The cars rolled in with regularity to the library parking lot, despite the crowded roads clogged with families in SUVs jockeying to find places to park at the annual Scarecrow Festival in Downtown Alpharetta, Georgia.
Blake and Alice and Art and Brad and Terry and Michelle and others emerged with smiles spread across their faces, indicating immediately that they were about to donate an old or outgrown bike from their garage, shed, basement or attic* to the nonprofit organization, Free Bikes for Kidz, which fixes them all up and donates them to kids-in-need for Christmas.
Project Administrator Carol and I accepted these bikes with open arms, conversation and thank you’s. I asked about each and every bike and heard heartwarming stories. Most of the adults who donated their own ones (which will be great for teens) are now riding other bikes that fit their current lifestyles (or the limitations of their city’s bike infrastructure). The kids who came had outgrown the smaller bikes that were donated, including this replica of the classic red tricycle “first bike” that many of us had.
After four hours, Anthony and John came with a trailer and picked them all up as they did their rounds of all five metro-Atlanta drop-off locations that day. And then Carol and I hugged and said goodbye, with hopes to cross paths again in a couple of months when hundreds of kids come to the warehouse on Atlanta’s Westside to choose their miracle machines. I’m already imagining the face of the one who gets this beauty (which reminds me of Schwinneola).
I stopped at the nearby Big Creek Greenway on the way home and jumped on a free-to-use Zagster** bike (which was great because I didn’t have my bike with me since I had transported some kids bikes, AND it is Biketober and I needed to get in my daily ride of at least ten minutes).
As I breezed past my magic Thistle Meadow and under the power lines, I thought about how much fun this volunteer assignment was, and how happy I felt to have a small role in helping these bikes get a new life. There are organizations like Free Bikes for Kidz all over the place, by the way. If you have a bike not being used, please either get it fixed up and use it yourself, sell it or give it away to a friend or neighbor, or donate it to an organization providing bikes to those in need.
Please remember that in addition to bikes, kids need locks, lights, helmets, bike safety education, and safe communities in which to ride them. Our collective work to make it possible for today’s kids to “feel like a kid again” when they ride bikes as adults is far from done. There is a way for each and every one of us to get involved, even if it’s simply emailing your local city hall to indicate support for things like Vulnerable Road User ordinances.
If interested, see other city hall-related posts here. I believe we are about to turn the corner and have real, measurable change (not just lipstick-on-a-pig). Reminder: Kids don’t wait; They grow up. My 8-year-old sat in meetings when where we live became the newest city in the United States eleven years ago and safe-access-for-all was promised in plan after plan. She is now 19 and will be voting via absentee ballot from college (in a city with a fabulous bikeshare*** and a walkscore in the 90s).
* If interested in tickling your childhood bike memories alive, see Chapter 1 in my book, Traveling at the Speed of Bike. If you have an old bike trapped somewhere in your home and are not sure what to do with it, listen to this excerpt from Chapter 2: The Bike in the Attic:
** Is Zagster coming soon to the suburb-city featured in Chapters 3: Pedaling as Fast as I Can; Chapter 6: Noodle Lady; and the Epilogue of my book (City of Dunwoody, Georgia)? I’ve been working on it for almost two years now. Stay tuned!
*** Boston by bike!