YER and GFL Seniors partnership delivers wheels to schools

One of the benefits of working on a shoestring is that you’re looking for ways to make what funds you have go further. As a result, we’ve developed some amazing partnerships. Our newest is with the Bike Shed at the Greater Forest Lawn Seniors center.

After a news item on our Bike Rack was on CTV Calgary, Bent Nielsen reached out to say that he and his buddies fix up bikes, and are looking for people to give them to. Would we be interested in some bikes? We jumped at it – and a great partnership was born.

When Youth en Route started, our goal was to break down the barriers youth face when riding their bikes to schools. Access to bikes was a big issue. We discovered schools wanted bike fleets so they increase cycling skills and student confidence on bikes.

Finding and repairing bikes isn’t easy

But bikes are expensive – and used ones need repairs, parts and a skilled bike mechanic.

This connection has already delivered over 15 bikes for school fleets at Bishop O’Byrne High School and Lester Pearson High School. Next, we’ll start to create the fleet at Forest Lawn High School. A class can be up to 40 students – and that’s our target number for a classroom set.

For Nielsen, Merv Graham, Tyrone Lester and a few other seniors, the Bike Shed keeps them busy on Tuesdays. They often wrap up their repair sessions with a bike ride. It keeps them active and busy.

Bikes ready to go to school bike fleets

“We have a lot of fun,” says Graham. “We try to get the bikes up to a safety standard, where the brakes and gears work, tires roll and inflate. It’s really good to feel we are making a difference.”

The Seniors have received permission from the City of Calgary to salvage bikes from the local landfills.

“It’s often amazing the bikes that we find there,” explains Nielsen. “We are lucky that we are able to be a bit choosy and take the bikes that are in the best condition and will work for our needs.” They will also get bikes to members of the seniors club who want them. “We love riding and want to promote it,” adds Nielsen.

School fleets allow kids to learn to ride or increase their skills

For Youth En Route, the partnership has been tremendous. We are able to help schools build fleets, without incurring many costs. We are very thankful to have a partnership with B & P Cycle, which is near the Seniors Centre in Forest Lawn. Owner Brent Fasick allows the seniors to buy parts at a discount, and Youth en Route uses donations to pay for them.

Graham would like to get to the point when the school fleets are filled, that schools are able to be picky and renew their fleets with better bikes, allowing students who need them to be able to take home wheels.

Recently, CTV news Calgary did a story on the seniors and their work. Many people offered bikes to donate. The group will be busy all summer.

At some of our schools, only 55 per cent of students own bikes, so getting this experience at school can be life-changing. Like swimming, riding a bike is a life skill – and it’s one that we know students need if they even want to consider using a bike as transportation.

“There are students that haven’t ridden a bike for a while and aren’t confident,” explains Lester Pearson HS teacher Mike Witt. “Having these bikes, being able to give them this experience is empowering. We are fortunate to be able to do it.”

If you have questions about the Seniors Bike Shed, reach out to the team at gflshed2@gmail.com
Photo Credit: Main post photo: Kevin Green CTV News Calgary

Nielsen salvages bikes from the landfill
Seniors repair donated and salvaged bikes for youth
Graham speaks to CTV’s Kevin Green for story

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