Recycling Bikes Inspires Social Entreprenuership

Holly Reich
New York Daily News, October 12, 2011
Original Article

According to recent data from the NYC Department of Transportation, bicycling is New York City’s fastest growing mode of transportation/ IN the last year, 51000 New Yorkers started biking, an increase of 28 percent. This increase calls for everything from new rules of the road and active legislation to involvement through community based organizations.

Recycle-A-Bicycle (RAB), a non-profit, community based bike ship is one such initiative. Geared towards NYC youth and founded in 1994, RAB runs programs including Earn-A-Bike, Green Jobs Training, High School Internships, Recycled Arts Workshops, Summer Youth Employment Program, and Kids Ride Club. In the past year alone, more than 1,000 RAB youth refurbished 500 bicycles, pedaled 10,000 miles, and burned 1,500,000 calories. “Every purchase from our storefronts directly supports our youth programs and environmental initiatives,” says Pasqualina Azzarello, director of RAB.

In 2001, Azzarello, an artist, was commissioned by Recycle-A0-Bicycle to create a public mural with the program’s youth. She continued to work with the organization as an artist and educator, and in 2009, she became the director of RAB.

RAB works with 12 year-round employees, 50 volunteer ride marshals, 100 volunteer bike mechanics, 1,000 youth participants, and over 10,000 customers and advocates.

One of RAB’s most celebrated volunteers, Kimberly White, is an 18-year-old sophomore studying environmental justice law at Baruch College. She participated in the CUNY summer program, Community Roots, in 2009. Her bike passion started when she took a workshop on making sculptures from recycled bicycle parts (that were later installed in a community garden). White has been rolling with the program ever since.

“At the end of the session, White approached me to ask how she could get involved,” explains Azzarello. The two quickly came up with a plan. White agreed to bring four students from her high school (Midwood in Brooklyn), and Azzarello agreed to create an internship program with an Earn-A-Bike option once they had completed the course curriculum

“Through her work,” says Azzarello, “Kimberly began to make connections about what a bicycle can mean for a person, a community and the planet.”

In March 2010, White traveled with Recycle-A-Bicycle to Washington, D.C. to attend the League of American Bicyclists’ National Bike Summit.

“As we debriefed on the bus ride home, we discussed the importance of engaging youth in the national dialogue of cycling education and advocacy. As a result, the idea of the Youth Bike Summit was created,” says White.

The first Summit, held last year, was a three day gathering geared toward youth, bicycle, education, and advocacy. The aim was to explore, network and learn how bicycling can be a legitimate and safe form of transportation for today’s youth.

“I talk to people about cycling and about what it can mean as a young person to become a cyclist and/or a bike mechanic,” explains White, who says that bicycling was her way of gaining independence from her parents – a way of not being reliant on them for money or transportation.

“This is an incredibly exciting moment in our city when it comes to biking and more options for viable, affordable, sustainable transportation,” Azzarello says. To note, the NYC Bike Share program is launching summer of 2012 with 10,000 bikes at over 600 stations available 24/7. The bike share systems provide sturdy bikes at self-service docking stations around town. It’s one of those options that continues to make NYC a better place to live.