In New York City, a nonprofit organization named Recycle-A-Bicycle provides educational and job-training programs while encouraging environmental stewardship and everyday bicycle use. Members salvage about 1,200 bicycles each year and last year worked with 1,000 young people through public schools and after-school programs.
Recycle-A-Bicycle’s website, recycleabicycle.org, features a 72-page manual titled “Tools for Life” that provides instruction on how to create a school-based cycling program.
Could such a program work in Oklahoma City?
WHEELS OF FORTUNE
Oklahoma City has a history of bicycle recycling programs. Local artist Bill Byrd said he ran an after-school bike-repair-training program in the mid-1990s called “Wheels After School.”
“I was working as an auto mechanic at my house,” Byrd said. “The kids from Edgemere (Elementary School) used to come over all the time, and I would work on their bikes. From there, I kind of hooked up this idea of doing a training program for inner-city kids.”
Byrd received donated bikes from different places, including more than 100 from local vocational-technical schools. He taught three different classes of about seven students weekly.
“I would select bikes that were rebuild-able,” he said. “We stripped the bicycles down to the bare frame. I had some volunteers who helped paint them, and then we would re-assemble them with basically new parts, new tires and tubes.”
Wheels After School was in its second year when problems forced Byrd to shut the program down.
“It was very difficult to work with these kids. They were rather unsocalized, and there was a lot of envy and fighting over ownership of this and that. They all built their own bikes, but it wasn’t smooth sailing,” he said. “I sure learned a lot. I came out of it being kind of moved by the experience.”
An entity called Scissortail Social Space (formerly OKC Infoshop) also operated for a time at 3012 N. Walker, offering a bicycle workshop and lending library to the public. OKC has a legacy of unorganized individuals who fix bicycles to give to others, Byrd said.
“I don’t know anybody right now that’s doing that, but every once in awhile I hear about somebody,” Byrd said. “I still get calls now and then from somebody who wants to donate a bicycle.” he said.
Now Byrd builds decorative bike racks and sells them to local businesses and libraries. He still fixes bikes for neighborhood children.
“People really connect with the geometry and the structure of a bicycle, because it’s so universal,“ he said. “If you draw two triangles back-to-back and put a couple of circles around them, it’s the symbol of a bicycle that is so universal you could show to almost any person on the earth, at any age, and they know what it is.”
Oklahoma Bicycle Society President Roger Welch said cycling is on the rise in Central Oklahoma.
“We get a few new members of OBS each month. The local bike shops certainly seem to be doing well,” he said.
OBS has about 600 members, and several other cycling clubs exist in the region, he said.
The organization bought 722 bike helmets last year through its Helmets for Kids program, and OBS volunteers put together bicycles for underprivileged children through programs with the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Salvation Army Women’s Auxiliary, Welch said.
Central Oklahoma’s official Bike to Work Day was held May 20, coordinated by the Association of Central Oklahoma Governments, regional bicycle advocates and the cities of Oklahoma City, Guthrie, Midwest City, Moore, Norman, Yukon and Edmond.
OKC and Edmond altered ordinances recently to protect cyclists. OKC changed to allow cyclists to use the full right-hand lane on designated bicycle routes. The law also requires motorists to change lanes to pass cyclists on marked bike routes.
Edmond drivers must now give cyclists at least 3 feet of space when passing or risk a $500 fine. Welch said the 3-feet rule has been a state law for years, but an injury accident had to occur before a motorist could be ticketed.
“They no longer have to kill you to get a ticket,” he said.