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Local organization donates 48 bicycles to Spokespeople

Donated bicycles are unloaded at Connecticut College.
Donated bicycles are unloaded at Connecticut College.

Spokespeople, Connecticut College's student-run bicycle collective, is expanding. Thanks to a generous donation of 48 bikes, the group can provide bikes to all those who've requested them, and focus on the long-term goal of launching a bike share or daily rental program on campus."These bikes will be a huge help for us," Celia Whitehead '11, a Spokespeople leader, said as she helped unload the bikes last week. "People borrowed us out this year. We have a wait list of 15 people who want bikes, and lots of new bike initiatives we are trying to start."

The bikes - all different kinds and all in good condition - were donated by Bikes for Kids, a local charity dedicated to providing bicycles and new helmets to needy children. The organization has given away more than 12,000 children's bicycles since it was started in 1989. Dave Fowler, who helps run the charity, said his organization is trying to get back to their mission. "We were collecting adult bikes to send to Haiti to help with earthquake relief," Fowler said. "We sent 136 bikes so far, and we have quite a few more ready to go, but it has become almost impossible to get supplies into the country now." Fowler said Bikes for Kids was able to donate some adult bikes to a state-run facility for adults with disabilities, as well as an organization that helps refugees relocate to the New Haven area. And, after storing the remainder of the bikes for months, he heard about "Spokespeople." "We had the bikes, and you guys have a nice initiative," he said. Tristan Cole '13 said the bikes will be put to good use. "By getting bikes into the community, we are cutting down on car use on campus," he said. "It's actually faster to ride a bike around campus, and so much more efficient and easier on the roads. And it makes the campus seem friendlier."

The proposed bike share program will complement other green transportation initiatives on campus, including the Zipcar rental program, improvements to the pedestrian walkways and new, student-led initiatives to reduce the number of cars on campus, Cole added. "The whole area is really bike friendly," Whitehead said. "Riding downtown is really easy on a bike, and there is such a beautiful countryside to ride surrounding campus. The ride to Mystic, for example, is 10 miles, takes about an hour if you go slow, and is so much more enjoyable on a bike." Spokespeople's mission is to promote bikes as a valid form of transportation, in addition to a leisure activity.

The group also teaches borrowers how to care for their own bicycles, with open workshop hours. "I like to teach people how to do things for themselves, and I like the camaraderie of the bike scene on campus," Whitehead said. Cole added, "I love that we have a full bike shop with all of the tools, and that cool people hang out there." Spokespeople is planning a spring children's bicycle drive on campus to benefit Bikes for Kids. Others interested in supporting Bikes for Kids can contact the organization at P.O. Box 94, Centerbrook, CT 06409.

October 25, 2010