It’s not Paris, where the city has deployed 10,000 bicycles for use by residents at little or no cost, but Cobleskill also has a bike program worth noting. It is called Free Ride, and it has put a couple of dozen broken-down old bikes back on the streets, at the same time teaching kids and adults the art of bicycle maintenance and repair.
Free Ride, which operates out of the Cobleskill Youth Center, was started just six weeks ago by Steve Cash, who worked on a similar program two years ago in Montana. It depends on volunteers who fix up donated bikes, using old parts. Everyone is welcome, whether they know anything about bikes or not. Anyone who fixes one up gets to keep it. Some of the recycled bikes are sold at nominal cost to students at SUNY Cobleskill, which itself has a lot of donated bikes and was already thinking in terms of a community-wide program.
The benefits of bicycling are numerous, including exercise, gasoline savings, reduced carbon emissions and less need for parking. All communities should be doing more to encourage it, both for fun and transportation. And they don’t have to build expensive bike paths or even create dedicated bike streets or lanes, though that is preferred. A compromise would be to simply create temporary bike streets or lanes, where cars would be prohibited on certain days or certain hours of the day.
But the bikes themselves aren’t the only benefit of this program, or a similar one in the Capital Region called Troy Bike Rescue (which has been in existence since 2001). They also bring people of all ages together for a socially useful cause, and teaches them a useful skill that will allow them to help themselves and others, and could even lead to a job.
Donate a bike, fix a bike, ride a bike. It feels good.