Despite all the flat tires and squeaky brakes, lots of bikes will be rolling to new riders thanks to Chagrin Falls School families and community members who donated to the Junior Student Council bike drive this spring.
On Sunday, April 23rd Chagrin Falls Student Council members Jack Kukla, Chris Currey, Ben Cervelloni, Eneh Turoczi, Cam Lucas, Michael Donley, Allie Kovatch, and Joey King met at the Chagrin Falls Schools’ bus garage, where the bikes they had collected over the previous month had been stored.
There they met Jim Sheehan, executive director of the Ohio City Bicycle Co-op, driving a large pickup with a box trailer, expecting to have their help loading 50 donated bikes. He was pleasantly surprised with the number of bikes they had collected, but it was a good thing they had brought along their own vehicles – several pickups and family cars with bike racks – because together they assessed, sorted and loaded 130 bikes (and two unicycles) for a “convoy” haul downtown to the bike co-op. Fifty of the bikes were to be refurbished by co-op volunteers for the Cleveland Refugee Bike Project, while the rest will support their other educational programs.
“We would like to thank our Chagrin schools’ families and community members who generously donated to the bike drive and helped us build such a great Chagrin/Cleveland community connection,” said Jack Kukla. “In addition, we thank the drivers and mechanics at the bus garage who supported us with their time in greeting donors at the drop off site and providing a secure area for the collection. Student Council would like to thank Safe Routes to School, Mountain Road Cycles, Geigers, and Bike Ohio for their community support, and everyone else involved in making the drive possible.”
On May 22nd, three certified cycling instructors met at the Migration and Refugee Services agency with the first group of refugees that are the recipients of these bikes. These include 17 Arabic speakers, more than half of whom were women. They were all fitted with helmets and sized for their bikes. Four of them learned to ride for the first time right then, and several rode for the first time since their childhood. On May 25th, staff and volunteers from the agency brought the individuals to the Bike Co-Op, with an interpreter, for a class on safe bicycling. The conclusion of the class was a ride back to the agency, where they learned how to use their new bike locks, and, after a celebratory dinner, rode their new bikes back to their homes for the first time.
“These folks were so excited to be getting on bikes; you could tell it’s going to be a big part of their lives.” said Sheehan. “What we learn from working with this first group will be important to scaling this program up in the future,” said Instructor Kevin Cronin, founding director of the local advocacy group Bike Cleveland, which is a partner in this project.
Any further donations may be dropped off at Mountain Road Cycles where they will be passed along to the co-op. Go to Ohio City Cycles to learn all about the many great programs they offer.