By Mary Forbes —
Williams Lake has a bike recycling program called Bikes for All provided by Waste Wise, a program of the Cariboo-Chilcotin Conservation Society. It started simply enough: in my role as Community Waste Educator, I spend a lot of time at the Share Sheds and Transfer Stations and was noticing there were a lot of bikes in all conditions. In one of my previous experiences I repaired bikes at a pedestrian festival and did shifts at Our Community Bikes on Main St. in Vancouver. I knew many of these bikes were just a little elbow grease away from being on the road again.
So, I started collecting, and the more I collected, the more bikes I could fix (lots of parts, you understand). Then it all came together. For a Bike Rodeo three years ago, we collected a bunch of bikes from Red Shreds, added them to some of my rescued bikes, and gave them away to families in need. It was the best event of my life! It was like Christmas every five minutes when I could give a bike to a child and their parents for free, with helmets provided by, the sadly now defunct, Cariboo Brain Injury Association.
Bikes for All is now a huge program providing hundreds of great bikes to new homes in partnership with Barking Spider Mountain Bike and Red Shreds Bike and Board Shed. Last year we re-homed over 40 bikes. This year the number is closer to 50. That is 50 people out enjoying the sun, riding the trails, and commuting free and fast (and safe) around town. Bikes for All also does bike fixing parties at First Nations Communities and has partnered up with Aboriginal Youth Mountain Bike Association (AYMBA) to further share these recycled rides. Bikes for All specializes in kids bikes and older road quality mountain bikes; trail quality and full suspension mountain bikes go to AYMBA or to the Boys and Girls Club for their afterschool rides. Together, we really do get Bikes for All.
What I spend the most time fixing is flat tires. Tubes are always in demand but when it comes to kids’ bikes, something I cannot fix that means the difference between a bike being trash or treasure, is seats and handle bar grips. Who wants to sit on a cut up, possibly soggy with rain water, plastic seat or wrap their hands around sticky gooey grips? Welcome, new owner Jim Anderson from Canadian Tire in Williams Lake who has generously donated a huge number of bar grips so “Ewww” will never be the first thing a kid says when they grab their previously loved bike. This Past Waste Reduction Week October 19 to 25, I set up a booth in the afternoon outside Canadian Tire and had a great day demonstrating simple bike fixing techniques and collecting donated bikes from the community. Red Shreds and Barking Spider have been endlessly generous in donating seats to the program so our supply costs are very low.
Taking a bike apart is a joyous and frustrating endeavour. Sometimes rusty, sometimes seized, sometimes full of spider eggs, when a part comes free it’s like I am suddenly a surgeon saving lives. Scraped knuckles and a big smile are my regular outfit for this activity and I very happy to say I have a wonderful new crew of help from the Columneetza Alternative Class. They came to my junkyard (really, my husband calls it “the horde hole”) and disassembled bikes with me in the same uniform of Band-Aids and grins. The time they provided to dislodge seats, remove kickstands, and crank off old pedals has made it possible for 15 more kids’ bikes to be available in just two hours. By myself, I average one bike an hour so their help was wonderful and appreciated.
All this is possible because of the generous funding from the City of Williams Lake, the Cariboo Regional District, and the Province of BC. Thank you for helping Williams Lake be Waste Wise and thank you very much to Jim at Canadian Tire, the Alternative Class at Columneetza, Red Shreds, Barking Spider, and everyone who has donated a bike to Waste Wise–together we are the cure to garbage. For information please contact firstname.lastname@example.org, (250) 398-7929, or #BK4ALL.