US-based bicycle advocacy group One Street are expanding their Social Bike Business Program, which creates jobs through the manufacture of bikes for disadvantaged people.
New branches of the project are being established in Nevada and Arizona, thanks to grants from the Colorado-based New Belgium Brewing Company, in Los Angeles, and even in Europe, in the Czech capital Prague and Budapest, Hungary.
"I've seen this lack of connection between bike advocacy and the rest of the non-profit world," said One Street's executive director Sue Knaup. "Mainly with social issues like poverty and job training.
"As a bike shop owner I was especially put off by how each year bike models kept getting more flashy and higher priced, and how that prevented the basic models of transportation that locals need."
The Social Bike Business Program was launched in 2007 to tackle three problems: a lack of affordable, good quality and environmentally friendly transportation bicycles; bike shops poorly serving communities; and a lack of industry jobs for disadvantaged people. The aim is to create well-paying jobs and offer schooling and training.
"We start with establishing and working with a local team through fundraising," Knaup said. "To get the program started we expect that even the local team should get paid. When they establish the bike community centre, it is meant to be run by local residents and established inside that low income neighbourhood.”
Training centres are constructed which offer modules on bicycle repair basics, running a social bike shop, merchandising and marketing, business management, sales and customer service, and advanced repair. A seventh course is offered that teaches aspects of bicycle manufacturing such as design, welding, painting, decals and assembly.
Locals can take one or all of the courses and re-enter the community with the ability to manage a social bike shop. Bikes are designed, manufactured and distributed to local people in poverty and distress.
“Social bikes differ from other bikes because they are manufactured at the centre, go out the door and are sold in that neighborhood,” Knaup said. “They are designed by the locals with a basic design: the diamond frame design with integrated racks and a fairly long wheelbase. The locals design gears, fenders, colour and graphics of choice so they fit the bike culture and social culture of that area.”
Knaup admitted that a system that works in one culture might not work in another. "On an international level, our job is to create a list of elements that have worked and some to avoid based on what we have discovered along the way," Knaup said. "We present these elements to the city and ask what they like the most and the move toward the next step."
The New Belgium Brewing Company have came on board to fund the Social Bike Business Program in the south-west states of Nevada and Arizona. "They've been wonderful," Knaup said. "Checking in from the beginning, they were attracted to our work.
"They're also a social business in a way. Their employees have a share in the company, a say in big decisions, [the company is] run by wind power and they encourage employees to ride bikes. They're one of very few that use the word bicycle in their suggested programs that they prefer to fund."