Bikes for the World

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

We Are Phoenix

What is Phoenix Bikes? In mythology a phoenix is a bird with a cyclical life, that is to say it is reborn, given another life. Not too surprising then that Phoenix Bikes is a local bike organization that is bringing old bikes back to life.

The Phoenix crew assisting at BfW collection in Arlington
Also not surprising that Bikes for the World would be all about supporting Phoenix Bikes. Based in Arlington Virginia, Phoenix Bikes is right within our target donation area, 'the world'. Bikes for the World is proud to regularly donate bikes to this local program and here's why:

Like all of our beneficiary projects around the world, Phoenix Bikes is about so much more than just bikes. Phoenix Bikes works with area youth, teaching them about bikes, but more importantly helps build young leaders and strong community connections. They are learning skills to revive a bike, but also building skills that will take them even farther in life than that bike ever will.

Through their after school programs, Phoenix, in a sense, is also recruiting young mechanics. Phoenix is in more than half a dozen Arlington schools teaching kids how to fix a flat, adjust their brakes, and how to properly shift while riding.

They then work in a team to bring a bike back from the ashes that will be donated to a community member in need. Giving back to the community comes first. In the end, everyone comes to the Phoenix Bikes shop and has the opportunity to build their very own bike. Some like Noe and Robel never leave.

Noe is a guy who knows this program well. He has over four years under his belt greasy mechanic apron. He joined Phoenix Bikes in the summer of 2013 and he instantly impressed everyone with his attention to detail and incredible patience, traits that have served him well behind the bike stand.

Noe has recently taken on a new role with Phoenix Bikes: bike club instructor at Hammond School in Alexandria. He also serves as shop manager during "Youth Run the Shop Days" at the Phoenix compound. He's the captain of Team Phoenix, the racing squad, often leads community rides, and  serves as the Youth Advisory Council President.

There is absolutely no doubt that Phoenix Bikes is helping to build leaders. Noe is very effective in his leadership roles because one of his key missions is to make meetings fun and more importantly, he wants to make sure everyone feels welcome and has a platform to be heard.

Bringing an activity like riding or even mechanics into a school brings with it a unique experience for some kids who may otherwise feel left out. For a student who isn't an athlete on a team, they sometimes miss that camaraderie a team provides and of course learning to work together toward a common goal.

Robel was introduced to Phoenix Bikes at TJ Middle School back in 2014. He earned his first bike, outgrew it, and earned a replacement. He grew into racing, both mountain and road bikes. He is a strong member of Team Phoenix serving as role model to the younger riders coming through the shop.

Robel also participates in the Phoenix Saturday rides where they often incorporate community service within the ride. He has volunteered with BfW during collection events we've had in Arlington. Robel joined Phoenix this summer in an advanced mechanics camp. He proves day after day he is strong both on and off the bike. 


Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Team Phoenix

This year Arlington was home to the National Youth Bike Summit which welcomed bike advocates of all ages from across the country and beyond. Our own Phoenix Bikes hosted the event including setting up key speakers, some, young mechanics from their own shop.

The summit brings minds and passions together to help build a bike friendly future. Involving our youth seemed like a logical step in this began the YOUTH Bike Summit. Involving Phoenix Bikes in that was, well, a no-brainer.

Phoenix Bikes engages the youth around Arlington by giving them one of the coolest after school hang outs around. It's much more than just learning how to use tools to work on bikes however. These young mechanics also learn valuable life skills like problem solving, teamwork, processing, networking and communicating.

Samara is a sophomore at H-B Woodlawn and was one of the speakers this past weekend at the Summit. She hooked up with Phoenix after participating in a school club associated with the organization. She liked learning about bikes and working with the tools so much she continued working with Phoenix through their after school opportunities at the shop.

Now a youth mechanic at Phoenix Bikes, Samara earned her way up the ranks, improving her ride along the way. Students who come through the program have the ability to learn and earn, building bikes. One bike they fix up is donated into the community and the other they can keep for themselves. Samara now does more than ride, she races. A founding member of Team Phoenix, Samara races road, mountain, cyclocross- you name it, if it has wheels she's going to make them spin!

Samara is also very passionate about sharing her love of biking and racing with others so she was a natural fit to speak at the Summit. Besides sharing thoughts on racing Samara is also passionate about promoting cycling for everyone, most especially women.

Usman and Erik are also founding members of Team Phoenix and came up through the wrenching ranks of Phoenix Bikes. Like Samara, Erik joined Phoenix through a school program at Washington Lee High School. Erik knew all about Phoenix through his older brother Augustin.

Erik enjoys sharing his passion for cycling with new youth coming through the shop. He stands out as a leader by helping with repairs and mentoring new youth mechanics during busy days at the shop. Because of his comfort on the bike, he is also a great ride leader for community rides on the weekend.

Usman had a bit of a longer commute to Phoenix Bikes. Usman grew up in India where bikes are very popular, however, Usman never owned one. He definitely understands the connection between access and infrastructure. His father never let him ride further than 30 feet in front of his house because it wasn't safe.

At 13, Usman moved to the U.S. with his family. When he found out about Phoenix Bikes he 'moved in' making it a second home. He quickly earned his first bike through the program and then upgraded and tweaked until he was racing on the team. As more and more kids turned to racing, Phoenix Bikes answered by implemented a points for parts program that allows youth to upgrade their bike parts for work in the shop.

Usman is now racing for the local DT Racing team (as is Erik). He's only a sophomore at Wakefield High School, but recently started working at the local Trek Bicycle shop building bikes.

Monday, October 2, 2017

#YBS17: Shifting Gears

What is a Youth Bike Summit? Last time we introduced you to a local group of young writers who are also learning about bikes and becoming young riders. Some of those Story Riders will be attending the Youth Bike Summit this weekend...but what exactly is a youth bike summit?

Simply put it's the future of cycling. Every year Washington DC is home to the National Bike Summit, where businesses, organizations, advocates, bikers, and the like all gather to talk about ideas, plans, and facilities that worked or needed improvement in the grand scheme of making cycling safer and more accessible to everyone.

The one step that has propelled biking farther and faster than any other component is a change in ideas. And where is there an untapped resource of fresh ideas? The professionals of tomorrow.

In so many of our cities, cycling sat on a back burner when it came to laying out roads and bridges and sidewalks. Bike sharing was something that happened in other cities not our cities. But all of that is changing. People are riding bikes more and because of that our infrastructure must change to meet that shift.

Around the country there are many youth based bike organizations that teach mechanics, help kids earn bikes, and get young people out on our roads and more comfortable on bikes. These kids are the future of cycling and their numbers are growing. They are growing up, living and working in our cities, and they are using bikes on a daily basis. They are passionate about bikes, they are experiencing the challenges put in place by car-centric designers and engineers, and they have ideas. The Youth Bike Summit  connects them to like-minded allies and gives them a voice.

At this year's summit, youth and adults will come together to talk about issues immediately affecting youth and cycling, such as riding on trails, career opportunities in the bike industry, bike facilities on college campuses, etc. There is even a panel about relationships with law enforcement and how the bike can help bridge the gap in communication.

The bottom line is this, our youth will be the next drivers on the road, they may already be there. Educating them about the rights of cyclists will make them better drivers and make the roads safer for everyone. They may also be our future engineers designing our roads and communities. They most definitely will be tomorrow's advocates fighting to have our voices heard.

The Youth Bike Summit comes to Arlington this year and is being hosted by our own youth group Phoenix Bikes. This experience has helped introduce mature concepts to the youth in this program through something they all love, biking. It has brought them together to work as a team, to express their thoughts and ideas and come up with plans and just planning the event itself.

Several of them have been invited to speak at the conference. They will create a presentation, get up in front of a crowd, share their thoughts and answer questions. They will meet other inspired minds and share ideas and work together to change the future of cycling and possibility their communities.

This experience is more than encouraging youth to take an active, vocal role in their cycling futures, it's about maturing and growing into themselves. It's about figuring out that their opinions matter. It's also about learning how to effectively express themselves and make change happen. It's learning to come together and work together for a common goal; something we all could use a little more of in our lives.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Featured Volunteer: Linda Hansen

Linda Hansen and Jackie Colonna in 2013
"I first met Linda Hansen maybe seven years ago when I first started working with Bikes for the World. That was four offices and six warehouses ago. I guess maybe we've both been around for a while," remembers Outreach Coordinator Yvette Hess.

BUT, Linda predates BfW staff by just as many years. In fact she predates Bikes for the World itself! Linda and Keith started working together in 1997 back when we were working with Pedals for Progress.

She and Muriel Grim got together and started brain storming on their first ever bike collection with St Mary of Sorrows and its community. That was maybe 2,000 bikes ago.

For Linda, it didn't make sense to keep this tucked away within the pews of St. Mary's. It takes a village and she intended to reach out across parishes to recruit the village. Throughout the years they brought together Burke Presbyterian, Accotink Unitarian Universalist, Lord of Life Lutheran, and St. George's Methodist to work on this common vision. Her mission was simple: people helping people.

Linda also recruited other collection managers to take over for her after her initial efforts. And when I say initial, I'm talking half a decade or more as collection manager. This is one of the critical parts of keeping a successful collection going. Not only recruiting dedicated volunteers but also moving them into the management position. Not passing the torch successfully has been the undoing for several of our long standing collections that have been with us since the beginning. Finding someone to take over as collection manager is key to keeping a collection point alive.

And Linda made that transition seamless. This doesn't mean she moved on, she is still very much involved in this annual collection at St Mary's; she just prefers to hang in the shadows. And here we are shining a spotlight on her!

"But going back to when I first met Linda...I had just come on as Office Manager and Linda needed something from us. She said, I'll be right over. And when I came out to meet her she instantly grabbed me and gave me a huge hug. That's just who she is. And no doubt, that's why she's been able to keep that amazing cast of characters around the collection all these years."

Over the years St Mary's remained a consistent supporter of Bikes for the World, both in bike donations and financially. Their support has allowed us to affect thousands of lives around the world. Linda tells us it's really a win-win relationship; nobody really capitalizes it's just true giving and sharing.