Bike New York Seeks Your Bike to Help Struggling Asylum Seekers

Bike NY CEO Ken Podziba, DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez and Deputy Mayor Sheena Wright discuss the new initiative. Photo: Henry Beers Shenk
Bike NY CEO Ken Podziba, DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez and Deputy Mayor Sheena Wright discuss the new initiative. Photo: Henry Beers Shenk

Charity begins in your garage.

Bike New York, one of the city’s top cycling advocacy groups, wants to ease at least one burden for asylum seekers by providing free bikes and equipment to immigrants, recycling and fixing up two-wheelers donated by caring New Yorkers.

“We can’t think of a better way of helping asylum seekers acclimate and connect to the city than by giving them the opportunity to bike,” Bike New York CEO Ken Podziba told Streetsblog on the eve of Wednesday night’s kickoff for both the bike initiative and the group’s signature event, the TD Five Boro Bike Tour. “We believe there’s a transformational power of cycling, and this will greatly support their resettlement and integration into the city. And hopefully it’ll just help them thrive.”

The desire to help immigrants stems from a year of turmoil in New York City, as governors from Texas and Arizona have been busing asylum seekers to northern states, forcing the city to deal with waves of new arrivals — most of whom don’t have a way to get around, let alone other support structures.

“It’s very hard — some days we don’t eat anything,” Akon Dieudonne, who is living in a shelter in Midtown, recently told the New York Times, whose coverage showed the need for the Bike NY program, pointing out that Dieudonne is “occasionally walking all the way to the Flatbush” to connect with the Haitian community there.

Podziba said cases like that are exactly what inspired his group.

“It’s really an amazing way to support their lives, their future and hopefully they can become self-sufficient as soon as possible,” he said. “And right now, without a bicycle, without the ability to get around, they’re pretty isolated in their own community.”

Bike New York will fix up the two-wheelers and the Department of Transportation will provide its trademark Vision Zero helmets.

DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez, who attended the Wednesday event, sounded like the Health commissioner in explaining why his agency is happy to help.

“Everyone who rides half an hour a day, you know how many years you add to your life — sx years,” he said. “It’s not a luxury. It’s about increasing life expectancy, and it’s about connecting the working class community.”

To donate a bike, bring it to one of these five drop-off locations:

  • Unlimited Biking, Manhattan
    • 56 W. 56th St., Monday-Sunday 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
    • 346 West 57th St., Monday-Sunday 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
    • 79 Chambers St., Monday-Sunday 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
  • Department of Citywide Administrative Services, Queens
    • 66-26 Metropolitan Ave., Monday-Friday 10 a.m.-2:30 p.m. (take the ramp up one level)
  • Recycle-A-Bicycle, Brooklyn
    • 858 Fulton St., Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m.-6 p.m. and Sunday 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

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Jon Orcutt was NYC DOT’s policy director from 2007 to 2014. He developed DOT’s post-PlaNYC strategic plan, Sustainable Streets, oversaw creation of the Citi Bike program, and produced the de Blasio administration’s Vision Zero Action Plan. In this five-part series, he looks at today’s opportunities to build on the breakthroughs in NYC cycling made during the […]