Routt County Riders unveils program that provides bikes to children from lower-income households
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Though Routt County has earned a reputation as a bike-friendly community, bicycle advocates said biking and other outdoor recreation opportunities are often only accessible to more affluent members of the community.
In an effort to help combat this, Routt County Riders, an outdoor recreation advocacy group, is launching a new program that will provide used bicycles to children in the community from lower-income households.
The program, called Bike Match, will launch this spring, and the group is looking to hire a community member to work part time collecting and fixing bikes, then distributing them to children and families. The nonprofit is also seeking donations of bikes for the program.
“Those of us here in Steamboat live and enjoy kind of a privileged existence with the ability to access our national forest and our public lands right from town,” Routt County Riders Executive Director Laraine Martin said. “Sometimes, we take for granted the fact that we’ve been given the chance to play, and that is not something that’s always super easy for people to come by.”
Martin said biking can be an especially expensive sport because kids outgrow equipment, and bikes require repairs and tune-ups after they’re initially bought, which is why the organization is asking specifically for donations of well-kept bikes.
“We’d like to see if this is a program that can equalize some of the playing ground as far as getting bikes into the hands that need them the most,” Martin said. “We’re thinking, first and foremost, about some of the kids in the communities that don’t have the same access as others and how that can create problems through life.”
Kelly Landers, development director with the Boys & Girls Club of Northwest Colorado, said her organization is excited to participate in the program, because it works with many lower-income children who could greatly benefit from receiving a bike.
“You give a kid a bike, and they get that freedom to get to your friend’s house or to the park,” Landers said. “It’s going to be great to make them accessible to all the kids.“
Landers said the club worked with two teenage boys who actively participated in group activities every day except for Wednesdays, which were bike days. Landers and other staff members wondered why the boys were not participating, then realized it was because they could not afford bicycles.
“We were lucky enough that a donor dropped off two fully tuned bikes, and it was life changing for these kids,” Landers said. “They were in heaven.”
Helen Beall, community impact manager at the Yampa Valley Community Foundation, said the foundation is promoting the program to its donors, because many in the community are passionate about outdoor recreation and are seeking ways to expand opportunities to lower-income residents.
“It’s the premise of Steamboat and Routt County being such a cycling-heavy community and being able to offer a program that provides access to all of our community members to be able to enjoy riding a bike,” Beall said.
While the program will start primarily in Steamboat Springs, Martin hopes to expand it throughout Routt County and eventually throughout Northwest Colorado.
“There are certainly people who want and need bikes out in Moffat County,” Martin said.
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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