The second installment of our Back to Basics series, introducing our team, mission and work to our audience.
My name is David Meza and I’m the Community Programs Coordinator at Bike Easy. I first began working with this organization over 7 years ago when I took advantage of free training and began working as a contractor to teach bicycle basics and safety to youth and adults throughout the region. In 2017, I was offered a larger roll within the organization and began overseeing the Bicycle Valet and Dero Advocacy Dealer Program. Eventually, I took on more responsibility at the organization and began developing more programs under the “Community” umbrella. I take great pride in the Community Programs and having Community in my title, as the strength and sense of community was what made me fall in love with New Orleans on my first visit.
Since the pandemic, the Community Programming has shifted quite a bit. We used to be at most major festivals around the region, host large group bike rides, and put on many in-person activities. As health guidelines came in and festivals were cancelled, what used to be our most outward facing programs had to develop and figure out how to best support the community while limiting engagement. Last year was especially difficult (as it was to almost everyone) but as vaccines rolled out and we returned to a glimpse of normalcy, we’ve been able to return some of our most popular Community Programs while maintaining some of our new programs brought about by the pandemic.
Our #BikeMatch program was born out of the COVID pandemic and is a mutual-aid effort where we accept donated bikes from individuals and requests from those in-need of reliable transportation as well as many frontline workers seeking a bicycle to release stress and promote their mental health. Since 2020, we’ve become the #1 most successful program on the national BikeMatch network. In addition to having the most matches of any other partner in the country, our program has the highest percentage of requests matched by a large margin, which really speaks to the strong community of the city. To echo that point, in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida we saw an uptick in both requests and bicycle donations.
This year, we were able to make 29 successful #BikeMatch matches!
Ideally, donors would have ready-to-ride bikes that they are donating and and the oldest request that would fit that bicycle can be matched, allowing the donor and recipient to establish a time and place to arrange a handoff, with guidelines provided to ensure a safe exchange. However, we’ve had some bicycle in need of repair donated and thankfully this year we were able to repair 8 bikes and get them in the hands of those in need. However, we still have 50 outstanding requests for bikes and have struggled to take in any monetary donations or recent working bicycles. If you’d like to support #BikeMatch or find out more, visit the #BikeMatch page on our website.
Bicycle Scavenger Hunt
Another program developed in response to the pandemic, in October 2021 we hosted our second Bicycle Scavenger Hunt. This was a 2 day event where people where able to choose from any of 7 unique scavenger hunts throughout the region. In addition to 4 route on the Eastbank in New Orleans, we provided 1 path on the Westbank, 1 on the Northshore, and a family-friendly ride which could be completed in any neighborhood/park. Participants were provided with routes with turn-by-turn directions, maps, clue cards, and Spotify playlists curated by local musicians. In addition, Bike Easy Staff and Board Members were on hand at the Bike Easy office on the first day of the Scavenger Hunt to provide physical materials and Bike Easy Members were able to receive a free limited edition Bike Easy Scavenger Hunt t-shirt. To wrap the final day of the Scavenger Hunt we hosted an after-party at the Broadside NOLA where live music, bicycle friendly vendors, and drinks all brought us back to a sense of community and celebration we’ve been longing for. We had 252 RSVP’s to the Scavenger Hunt though our website and signed up 25 members through this campaign!
Bike Easy April Challenge
The Bike Easy April Challenge is a month long challenge where everyone in the region is asked to register and log their rides for free on LoveToRide. Individuals sign up and can either register or join their organization or workplace if there is an existing profile. Throughout the Challenge, leaderboards are updated and can be viewed across the region, over a workplace or group, or by individuals; so you can see where you and your friends stack up against those around the area. The Challenge is great for those with a competitive nature but is also great to build a sense of community and fun with the ability to communicate, “high-five”, and upload photos to the LoveToRide platform. Also, with many different ways to qualify for a prize and random drawings, you don’t need to be one of the top riders to win, so be sure to join us next April!
This year, weekly themes helped guide our programming and messaging throughout the month, from beginning riding to commuting we provided resources and classes for all level of riders. We were also able to return to some in-person activities, providing coffee to bike commuters on bike to work week and a weekly happy hour at the Pythian Market. In addition, after missing last year, we gathered once again at City Hall for a press conference and received a proclamation from the City celebrating the 10th year of Bike to Work Day, which spawned in to the April Challenge!
Our Bicycle Valet program is a free to the public service where Bike Easy securely sets up a corral and staff and volunteers oversee bikes making events even better to bike to! Everyone that arrives by bike is invited to park with us, they provide contact information and receive a claim ticket to retrieve their bicycle when they’re ready to leave. Typically found at the front of festivals or other events, it’s a great way to stay worry free while you enjoy some of the great events around the city. With COVID, most of the larger festivals we worked historically were canceled or turned virtual, but it was great to provide some Bicycle Valet for 3 smaller events this year and get back to one of the most fun times you can have volunteering! Be sure to stay tuned as festivals return and don’t forget to leave your bike with us!
Bicycle Parking Solutions
In addition to all the great public facing programs, Bike Easy also does a lot of work to promote and secure bike parking and bike facilities for organizations and businesses. Under these efforts are the Dero Advocacy Dealer Program which has me trained as the local contact for all things Dero. In addition to bicycle racks, Dero can provide bicycle rooms, FixIt Stations, and air pumps. I work to provide free consultation, site visits and help with permitting for any interested parties. New this year, we launched a Discounted Bike Rack Program which provides bike parking for 10 bikes for anyone interested in bike parking at a discounted rate. In addition to being more affordable than comparable racks by at least 66%, there are more discounts which organizations can receive by supporting Bike Easy efforts. We also partnered with the New Orleans Regional Black Chamber of Commerce to offer 10 of these racks to their members and local black-owned businesses for free! This year, we secured bike parking for 5 different organizations.
Bike Easy Certified
Bike Easy Certified is a program to highlight and promote organizations that work to promote biking throughout the city. Each one of these Certified Organizations get a profile on our webpage which provides information on how those businesses support biking and Bike Easy as well as what services they offer! In addition to supporting the organizations, this program allows us to keep our most engaged community partners up to date on all our work and ensure they are supportive of our ongoing efforts. In order to become Certified, the organizations have to go through a checklist and meet with Bike Easy Staff to ensure that they support biking through the 4 pillars that our members and stakeholders helped us shape through our most recent Strategic Plan. Though certain organizations may not be able to fulfill certain requirements due to their own rules, we’re happy to work with them in whichever capacity they can!
Please feel free to reach out to me if I can help in any way to better serve the community or if you have any questions!
Community Programs Coordinator