Mohammad Wasiq works at one of the hotels on Savannah’s downtown riverfront. His job is just shy of a mile and a half from his apartment – an easy bike ride. He says it usually takes him less than 10 minutes.
Before Wasiq got the bike, he had to take the bus, and that was a different story. “First ten days, I was late sometimes, sometimes early,” he says, “because I couldn’t wait for the bus so I was just walking from here.”
Wasiq’s bike came from the Savannah Bicycle Campaign’s recycling program. The group takes donations of used bikes and parts. Then volunteers refurbish them and outfit them with accessories the users might need, like racks for groceries. A refugee placement organization called Lutheran Services of Georgia connects the Bike Campaign with people who need the help. Each user gets a helmet, a lock, and a light.
Lauren Cruickshank works with the refugees. “The fact that they can get a bicycle for free means that they’re not spending money on the bicycle,” she says, “and it also means that maybe they don’t have to spend money on a bus ticket each time they’re going to their ESL class or each time they’re going to the grocery store.”
The program also offers a mobile repair trailer and helps people learn about bike maintenance. Manager Jen Colestock says that’s also key when every penny counts.
“Especially if you’re somebody who bikes by necessity, and wouldn’t necessarily be able to afford that repair at a bike shop but might have access to tools to fix it, that’s another $10, $20, $30 that you’ve saved then,” Colestock says.
A spokesperson for the League of American Bicyclists says recycling programs like this one have been around for a while, and they’ve seen a rise around the country as biking has gotten more popular. They have a lot of different goals – from increasing economic freedom to helping the environment.