One of our first bike matches!
How It Started
#BikeMatch was first presented to us from Transportation Alternatives, a non-profit working out of New York City. They began this program as a response to the COVID 19 pandemic and lock-downs, as a way to get bikes to first responders and other essential workers in need. They reached out to many organizations, including Bike Easy, with templates and guidance that would allow these organizations to start their own #BikeMatch. Our Executive Director presented the materials to me and asked if we should consider launching our own program.
For those that may not know me, in addition to working as the Community Programs Coordinator at Bike Easy: I had spent many hours volunteering at RUBARB community bike shop, and had been working at Dashing Bicycles as a mechanic for just over a year. I could think of no better way to utilize my skills to support people during the lock-down than to start this program and fix up bikes for people in need. After customizing the materials for our own use, and uploading them to our website, we were able to launch #BikeMatchNOLA in May of 2020.
Our initial requests saw a lot of essential workers looking for a way to improve their commute, avoid crowded and inconsistent transit, get exercise, and as a way to help promote their mental health. Though it is ideal that bikes are donated in a working state and the donor can arrange a hand off directly to the person in need- we found that an overwhelming amount of people were looking to donate bikes in need of repairs. At the time, we had storage and a workspace across the street from our office so we took in bikes in need of repair, even working with apartment complexes and local universities to receive abandoned bicycles. We hosted volunteer bike repair days where we were able to work with local mechanics and people interested in learning more mechanic skills to repair these bikes and get them off to people in need.
Volunteer mechanics fixing up donated bikes
With the growth of #BikeMatch programs around the nation, we were approached to join the Bike Match Network which streamlined the process of requesting and matching for both the organization and the individuals donating or requesting.
How It’s Going
As I said earlier, we’re rapidly approaching our 100th bike matched! On the national platform, that puts us as the number 1 program with Bikes Not Bombs being the closest organization to us with 69 matches made as of today. In addition to having a greater number of matches than other organizations on the platform, our percent of matches made to requests is far greater than any other city. Whenever I see how our number compares to other communities, I can only think that it underlies just how tightknit a community we have here, and how willing we all are to support our neighbors.
Though #BikeMatch continues to go strong, it’s not been without it’s challenges. We we’re kicked out of the garage we had been using to store donations and host volunteer repairs. Since, I’ve been storing donated bikes in my home, dedicating one of my rooms in my half-shotgun to bikes and bike repair. We’ve only received 3 monetary donations over our 3+ years of operating this program, meaning that this program only bleeds money from our already tight budget.
Though there is question of it’s feasibility, there is no doubt that a program like this greatly helps people in our community. When COVID guidelines started to loosen, I was asked if we should consider ending the program, instead we re-worked the language to make it more open for anybody in need to request a bicycle. Look through the national platform or our website and you’ll see a great narrative of how many people in our community really want a bike and all the possibilities it opens for so many.
How You Can Help
There are many ways that you can help push our #BikeMatch program to 100 and beyond! The best way would be to donate to our program. That could mean: donating monetarily or donating a bike in good working condition. We also have Sponsorship opportunities available, so if you know of an organization that may be interested in sponsoring our program please feel free to share! You can find these opportunities here: BikeMatchNOLA Also, if you or someone you know is in need of a bicycle, please don’t hesitate to fill out a request. It may take months or years before we get a donation that is a proper fit for a particular request, so please temper expectations.
Besides that, be sure to stay engaged with Bike Easy and check out some of our previous matches and stories. I may be particularly close to this cause, but I think everyone can find it really warming and inspiring to see some of the stories in the requests! I especially love seeing the early years of the program and making out so many smiles even behind masks with pictures from a social distance away!