Mad About Bikes is Bringing the Community Together for Good

Baltazar De Anda Santana with a happy new bike owner.

Baltazar De Anda Santana rides his bike everywhere. Not only is it his sole form of transportation, it’s been his job to promote bike riding, make bikes accessible to everyone and, most importantly, teach and advocate for bike safety.

As the 2018 recipient coordinator of Free Bikes 4 Kidz Madison, Baltazar worked with 45 area organization to encourage community members to take advantage of the first annual free bike giveaway last March. As a result, more than 1,100 children received a free, gently used bike, a new helmet, and the opportunity to enjoy the freedom, exhilaration, and independence of bike ownership.

The giveaway was one of many bike-related projects Madison Community Foundation funded with a $99,200 Community Impact grant called “Mad About Bikes.” The grant, part of MCF’s 75th Anniversary Year of Giving, provides access for all riders, regardless of economic status, and helps them take advantage of Madison’s Platinum-level status as a Bicycle Friendly Community.

“Before this year, it never would’ve occurred to me that bike programs in Madison would be so important to our clients and our agency,” said Dawn Berney, executive director of Jewish Social Services, one of the 45 organizations that partnered with Free Bikes 4 Kidz Madison and the free bike giveaway. “Having that level of independence and resilience is so phenomenal.”

But, as Baltazar knows all too well, bikes break—tires go flat, chains come off, brake pads wear down—and not everyone can afford to get them fixed. With support from Wisconsin Bike Fed, where Baltazar served as Dane County Program Director, and JUST Bikes, a local coalition that promotes biking in underserved communities, Baltazar and his colleagues got to work making sure that everyone who got a free bike also has access to bike repair and bike safety education.

Pepe Barros Hoffens teaches a camper how to fix his bike.

They organized bike camps for area youth and installed Fix-It Bicycle Stations and new bike racks at Badger Rock Neighborhood Center, Bayiew Community Center, Centro Hispano, and Lussier Community Education Center.

Several eager kids were offered paid bike repair internships. After 15 hours of intense bike repair training, three interns joined the Mobile Bike Repair team and fixed more than 100 bikes at a dozen different locations around the city using the electric-assist bike that was purchased with Mad About Bikes grant dollars.

One intern, a young man named Illia Nepomniashikh, said the experience “built another path for me to go in the future.” With his newfound skills and confidence, Illia hopes to “start a career or a workshop or run a federation.”

Baltazar says the project is only the beginning of JUST Bikes’ work to create a bike culture in underserved communities.

“Everyone in Madison should be able to enjoy the benefits of biking.”


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