Theresa M. Van Ackeren, owner Family Bicycles in Waldo, noticed an overflow of requests from people within the community for affordable bikes when she opened in 2008.
In 2010, Van Ackeren partnered with Elizabeth Bejan to open a nonprofit bike shop, RevolveKC. The bike shop takes donated bikes and refurbishes them for purchase.
"We were also looking for a way to really make sure people understood safe cycling,” Van Ackeren said. That is how the Earn-a-Bike program started.
Participants in the Earn-a-Bike program complete an online course to learn the basics of cycling safety. The class used to be offered in person, but recently they transitioned to an online course. This online course takes about 2 and a half hours to finish and allows participants to complete the training at a time that is convenient for them. “This online course allows for more people to flow through the safety programs,” Van Ackeren said.
Leah is recovering from cancer and is going to build her legs back up, while her sons Jerone and Nathan have places to go. This family picked out bikes at the KCK location of RevolveKC.
After passing the safety course, participants come into the RevolveKC bike shop and choose from a selection of refurbished bikes for a fee of $40. For participants who are homeless, living in transitional housing, or who simply cannot afford it, the fee will be waived. Over 1,500 people have participated in this program since its beginning.
In 2012, the KCATA heard about Bejan's and Van Ackeren’s work and decided to get involved and began donating unclaimed bikes to RevolveKC. The bikes that get left on buses are kept in lost and found at RideKC headquarters for 15 business days. After that time, all unclaimed and police-cleared bikes are picked up by employees from RevolveKC.
This partnership not only helps with storage issues at KCATA offices, but it also helps with the first mile/last mile problem. The further someone must walk to the bus stop, the less likely they are to ride the bus. All RideKC buses have bike racks on the front. See how the bike racks work.
“Many of our customers use the bikes to get to and from work. For a lot of them, the total distance is too long to ride, so many of them use the bikes to get to and from bus stops,” Van Ackeren said.
The bikes are transported to one of their two locations for repairs after pick up. “All bikes are cleaned and tuned up at a minimum, and they all go through a safety check,” Van Ackeren said. Half of the donated bikes need new tires, which is the most expensive for RevolveKC to replace.
Amber & Kayelyn plan to use their bikes on local trails.
“If people really want to make a difference, they can make a cash donation for tires and tubes.” said Van Ackeren. “All of the money goes right back into the operating budget for the shop.”
You can also purchase a bike from one of their two locations at 5509 Troost in Missouri, or 554 Central in Kansas City, Kansas. Take Troost MAX, 25 Troost or 55 55th Street to get to the KCMO location, or the 102 Central or 107 7th Street to get to the KCK location.
RevolveKC is always looking for volunteers to help at their events, too. For more information, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Volunteers get bikes fixed up for their new owners.
All photos courtesy of RevolveKC.org.