Northampton trails group gives people a leg up onto bikes

  • Avery Lewis, 12, and his sister, Emma Lewis, 8, ride bicycles on Aug. 21 near their home in Northampton that they received through the Bikes for All program led by Friends of Northampton Trails. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Emma Lewis, 8, rides a bicycle near her home in Northampton on Aug. 21 that she received through the Bikes for All program led by Friends of Northampton Trails. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Avery Lewis, 12, rides a bicycle near his home in Northampton on Aug. 21 that he received through the Bikes for All program led by Friends of Northampton Trails. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

  • Avery Lewis, 12, and his sister, Emma Lewis, 8, with their bicycles, which they received them through the Bikes for All program led by Friends of Northampton Trails. STAFF PHOTO/JERREY ROBERTS

Staff Writer
Published: 8/29/2020 3:26:40 PM

NORTHAMPTON — The Northampton Public School’s free meals program has helped Kristi Lewis and her two kids, 8 and 12, get through the summer. When she went to the Pleasant Street location recently to pick up meals, she was surprised when someone there asked if her kids needed bicycles.

They had them in the past, but her daughter grew out of her bike, and her son’s had fallen apart. The question came from a new initiative, “Bikes for All,” led by the Friends of Northampton Trails that aims to get bikes to those who otherwise may not be able to afford them. 

Lewis’ 8-year-old daughter got a bike two weeks ago and, and “she rides it every day,” she said, and her son received a bike through the program as well.

With COVID-19 limiting activity options for kids and families, it’s important to spend time outside, she said, but, “a lot of families don't have the means to do that.” She added, “I just think the exercise aspect of it is crucial. A lot of kids are sitting at home.”

The pilot project has provided bicycles to than 25 people and is working to give out several more, said Tom Bodo, the project’s coordinator. The initiative is wrapping up for the season, but George Kohout, president of Friends of Northampton Trails, hopes the group can do it again in the spring.

Protests in support of Black Lives Matter that took place locally and nationally this spring and summer sparked discussion within the trail group’s board, Kohout recalled. “The whole Black Lives Matter movement kind of prompted our board to have a discussion about, what are we doing in terms of helping all communities access the trails around Northampton? What can we do within our organization to be part of the solution?” Kohout said.

In talking about racial and social justice, Bodo said, they decided they wanted to increase access to the trails.  

Most of the bicycles went to youths, but some adults received them as well, Kohout said. The group advertised at food distribution sites set up by Grow Food Northampton, the Northampton Survival Center and the Northampton Public Schools. Volunteers at Grow Food Northampton and the Survival Center handed out flyers about the program.

The group gathered the names and heights of those wanting bikes and collected used bikes from the community and volunteer mechanics helped fix them. Northampton Bicycle helped order parts; Speed and Sprocket Cycle Works helped fix bicycles; and Ruthy Woodring, of Pedal People and the Bike Lab, helped collect bikes, Bodo said. “This was really a community project,” he said.

Many requested bicycles.

“We’re still receiving phone calls,” Kohout said. Amid the pandemic, there’s an increased desire to spent time outside, Bodo said. “The demand for bikes is high,” he said. “The supply for bikes is actually pretty low, and a lot of people don’t have the money to buy a bike.”

Along with the bikes, people got helmets and lights for night riding, and trail friends group plans to hold basic bike safety and maintenance classes when it’s safe to do so.

Greta Jochem can be reached at gjochem@gazettenet.com.




Daily Hampshire Gazette Office

115 Conz Street
Northampton, MA 01061
413-584-5000

 

Copyright © 2020 by H.S. Gere & Sons, Inc.
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy