Editor’s note: From time to time we get submissions from readers about their bikes, their rides, or any other type of cycling-related stories. Some we share with other readers online or in the magazine. Today, we have the story of the Bay Bike Project, a community outreach program in Mississippi. Got a story you’d like to share? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
By David Adams,
The Bay Bike Project was started in Bay Saint Louis, Miss., in October, 2011, with the goal of getting neighborhood kids, and my only son, interested in their community, their environment, and their place in history.
Our small coastal town was destroyed during Hurricane Katrina. This was a chance to shape our town, give it a little flavor—our legacy, so to speak. My son was having kids come over and play video games, play on the computer, and do other things that kids do. I was trying to think of something fun and engaging that they all could be a part of and, honestly, be the cool dad that was kept in the loop. Thus, the Bay Bike Project was founded.
I had gotten the idea from teaching in Boulder, Colo., at a private school during the mid 90’s. A green bike had shown up on campus one day, and with further research I learned about a grassroots project to get free community bikes to the citizens of Boulder. Well, I thought that was the coolest thing I had heard of in a long time, and decided if I ever had the chance to do something similar I would.
We launched the BBP with five bikes; North, South, East, West, and Southeast (a kids bike). Our bikes were adopted by various student groups (Varsity Volleyball, Gifted and Talented, Band, etc.), painted and decorated, and then released into the "wild". That’s what we like to call it.
We started our Facebook page as a way to spread the word about the project and as a way to track the bikes. We encourage people to share pictures, stories, and any ideas concerning the bikes and the project on our page. It took off from there.
I was asked to speak in front of the local high school for homecoming about the project and I’ve had a sit-down meeting with the Mayor of Bay St. Louis about our ambassadors and project, local businesses have offered support, encouragement, and free bikes to us. In other words, we dig our town and our town digs the BBP.
As of today, we have freed 12 bikes and have a fleet of about 15 other bikes ready to go.
Each bike is painted with crazy, funky colors and designs, named based on their personalities (oh yes, they all have unique personalities), tagged with a QR code (another gift and idea brought to us by a local supporter), and then freed.
Some bikes will last several weeks, even months. Some are taken and not to be found (how can you steal a free bike?), some need repairs after a few weeks of riding (we encourage feedback on Facebook so we can fix the problems). Our little social experiment has been a great addition to our little town.
Each bike has its own story, and what’s so cool, it plays out before us on Facebook through all who participate and follow us. We have had people donate bikes from Michigan (my home state), Memphis, and we are in contact with a charter school in Colorado to coordinate a similar project for their students to track and run.
Because of the success and positive influence of our project on the community of Bay Saint Louis, I am working with the school district in an after-school program (PRIDEcenter) using the BBP as a community outreach project to get students community service credits. What started as a small group of local kids (my original ambassadors) has spread to the high school where I can influence and motivate young scholars on the merits of doing good towards their community, country, and world.
I invite you and anyone to come visit and see the charm of our resilient little, coastal town. Bay Saint Louis is a place apart. The Bay Bike Project digs our town and provides a few free rides, smiles, and laughs. That’s how we roll.