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Santa Cruz Indymedia | Health, Housing, and Public Services

Time to Support the Bike Church Tool Collective
by Steve Pleich
Tuesday Jan 7th, 2014 1:03 PM
Reinstate the Program to Distribute Unclaimed Bikes to Youth
Next Tuesday, January 14th, the Santa Cruz City Council will decide whether or not to reinstate the long-standing program of distributing unclaimed bicycles to youth in need. And although I may be coming somewhat late to the party, I now add my voice in support of the community service performed in this regard by the Bike Church Tool Collective.

Many community members may be unaware that every year the City ends up with hundreds of unclaimed bikes. Because the bikes are generally of moderate to low quality and many are in disrepair, they offer little cash value to the City through auctioning. In 1996 the City began distributing them to youth in need, turning these old bikes into a valuable community resource. The distributions were open to any qualified nonprofit working with youth, including our local Bike Church Tool Collective.

The City, for reasons still unclear to many, ended this arrangement in 2012, and the five groups that took the most bikes under the Bike Church's management -- Barrios Unidos, Project Bike Trip's high school repair classes, Watsonville Bike Shack, Green Ways to School, and Western Service Workers Association -- all wrote letters praising the Bike Church and the former program and asking that it be reinstated. Sadly, that request went unheeded by our civic leaders. Since that time, none of these groups have been given the opportunity to participate in the program and many bikes were that previously would have gone to teens were instead sold.

There are many reasons to support the Bike Church Tool Collective. It diverts tons of usable bike materials from the waste stream and makes them available cheap-to-free to the community. It makes it possible for people who don't have cash to earn bike parts or a functional bike through sweat equity. It should be noted that even in the vacuum created by the demise of the city’s bicycle distribution program, this volunteer-run project has given away more than 650 bicycles in the past five years, over half of these to youth and the rest to adults through our earn-a-bike program.

But just as importantly, the Bike Church Tool Collective has continued to perform its primary function as an educational workspace where people can learn to work on bikes for themselves. Steve Schnaar and the other members of the collective have been educating and empowering a diverse range of people for more than 13 years, providing a valuable service that draws people to their space nearly every day.

So it is time to stand up, show up and speak up in support of the reinstatement of this program with the full participation of the Bike Church Tool Collective. This is our community and we should decide how and by what means abandoned and still useable bike and bike parts are returned to the community for the benefit of those in need. In advance of the council meeting of January 14th, people can register their opinions on the Civinomics web site @Reinstate Distribution of Unclaimed Bicycles to Youth.

Lets’ all support our friends at the Bike Church Tool Collective. And let’s do it today!