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Nonprofit program helps disadvantaged Puebloans build their own bikes

Josue Perez

Pueblo Chieftain USA TODAY NETWORK

A Pueblo bicycle repair nonprofit is set to start a new program that will allow participants to build their own bikes.

Pueblo Green Chile Bike Bank, which “restores, repairs and recycles” bikes in Pueblo, according to its website, will launch a skills and community-building educational program on Monday for eligible participants.

Low-income residents lacking the money to purchase a bike and people experiencing housing insecurity or homelessness are eligible for the program. The nonprofit typically serves people among those populations, as well as new Pueblo residents who are unemployed, just out of prison or undergoing substance abuse treatment, said co-director Michael Hazel.

People who are interested in the course but aren’t eligible can potentially still take it and receive a certificate,

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but on a space-available basis.

Program participants will get a chance to build their own bike and receive a $200 stipend and certificate for completing a 20-hour curriculum.

“Our hope is that anyone completing the course can use the skills, confidence, community and bike they’ve built to go on to whatever opportunity is next for them, with the whole support of the GCBB team behind them,” the organization said in a news release.

The curriculum requires participants to complete a trio of twohour bike maintenance and building classes, three supervised shop nights where they work with volunteer mechanics on bike restorations and five hours of community bike riding. The latter comes with an extra requirement — visit a local bike shop and community repair station and complete two bike repairs.

“Some people, we understand, just need a bike,” Hazel said. “Others want to come in and learn some skills and get connected with the community and maybe do something (with that) afterwards. It’s partly about community, too, and getting people connected.”

A grant from the KRD Foundation is helping fund the upcoming program. Green Chile Bike Bank is actively recruiting participants.

The program is the latest project from the nonprofit that has made it its mission to get marginalized Puebloans on bikes. Since launching in January 2020, Green Chile Bike Bank has restored and distributed more than 650 bikes and conducted around 1,000 major and minor bike repairs with its group of volunteers, Hazel said.

The organization restores and distributes around three bikes per week, a rate that usually picks up in the summer, and it’s remained active this winter despite the colder weather.

Green Chile Bike Bank also has filled a need for its clientele. Some people who receive a bike from them report that they use their bike to ride home after completing an evening shift at work because the schedule for the bus route they take ends, Hazel said.

“There’s more need than there would be otherwise if there were more public transit,” Hazel said. “We try to meet some of that gap.”

Another goal the nonprofit’s volunteers have for the new program is better integration of community members to their mission, said Hazel, who believes “there’s value in building those connections across the community.”

Colorado in recent years had one of the highest rates of bicycle commuters in the U.S. at 1.1%, according to 2020 data from The League of American Bicyclists. Only Oregon had a higher rate, at 2%.

Boulder, Fort Collins and Denver had some of the highest bicycle commuter rates across the state at 9.1%, 4.9% and 2.1%, respectively, according to the data. Colorado Springs, another large Colorado city, had a bicycle commuter rate of 0.5%, which was one of the lower rates among cities with high populations.

The League of American Bicyclists did not have data on Pueblo in its report.

Pueblo has several bike lanes and multi-use trails, according to a trail map from the city of Pueblo, though there are none on streets on the city’s east side.

Although Hazel said he’s unsure exactly how many people in Pueblo bike to work, he said he has seen bikes that Green Chile Bike Bank has distributed “all over town” and that Pueblo “has a great climate for cycling.”

“We know what we’re doing has an impact for those who need it,” Hazel said.

Green Chile Bike Bank is accepting donations of partial or complete bikes, especially mountain bikes or cruisers with 26inch wheels that were made in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, along with tools and accessories. Donations can be dropped off at Great Divide Ski, Bike and Hike on 400 N. Sante Fe Ave. The organization is also accepting financial contributions.

Because of its limited time and group of volunteers, the nonprofit is completing its repairs and distributions by appointment only.

For more information, visit Chieftain reporter Josue Perez can be reached at JHPerez@gannett. com. Follow him on Twitter @josuepwrites.

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