or something, so I just thought, I’m excited.”
For an hour a day, Spencer and other young people have been working on bikes that were donated to the non-profit.
“Well, when I got it, the wheels were completely flat,” said Lily Lingen, 13, pointing to the bike she chose to repair. “There was no seat on it. The seat was completely broken off.”
Spencer and Lily are part of a group that paid a $100 fee for what’s essentially a bike camp.
But Cycles for Change also has an “Earn A Bike” program on Saturdays which requires no payment. It lets visitors repair a bike that will become theirs, in exchange for volunteering six hours in the shop, or with other programs.
“We want people to have to put a little bit of work in, put a little sweat equity,” said Jason Tanzman, the Development and Outreach Director, “and then they’ll enjoy and appreciate their bike more while also contributing to the sustainability of this organization.”
It’s part of the group’s overall effort to get more people biking, as their primary transportation.
“We think of bicycles as healthy living, environmental sustainability and an affordable way for people to get around,” said Tanzman.
The group sells some of its refurbished bikes to help cover operating expenses.
But the others are set aside for the programs that give people a new ride and some new skills.
“If ever, maybe a friend needs help like, ‘oh man, my brakes don’t work and I don’t know who to call,’ I’m like, ‘I could do it for you,’” said Brusletten.