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Reviving Old Bikes: Seacoast Pedal It Forward Initiative

Portsmouth residents primarily rely on cars for transportation. The significance of this dependence becomes apparent when individuals find themselves without a vehicle, highlighting how easily we overlook the privilege of mobility. Conversely, many members of the community face the daily challenge of limited mobility due to the inability to afford personal transportation. To address this issue, a new coalition in the Seacoast region, comprising the Seacoast Area Bicycle Riders (SABR), Port City Makerspace, and proactive community members, has initiated a program to alleviate the mobility constraints faced by those without access to vehicles.

For individuals living at or below the poverty line in our community, owning a car is often financially unattainable, especially considering the current annual cost of car ownership exceeding $10,000. The absence of a car transforms routine trips, such as commuting to work, running errands, attending medical appointments, or visiting friends, into daunting challenges. In such circumstances, residents have limited alternatives, including utilizing the COAST bus routes, walking when feasible, or opting for cycling. Bicycles offer a cost-effective and efficient means of transportation, particularly for reaching various destinations across the Seacoast.

The inception of this initiative traces back to the summer of 2023 when an 11-year-old resident expressed his desire for a bike to ride to school. This heartfelt request spurred Andrea into action, leading to the identification of discarded bikes at the City yard managed by the Department of Public Works (DPW). Collaborating with DPW staffer Steve DeTrolio, who had been redirecting abandoned bikes to nonprofits, Andrea, along with Jason Blades, facilitated the distribution of over 50 refurbished bikes to children residing in Portsmouth Housing Authority (PHA) housing. The continuous influx of discarded bikes prompted Andrea to seek support, culminating in the involvement of SABR.

Established in 1992, SABR advocates for improved biking infrastructure, organizes cycling events, and fosters a vibrant cycling community in the Seacoast region. Recognizing the merit of Andrea’s initiative, SABR embraced the cause of repairing and providing bikes to individuals in need of transportation. Despite initial reservations due to existing commitments, SABR mobilized a dedicated group of volunteers to support this endeavor.

The formation of Seacoast Pedal It Forward (SPIF) emerged from a collaborative effort involving 45 individuals with diverse skills, united in their commitment to refurbishing discarded bikes for those in need. With guidance from local bike shops and support from Port City Makerspace, SPIF secured workspace and initiated the refurbishment process. SPIF focuses on collecting practical adult bikes equipped with racks or baskets, while also fundraising for essential accessories like helmets, locks, and lights. The community’s collective efforts, bolstered by Dawn Przychodzien of Port City Bike Tours, aim to sustain this initiative and promote sustainable transportation solutions.

SPIF encourages community involvement through donations and volunteer opportunities, emphasizing the transformative impact of accessible transportation. By diverting bikes from disposal and reintegrating them into circulation, SPIF envisions a future where cycling remains a viable and eco-friendly mode of transport. As the City prepares to revise its Bicycle-Pedestrian Master Plan, advocating for enhanced bike infrastructure is crucial to ensuring safe and accessible biking options for all residents in Portsmouth.

[Andrea Pickett serves as the Director of Outreach and Engagement at the Portsmouth Housing Authority, while Matt Glenn leads the Seacoast Area Bicycle Riders as president.]