Creating Green Commuters from Scratch in Portland


Participants in a "Create a Commuter" workshop at Metropolis Cycle Repair. Photos by the Community Cycling Center via Flickr.

One of the things bike and transit advocates always struggle with is how to get people out of their cars -- how to convince people used to driving in their own vehicles that commuting by bicycle or public transportation isn't as hard/slow/inconvenient/fill in the blank as they may believe.

But what about people who've never gotten used to driving in the first place? An innovative program in Portland, Oregon, is helping improve their access to employment opportunities without adding to urban pollution by turning car-less low-income individuals into bike commuters.Empowering Low-Income Adults
Wend Magazine tipped us off to the "Create a Commuter" program, which provides free refurbished bicycles to people who need a way to get to work and trains them in basic bike repair and safe riding tips. It even provides a helmet, a cargo rack, an air pump, a patch kit, and a lock with each bike.

Local social-services agencies refer potential bike commuters to the nonprofit Community Cycling Center, which runs the program. Last year, 231 participants throughout the Portland metropolitan area received bikes at a total of 17 workshops. Besides providing a reliable way to get to jobs and interviews -- often a major stumbling block for poor people trying to enter the workforce -- the bikes help combat the high rates of obesity in low-income communities.

Bike Camps for Kids
The center's other innovative offerings include bike summer camp and earn-a-bike after-school programs for kids, bike-maintenance classes especially for women, and a full-service professional bike shop selling exclusively donated and refurbished wheels. Donated bikes that are unfixable are responsibly recycled with the help of volunteers, who kept more than 44,000 pounds of steel from going to the scrapheap in 2008 alone. Thanks to partnerships with artists and companies in the community, some of the old bike parts end up as cool new tables, chairs, key chains, wine racks, and other functional and decorative artwork. Think of it as leaving no bike (or potential biker) behind.

More about bike commuting:
Commute to Work by Bike
Celebrate Bike to Work Day
Find Safe, Easy Routes to Travel by Bike
Bike Commute Too Strenuous? Try the Moto-Hybrid Bike!
Great Green Job Alert! Be a Bike Commuter Guide
Bike Commuting Is On the Rise, In Toronto Anyways
Design Competition: A Commuter Bike for the Masses
More Bike Commuters on the Road, But Are They Being Safe?
Extreme Bicycle Commuting in New York City

Tags: Bikes | Biking | Commuting | Oregon | Portland | Urban Life

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