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Bicycle Collective increases refugees’ access to transportation

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For newly arrived refugees still learning their way around Salt Lake City, bicycles offer an independent form of transportation giving adults autonomy and kids the chance to have some fun. The Bicycle Collective in Salt Lake City, one of four community bike shops operated by the Bicycle Collective, serves a broad range of vulnerable populations, including veterans and refugees, by providing a free bicycle and access to professional bike mechanic instructors who can walk people through tune-ups and easy repairs. 

Refugee children receive bikes from the Bicycle Collective at the International Rescue Committee in Salt Lake City.
Donna McAleer (center), executive director of the Bicycle Collective, helps distribute bicycles to refugee youth at a recent kids' bike distribution event held at the IRC in Salt Lake City. Photo: Jen Dean/IRC

Through the Collective’s Goodwill Bike program, professional bicycle mechanics and trained volunteers refurbish nearly half of all donated bicycles for redistribution to lower-income community members in need. In 2018, the Bicycle Collective donated 814 kids’ bikes and 529 adult bikes. This year, the Bicycle Collective and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Salt Lake City deepened our existing partnership to ensure three to five refugee adults each month received bicycles through the Goodwill Bike program. Additionally, the IRC worked with the Collective to organize two large kids’ bike events, distributing nearly 70 bikes to refugee families over the summer.

Donna McAleer, executive director of the Bicycle Collective, described their efforts to serve diverse populations: “One of the major populations we serve is the refugee community in Utah. In combination with our partners such as [the IRC] and Catholic Community Services, we help newly arrived refugees establish themselves in our community and access the services they need to start their new lives, earn a sustainable income and be successful.” For the Bicycle Collective, a bicycle is an important asset for those new to our community: “Our part in [helping refugees establish themselves] centers around sustainable and reliable transit solutions for both adult and juvenile refugees, and fun and adventure for refugee children.”

Thet Aung, a senior caseworker at the IRC in Salt Lake City, sees the real impact of a bicycle given to a newly arrived family: “I believe [the refugees we serve] are more comfortable with their transportation [using bikes] and there is more participation for job search programs and other classes.” The Bicycle Collective is very involved when helping refugee clients, providing useful information about bike care and maintenance, Thet notes. “Bicycle Collective is also more involved with [the] refugee community and [is a] good connection for community members.”

Bicycles increase the ease of transportation for refugees who are still familiarizing themselves with their surroundings, allowing them to participate more fully in job searches and other classes offered at the IRC. Photo: Thet Aung/IRC

“While not all of us speak the same language, we all speak bikes,” Donna reflects. “Bikes transcend barriers, generate excitement, and encourage exploration. The Bicycle Collective is excited to partner with the IRC as refugees arrive in Salt Lake City with excitement, energy and hope for a new beginning!”

The IRC in Salt Lake City is grateful for partners, like the Bicycle Collective, who continue to provide life-changing community programs that make refugees welcome in Salt Lake City!

Interested in fulfilling a need for a newly arrived refugee family in our community? Learn more about our current needs by visiting Rescue.org/DonateSLC.