How the Lincoln Bike Kitchen is getting more people riding bikes

June 17, 2015

Meghan McCloskey, National Bike Challenge coordinator

A young girl with her bike on New Bike Day (Image: Lincoln Bike Kitchen)

The rider goal for the National Bike Challenge has just been updated to 100,000 participants. Although this is a specific goal, the purpose of the Challenge is to simply get more people riding bikes. We couldn’t reach these goals without the help of local organizations all over the country with the same purpose in mind. One of these organizations is the Lincoln Bike Kitchen. They are playing a huge part, not only in spreading the word about the Challenge, but also working hard to get everyone in their community riding.

The Lincoln Bike Kitchen is located in Lincoln, Nebraska and is run entirely on volunteer hours and donations. It is a community-building organization that advocates for cycling as a fun, healthy and cost effective mode of transportation. The basis of building this kind of community starts with getting everyone on a bike. And this is precisely what the Lincoln Bike Kitchen is aiming to do—get everyone, no matter his or her age or economic status, on a bike. 

Pepito Fierro founded the Kitchen in 2010. He is a local restaurateur who started pulling old bike frames and parts out of dumpsters, fixing them up, and dropping them at a local coffee shop for free. Eventually, more and more community members wanted to help Pepe out, and this is how the Kitchen started. “A bike helped me get back on my feet when I was living out of my car. I wanted to give back to the community by making bikes available to others,” he says. 

A group of volunteers refurbishing bikes in the winter to get ready for riding season (Image: Lincoln Bike Kitchen)

One of these initial volunteers who joined Pepito was BJ. She is now on the board of directors and a full-time volunteer. The Kitchen runs on volunteer hours and is open to the public 10 hours a week. In order to receive a free bike, adults need to volunteer 10 hours of their time. According to BJ, many stay on past these initial hours. Right now, there are 12 regular volunteers who build and maintain bikes. 

For youth, the bikes come at no cost at all. Any young person who is in need of a bike receives one on what the Kitchen calls “New Bike Day”. All they have to do is come in with a parent, get fitted for the right bike and ride off with their new bicycle. At the end of the year, BJ estimates they give out around 60 adult bikes and 150 kids bikes. “Part of our mission is to build a community of people who like bikes,” BJ says. 

To tie in with this mission, BJ uses the National Bike Challenge as a way to incentivize her fellow volunteers and customers to start, and continue, to ride. She takes the opportunity to get to know her customers and encourages them to join the Challenge. “I get to talk to them about operating a bike safely, and about how much better it makes me feel when I ride my bike. And, every year, I get to tell them about the NBC, and about how being a part of the NBC can make biking better,” she explains. Right now, the Lincoln Bike Kitchen team is made up of 14 riders who have logged a total of 3,743 miles for the first month and a half of the Challenge.

BJ checking the brakes on a bike before sending it off with its new owner. (Image: Lincoln Bike Kitchen)

BJ also encourages participants to immerse themselves in the Challenge community. She sees the Rider Updates on the homepage as a perfect opportunity for her community members to get biking advice, hear others’ stories and share their own. There are many success stories to share that come out of the Lincoln Bike Kitchen. BJ remembers one in particular—how a bike from the Kitchen helped a community member get out of a homeless shelter. “We don’t care why you need a bike and we don’t ask you for anything in return. We just want everyone to get on a bike,” BJ says. 

The same goes for the National Bike Challenge. It doesn’t matter where you live, why you ride or how far you are going—as long as you are riding a bike, you can be part of the Challenge community.

See all National Bike Challenge blog entries

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