Spring clean up season means bike donations

It’s that time of year. Calgarians are eager to clean their garages, basements and reduce clutter. In the past two weeks, Youth en Route has received countless offers of bike donations.

Bikes stacked in the Shepard Landfill

We thought we’d share a few details about our challenges when it comes to bike donations

Now, don’t get us wrong. we LOVE getting bikes – and we are committed to keeping bikes out of the landfill.

Our partnership with the seniors at the Greater Forest Lawn Seniors Centre means we are able to deliver bikes to schools for very little cost. This has been key to being able to get bike fleets in five Calgary high schools.

Our challenge is picking up, moving around and storing bikes. The Forest Lawn Bike Shed only has room to store about 20 bikes – and that’s not leaving much room to work.

What we need for bikes

Because our bikes go to schools – and become PE equipment, we have specific needs and standards. Our preferred bike is a mountain or hybrid style with 26-inch tires, good components, gears and an upright geometry that makes it easy to ride. We are taking some smaller youth bikes for our first middle school project. Send an email to info@youthenroute.ca or use our website contact form and tell us about the bike you want to donate. Ideally, you can hold on to it until we have capacity to refurbish it.

We get many bikes donated that we can’t use. So we upcycle them. For kids bikes, we work closely with the Kiwanis Club of Calgary Chinook and their bike program. They have a form for taking donations. Wheels for Kids is another group that refurbishes kids bikes. We also will get bikes to the local chapter of Bikes for Humanity. The volunteers will take just about any size or shape of bike – even cruisers without gears. They have drop off locations listed on their website. Many people are familiar with Two Wheel View – they also take donations and often share their spare donations with other groups, including us. We also share and exchange used bikes with Cody’s Bikes and Bathtub Bikes – and they both take donations as well.

Bike fleet ready for riding at Forest Lawn High

It helps all bike charities if you donate your bike to the right group off the bat – it saves volunteers driving around to deliver bikes. If we can’t make use of your donation, we’ll let you know and suggest another charity.

Please deliver your donation to us

We don’t have the people to be able to pick up bike donations. We have a couple of awesome Calgarians that we call our bike ferries, or fairies – depending on if they are picking up donations or dropping bikes at schools. Rose and Will Ratliffe are avid cyclists and have been known to volunteer with many bike related charities – including ours. They have a pick up truck, with a bike rack, and have been able to move 14 bikes in one trip. We’ve also been able to tap Maverick Decks, and owner Maverick Lauzon, to move a load of 25 bikes to a school for us.

However, we only use the Ratliffes for big moves. They can’t really help us with people who just want to give us a bike – but don’t have a way to transport it. Often, we get an offer of a bike from a senior, or someone that isn’t able to deliver it to the Bike Shed, (or to Bathtub Bikes – our awesome partner who will take in donations for us!) We know lots of other bike charities are in the same situation. (Hint, hint – if anyone wants a volunteer gig reach out!) We’ve also been asked to be the recipient of bike donations at community Spring clean ups. We’d love to do this, in partnership with other charities that can use the bikes we don’t need, but again we’re lacking the truck and the volunteers.

Unloading bikes at the Shed
Steve working on a donated bike
The crew in the Bike Shed

Keeping bikes and parts out of landfills

Most bike charities are committed to ethically recycling the bikes that can’t be fixed – that means removing components that can be used and stripping down to the component metals and materials for recycling. When you make a donation of any bike – you should ask what will happen to it if it can no longer be ridden.

If you have a spare bike, you can often post it for free on local sites like Kijiji or Facebook marketplace. Some community associations also have postings for free stuff. Please don’t put it in the garbage.

We’re doing our part by working to find uses for old bike parts. Right now, we’re collecting tire tubes from bike shops to use as chain covers on our Youth en Route bike rack.

Youth en Route is exploring ways to streamline the bike donation system and get the right bikes to the right charities where they will be loved and used, fostering independence. If you have thoughts or want to help with a broader bike recycling project, reach out.

Old tire tube covers chain on YER rack

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