ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — The Twin Cities always rank high for being bicycle friendly, but even here there are many people who don’t have access to bicycles.
A nonprofit in St. Paul aims to change all that. Cycles For Change has a mission: They want to give everyone a chance to get out and ride.
“I didn’t know what a bicycle, how it worked or anything of the sort,” said 17-year-old Thomas Nelson.
Ten years ago, Nelson made a life-altering discovery. He founded Cycles For Change in St. Paul, and saw an opportunity to learn and grow.
“I guess over the years I became a little like, unhealthy. But biking is probably the best source of me staying fit and moving about,” Nelson said.
Through the groups apprentice program, Nelson has become a bike pro. He’s now teaching others.
“The goal of Cycles For Change is to build a diverse and empowered community of bicyclists,” said Jason Tanzman, the director of development and outreach for the program.
Tanzman highlights three key programs at Cycles For Change he says accomplishes those goals.
“We see biking as a powerful tool for healthy living, environmentally friendly transportation and affordable transportation,” said Tanzman.
A bicycle library allows people to check out a bike, lock, helmet and light for six months. Participants take classes to learn their way around a bike and the rules of the road.
A paid youth apprenticeship program provides job and life skills training.
“It’s about job skills. It’s about promoting academic achievement and career opportunities,” Tanzman said. “It’s about helping young people get into college as well.”
People can also earn their own bike by building it. That’s how Jaquie Kerongo got involved.
“I like it so much because it’s mine. It’s my bike, and I’ve been improving it,” she said.
Now a pro, Kerongo volunteers helping others and is doing something she never saw herself trying.
“I never even rode my bike on the road until I learned the skills,” Kerongo said.
And ultimately that’s the whole point: To bring the joy of cycling to everyone. Cycles For Change says now is the time to start prepping your bikes for the season. They suggest checking and perhaps replacing your brakes, oiling the chain, checking the gears and your tire’s quick release lever. Cycles for Change can do all of that.