For many people in our community access to reliable transportation is crucial. When public transportation is the only option, people are forced to work around bus schedules or other costly alternatives. Reno Bike Project’s ‘Biggest Little Commuter Program’ has taken this issue head on.
“Being poor is a full time job. For people to not to have to wait for the bus, to have the reliability of their own timeline–it’s no small thing,” Jillian Keller, Adult Programs Coordinator for Reno Bike Project said.
The Biggest Little Commuter Program (BLCP) has been helping people in our community get to where they need to go since 2013.
Located roughly one mile south of Reno’s Midtown district, Reno Bike Project is a bicycle shop that offers workstations, paid internships for youth, and classes to learn how to work on bikes. The organization also helps with the cleanup and reuse of bikes abandoned at Burning Man, and accepts bicycle donations from the public.
From the Reno Bike Project website: “Used bikes that are donated may be parted out, refurbished, sold as is, or set aside for our Bicycle Repair Class.” Reno Bike Project members have access to a nine week-long bike repair class. Members work on the same bicycle for the extent of the class, learning the process of fully restoring a bicycle. After the nine week class these bikes become apart of the BLCP.
The project has several different processes in place to get a bike in the hands of people who need them.. Participants can fill out a form through the project’s website at this link, or they can stop by the shop to get a paper copy. The Reno Bike Project is also working with many organizations in town to spread the word about the BLCP.
“In order to be eligible for the biggest little commuter program, people need to have an agency referral–The point of that is for the case manager to verify their eligibility,” Keller said.
Once someone is approved for the program they are eligible to receive a subsidized bike.
“With this program they get a $30 bike, and a $15 U-lock,” Keller said– “So it’s $45, and then they get a ‘velo’ membership with us. The velo membership is unlimited time in our workstation. So for a year, anything that they need to do to their bike, they can come here and work for free.”
This also gives the participants eligibility to enroll in the Bicycle Repair Class; allowing them to learn, and help provide a bicycle to someone else in need. In many cases fees for bicycle and lock are covered by agencies working with participants.
“A lot of these people have no form of transportation, and they come in, get a bike, and we see people’s lives do a complete 180, from getting out of rehab and prison to carrying a job steadily and living comfortably,” Owen Lattin, mechanic educator at The Reno Bike Project said.
Last Year AmeriCorps teamed up with Reno Bike Project to provide subsidized bikes to their members. Members received the benefits of the BLCP in exchange for helping to spread the word about the program in thecommunity. (See details here)
“I was in AmeriCorps this past year and they have a program where they give you a discount if you’re an AmeriCorps member. It’s $100 for the bike and then all the gear that comes with it,” says Ellen Wilson, former AmeriCorps member.
The process took Wilson less than a week from application, to receiving her bicycle. Reno Bike Project also provided a “helmet, bike rack, bike pump, tubes and a gear kit,” Wilson said.
Since 2013 the BLCP has provided 177 people with bicycles; every month that number continues to grow. There are currently 15 bicycles at the Reno Bike Project that are ready to be given to those in need.
“Bikes are really a basic idea, but our organization, our mission and my passion is really about the spur of change that it creates in someone’s life,” Keller said.