The Fredericton Community Bicycle Organization has given 10 refugees bicycles to help them get around the city as the non-profit group continues to promote active transportation.
The organization was created last November after co-founder Matthew Johnson discovered like-minded individuals in Kelsey Wilson and Brad Richards, who were also interested in seeing more people use bicycles in the city.
The group has taught dozens of interested community members how to maintain their bikes from their workshop inside Willie O'Ree Place. The group's secondary mission has been to donate bicycles to people in Fredericton who need them.
Mon Kadel, 17, is one of the refugees who received a new bike thanks to the newly-formed non-profit group.
"I feel very happy," he said.
"I used to use the bus, walking. It was very difficult."
Kadel couldn't afford to purchase his own bicycle, which is where Johnson's non-profit organization stepped in and helped.
Now, he and nine other youth, many of whom grew up in refugee camps in Nepal, are learning how to maintain their new bikes.
Johnson said offering the bikes to refugees is the latest step for his group.
"I'm a recently graduated social worker. I find that cycling is at the nexus of social and environmental issues and so that is really what brings me here. I think there are a lot of other reasons that are turning up every day," Johnson said.
New bicycle racks
Fredericton has been making moves towards active transport since 2008. As a part of that movement, bicycle racks are appearing all over the city as a way to encourage more people to use their bicycles to commute to work.
Johnson said the city has been supportive of his organization’s long-term goals.
"We've been very happy to see shifts in policies already. I think there's a sense of good timing in all of this," he said.
"The city is really aiming to do what it can to increase ridership. We have been able to become good friends with the recreation department."
The bicycle group is already experiencing the impact of a successful project.
Demand for bike refurbishment and donation is higher than the supply can accommodate, according to Johnson.
He is asking people in the city to remember his group if they have any used bikes or bike parts.
"We're looking for more donated bicycles. Don't take them to the dump. We're salvaging nuts and bolts here. We're really that basic," he said.
The group receives some of its donated bicycles from the police and the city. When a bicycle is seized and cannot be sold at an auction, it often winds up as a donation to the non-profit group.
Helping other groups
The Fredericton bicycle organization’s decision to help the 10 refugees in the city isn’t its first attempt to help groups in the community.
Susanne White, a member of the Fredericton inclusion network, has also turned to the group to help with a request that came to her office.
She said she receives many requests in her office that underscore the accessibility issue in the city.
"Most recently one came in from the John Howard Society. There was a fellow there that had a lead on a job … but he was strapped to figure out how he was going to get back and forth to work," she said.
White connected the man with Johnson and the FCBO was able to set him up with a bike. With the group's assistance, the man was able to accept the job.
The inclusion network donated $10,500 to the FCBO this year.
New location needed
The Fredericton Community Bicycle Organization isn’t without its own challenges. Its workshop, which was donated by city via the Northside Youth Centre, is located at the Willie O'Ree Place
One of the arena's dressing rooms opens every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Johnson said the location isn't ideal for many people who want to have their bike refurbished by the group.
Fredericton doesn't offer bus service on Sundays, so those who already need alternative transportation are stuck without a way to access the workshop.
Johnson said the organization is looking for a new, more central location, especially once the ice is made in October.
"With any not-for-profit, the challenges are pretty clear," Johnson said.