An oft-quoted Chinese proverb says that giving a man a fish feeds him for a day, but teaching him to fish feeds him for life. A Birmingham bicycling group plans to use a small grant to help teach adults and children about biking with hope that they will turn into lifelong cyclists.
Last month, Bici Coop won a $5,000 micro-grant at the Bham FEAST dinner, where five finalists presented their ideas for community-enhancing projects that make use of design. Diners watched the presentations and then voted on which idea to fund.
Bham FEAST was the culminating event of Design Week Birmingham, and 33 individuals or groups submitted proposals, which were pared down to the five finalists who made presentations at the dinner.
A nonprofit organization, Bici (pronounced “beachy”) was founded in 2009 with the idea that Birmingham needed a place for everyone interested in bikes, from cycling enthusiasts to people who don’t know how to ride but need transportation.
When asked what the cooperative’s plans for the micro-grant are, Bici President Alan Barton replied, “We’re going to purchase a trailer and design a portable bike shop that we can tow…to some of our off-site programs.”
The trailer will allow Bici volunteers to expand the afterschool and outreach programs the coop already offers and to bring its bike repair shop to locations around town.
“Our main goal is to provide equal access to cycling. We have a do-it-yourself bike shop that is open Mondays and Thursdays from 6 to 8 p.m.,” Barton says. The shop is located at 4500 Fifth Ave. South.
Bici volunteers — all of whom work at local bike shops — staff the Bici shop, where cyclists can bring bikes that need repair. “We don’t do things for people,” Barton says. “We teach them how to do it themselves.”
Users can learn from the volunteers and have access to donated bike parts. The cost is $5 an hour for use of the shop and $5 per part, he says.
Bici also does advocacy programs at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, bike checks in East Lake and bike rodeos. The group has been at the East Lake Farmers Market for several years and also offers the ABC Quick Check Bike Learning program for children and bike rodeos.
“Nothing is in stone for next year, but we want to expand on the ABC Quick Check program, because we feel that is where our impact is greatest,” Barton says. Having the trailer will allow Bici to take the program to additional locations and events.
The program includes training on bike maintenance, helmet safety and biking rules. “We go on a group ride around where we do the actual program,” he says. “It might create a future bicycle mechanic or create an idea that, ‘Hey, I can do stuff.’”
He adds that biking can have another benefit. “Maybe we can curb some of the problems with childhood obesity,” he says.
Bici will now move ahead with plans for the trailer, beginning with getting a group of volunteers together to discuss plans. “We have until the spring to debut it with the FEAST organization. I think we will be well ahead of that,” Barton says.