By Kate Norris
You all know that the Bicycle Coalition works to make bicycling a safe and fun way to get around for anyone in the Greater Philadelphia area, but we want to highlight a neighbor who also loves safe cycling and works, among other things, to benefit affordable housing across the United States.
Bike & Build is a 501(c)(3) that engages young adults in community service and adventure while on supported bike tours—and they are based right here in Philadelphia!
(Full disclosure: I rode with Bike and Build on a 2016 route from Providence to Seattle and am an active alum.)
“Through service-oriented cycling trips, Bike & Build benefits affordable housing and empowers young adults for a lifetime of service and civic engagement,” notes Bike & Build on their website. “We envision future generations who are committed to a lifetime of civic engagement and who inspire individuals and communities to create fair, decent housing for all Americans.”
Basically, you and a team of your soon-to-be-closest friends ride your bikes from point A to point B, see all the big cities and small towns in between, and every few days you spend a day volunteering with a local affordable housing organization. Plus, when you sign-up, they send you a snazzy reflective safety triangle.
There are four cross country routes: Northern, Central, Southern, and Maine to Santa Barbara. There is a newer route where you bike the East Coast Greenway with the Keys to Canada route. Or you can get all the fun of a cross-country route, only it’s condensed into three weeks along the coast of Washington state with Drift West.
Riders fundraise before the trip to award grants to affordable housing organizations and to support themselves and their team on the trip. Riders actually read the grant applications on the road and decide, as a team, how to award the money they all raised.
In 15 years, more than 3,500 young adults have participated in Bike & Build. As an alum, I can honestly say that I’ve never encountered such a large group of people who I can trust so entirely. Someone I’ve never met needs only to say what route and year they rode and I know that they’re likely kind, devoted, determined, funny, that we have bond, and can swap some good stories.
Rider and leader applications open on October 1st for our 2019 summer trips. They also offer several different types of scholarships to open up the opportunity to ride with Bike & Build for young adults who otherwise may not have the means to do so.
Riding a bike on roads with cars, especially in an age of ubiquitous cell phone usage, can be dangerous, and Bike & Build works to educate the public about cycling safety in the areas they ride through. There are also pre-trip and on-the-road safety precautions and trainings for teams.
It’s in Bike & Build’s mission to inspire future public service by its riders and to work to benefit (financially and physically) affordable housing causes. But dozens of enthusiastic cyclists (often wearing matching jerseys) riding through some of the biggest cities and smallest, close-knit communities also provides exposure for cycling advocacy.
In my experience, a trip with Bike and Build is not always easy, but it is an adventure that’s fun, weird, challenging, fulfilling, sweaty, sometimes smelly and ultimately amazing.
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