Why BiCi Co.? – When someone asks you this question, we want you to have a bicycle basket jam packed with ready answers. Our best supporters and advocates are the individuals that love our mission and programs. One of our jobs is to keep you up to speed with why BiCi Co. makes a difference in Hartford and our region. Depending on who asks the question, you can pick the best reason(s). If we happened to miss a reason, please drop it in the comments. This list will be refreshed yearly as our programs develop and grow.
#1 – Hartford Teens and Youth Love Bikes and Cycling – Hartford is a young city with 30% of residents under the age of 18. That provides us with a wealth of opportunity to reach and engage those youth, teens, and young adults. What youth didn’t love riding a bicycle, and Hartford teens are no different. BiCi Co. recognizes that shared love, and the opportunity that provides to engage active youth and teens. The bicycle is a wonderful machine for teaching a multitude of topics from economics of transportation to the history of the feminist movement. The humble bicycle is perfect for introductory lessons in physics and engineering topics. It’s a short spin down the road to reach discussions about urban transportation networks and environmental sustainability. All of these topics are achievable within the framework of BiCi Co. and our youth development programs. Summer Internships, Earn-a-Bike, and even informal hands on DIY Bicycle Repair are transformed from simple activities to the foundation of a teen’s lifelong learning. In the meantime, they are tuning up their bicycles and participating in healthy active transportation that helps them concentrate at school. Win-Win-Win!
#2 Hartford’s Downtown Population Demands Bike-ability and Walkability – In order to balance our municipal budget Hartford needs middle and upper income residents. Like many cities millennials and empty nesters are recognizing the benefits of urban living and considering moving back to urban core cities and town centers. There is a massive potential for increased Downtown residency, with 83% of Hartford’s jobs (~120,000 jobs) held by suburban residents. At this point the recent residential apartment conversions in Hartford are filling up quickly. To maintain that momentum and start deleting parking craters our city desperately needs to focus on Complete Streets – improving walk-ability, bicycle routes, and transit service. These are crucial ingredients that have transformed other cities, and they serve all income levels. To get Hartford from 2,000 Downtown residential units to 10,000 we need those ingredients. BiCi Co. will serve as the community bicycle workshop and future storefront in that recipe. A city cannot be bike-able without a bike shop. In five years BiCi Co. will either have multiple locations, or other bike shops will fill in the expanding demand – both from existing and new residents. We need your help to get the first storefront off the ground to catalyze the movement and related developments.
#3 Hartford Schools Do Not Teach Safe Cycling, and Neither Does the DMV Driver Training – There is no institution in Hartford or through the DMV that teaches bicycle commuting skills. That is a crime in the cradle of the safety bicycle revolution (read up on your Hartford bicycle history). BiCi Co. is filling that gaping hole with youth and adult bicycle safety training. We embed bicycle safety into our BiCi Co. summer internships and Earn-a-Bike programs. In spring 2016 we delivered basic bicycle safety training as part of the BIKELIFE – HARTFORD! program and bicycle giveaway. In the summer of 2016 we worked with Community Solutions at the Swift Factory / 5-Corners (Hartford’s Northend) to include bicycle safety training as part of their bicycle tune-up program. Our future plans include working with Hartford schools to incorporate bicycle safety training as part of elementary physical education programs. BiCi Co. chalked up two Traffic Skills 101 comprehensive bicycle safety courses for adults (age 14+) in 2016, with our 2nd course coming up soon on October 16th (Register Now!). The TS101 course has discounted registration for low income participants and our wonderful BiCi Co. members. Help us grow these programs right now by joining BiCi Co. as a member, or making a financial contribution to our 2016 Fall Campaign.
#4 BiCi Co. Connects Downtown to Park Street – The BiCi Co. storefront activates a key storefront at the node between Downtown and Park Street. The simple bicycle appeals to residents needing basic transportation, downtown dwellers looking for urban commuting options, and our suburban bicycling friends and mechanics. All of these bicycle users converge at the confluence of BiCi Co.’s workshop. You’ll find a mix of these members, volunteers, and customers on at DIY Repair session. New visitors are introduced to Park Street, new friends, and the many restaurants in the immediate area. Instead of two separated silos, Downtown and Park Street need an activated node that serves as a meeting place for groups that otherwise wouldn’t have that opportunity. As we explain to students in our college prep and job training programs, opportunity and employment is all about your network. BiCi Co. is expanding valuable networks in Hartford, and we invite you to join us.
#5 Hartford Needs to Improve Mobility and Jobs Access for Residents – Hartford has an 11% unemployment rate, double that for the rest of the state. Most Hartford residents that are employed work outside of Hartford, and that’s a royal pain if you are dependent on bus transit. With zero bike shops in Hartford, BiCi Co. is working to grow into that niche and provide ready access for residents in need of low cost, flexible, and independent transportation. In addition to selling upcycled bicycles and replacement parts, BiCi Co. works directly with the Center’s job training and re-entry programs to identify participants in need of a bicycle to get to work. The Center is also partnered with local shelters and transition programs that can refer a participant to BiCi Co. for a Bike for Jobs Access. In our first year prototyping this program we distributed more than ten up-cycled bicycles to adults that needed them to get to work. We plan to expand this program in the future, but we can only do that with you support.
#6 Bicycles Enable Generational Asset Building – The median household income in Hartford is only $29,000. That doesn’t provide for most families to own and maintain a car as reliable transportation. The humble, yet powerful, bicycle used in combination with walking and transit can provide the sustainable and efficient transportation our city needs. Families that bypass a car and use bicycles and transit to get around can put money aside for asset building and education expenses. A family interested in saving up a down payment can utilize the services of the Center for Latino Progress H.O.M.E. program to help purchase their first home, as huge indicator and tool for generational asset building. Students and their families scrambling to make ends meet for college costs will be better served by a bicycle (and a bus pass) than a broken down used car. BiCi Co. includes education on the “Economics of Transportation” with our summer interns and Earn-a-Bike participants. The Center’s college prep program includes transportation cost discussions as part of the cost of college going. The Center’s job training and placement programs identify participants that need a bicycle to get that job – and we provide it. Help BiCi Co. empower a generation to find financial stability, starting with efficient, healthy, and economic transportation.
#7 BiCi Co. is a Hub of Active Transportation and Transit Advocacy – You won’t find change without change makers. BiCi Co. provides an organization and support for Hartford change makers that see the path to a sustainable, bike-able, walkable, and transit served city. The city and region have been held back by car-centric infrastructure design and development. Incorporating Complete Streets and pushing policy that sways the preference to human-scale design will usher in a more livable and vital Hartford. BiCi Co. accepts that challenge and has been at the forefront of active transportation and transit advocacy in Hartford. When you support BiCi Co. you support THE HUB of active transportation advocacy and expertise in the Hartford region. Without the hub, the wheel is useless.
#8 UCONN is growing Downtown. – This is important. Those college going young adults, faculty, and staff are forward thinking and excited about active transportation and transit. They want to live, work, and go to school in a city. These folks will treasure a community bike shop and programs within one mile of the new Hartford UConn campus.
Community amenities like BiCi Co. will help UCONN recruit students and staff. The City will be more likely to keep the graduates if our city offers a full plate of the urban experience with walkability and bike-ability high on the list for those moving into thriving cities.
UCONN’s Downtown campus is going to be a more affordable and convenient option for Hartford high school graduates because of the urban location near their homes and the major transit hubs. UCONN will also be able to partner more often with Hartford high schools to offer dual enrollment and credit bearing courses to advanced students that have maxed out their school’s offerings. This ties in well to the Center for Latino Progress’s overall mission of building skills and employability in our diverse community. Come grow with us.
#9 The Time is Now! – There are a multitude of reasons that we have to bring BiCi Co. to fruition this year. Hartford has been without a bicycle shop since 2014 – a travesty and economic injustice for residents. Mayor Bronin and the new City Council understand how active transportation (biking and walking), transit, and multi-modal flexibility serve successful cities around the world. The Planning and Zoning Commission adopted a visionary Complete Streets chapter and City Council is working to adopt a Complete Streets policy. With these policies in place Hartford you will see Hartford’s connected bike lanes and routes taking shape within the next 2-3 years.
The state and federal government are making a huge investment in Hartford and the region with the I-84 redesign. Putting the highway at grade and in some locations “capped” with a platform will greatly improve neighborhood connections and the design incorporates Complete Streets on all of the impacted streets and new connections. This is a new CT DOT, an organization that sends a representative to the monthly Complete Streets Action Team meetings in Hartford.
It is critical to our success as a city to expand BiCi Co. to fill the entire niche of programs including the Park Street storefront. With all these factors coming together at once, Hartford has the opportunity to pivot and embrace active transportation and transit in time to help us weather the brief storm of the I-84 construction project – a heavy storm at that for the city’s corporations and local businesses. Coming out of the I-84 construction Hartford could be the shining example of how to do urban transportation correctly. We have the opportunity to be that city, but we need BiCi Co. to be there helping lead the charge by getting thousands of bicycles under residents and visitors.
In addition to the bicycles, Hartford will be transformed by our next generation of youth that don’t assume a car is the only option. BiCi Co. is reaching a good number of teens right now, but imagine how many we could educate in the next phase with a social enterprise storefront funding school programs and leveraging grant funds to create youth cycling and internship programs across our city. We can start this work right now, but only with your help. If you’ve already become a BiCi Co. member (or renewed your annual membership), please take this moment to spread the word and share this post. The time is now!
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