Remember That Old Bike? These Kids Need It to Get Ahead and Get Around

Kids in a One Community Program
Kids in a One Community Program

You unbreak it, you own it!

Free Wheelin Flyer Credit: Jed Marcus
Free Wheelin Flyer Credit: Jed Marcus

Kids can get paid $15 an hour to learn how to fix and maintain bikes — then keep the bike itself after a nine-session course — thanks to One Community, a Fort Greene/Clinton Hill organization that seeks to empower teens by teaching them valuable bike skills.

And the group is seeking bike donations now to make it all happen.

The organizers say the course will give teens a sense of agency over something, allow them to explore the city, and will expose them to a wider variety of people and experiences, thanks to weekly group rides.

“Kids will be using tools, and looking at a bike as not just an object but actually something that they can control, shape, maintain, change if they’d like,” said Jed Marcus, the leader of One Community. “One kid had a very funny thing he said: ‘I feel like I’m a super hero. Before I would look at a bike and see one thing, and now I look and I see 200 parts!’

“That’s an age where kids are very much in flux, and they’re experimenting in several ways.” Marcus added. “One is they’re making school choices, about how they want to engage with their education.”

One Community’s partner organization Bike New York also sees this as a “fantastic opportunity for local teens.”

“They otherwise might not have access to a bicycle, to earn a bike and learn basic bicycle maintenance skills,” said Bike New York’s Shannon Jordy.

Perviously, One Community focused on teaching adults how to be bike mechanics — and all seven graduates of One Community’s 2020 program ended up being hired by Citi Bike. But from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, One Community branched out to food delivery for people at risk of the virus. It’s all part of the group’s larger mission, Marcus said.

“Our larger aspiration is to dismantle the structures in society that limit people’s range and confine people to entrenched poverty,” said Marcus. “Obviously, we’re dealing with small numbers in relation to the population of our community let alone the city … but each of them, as they experience changes as part of our program, radiate a feeling of access to institutions. So the effect goes beyond the immediate people we help, and … the institutions are opening up, so we’re seeing the beginnings of major change.”

Streetblog's contribution to the project. Credit: Henry Beers Shenk
Full disclosure: Streetblog donated this bike to the project (though it will be used in a raffle because it is too small). Photo: Henry Beers Shenk

For kids, biking improves community awareness and connection, is a great way to get and stay active, and has an enormous positive effect on self-confidence and independence, according to Audacious Foundation research. Also, biking as a group helps create a sense of belonging and community, improving mental health. Biking even improves cognitive function in the long term.

To donate a teen- or adult-sized bike (mountain or hybrid are best) visit the One Community website.

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