Build Days in MI, IN, and WI.

Hello from Duluth, Minnesota! Our Northern US team has hit the halfway mark, which is hard to believe given that time seems irrelevant now. (All we know is mileage.) Here's a rundown of our Build Days:

In Michigan, we partnered with Well House in Grand Rapids. Well House focuses on not just affordable housing but food security as well. One of the project managers was a Bike and Build alum, one of many living in Grand Rapids currently.

Next up, we biked to South Bend, Indiana, home of Notre Dame University. We worked with Nexus House by clearing out an old house that used to be an education center. We emptied the house of literally thousands of books – think Readers Digest from 1951, GRE test books, and children's stories. The plan was to transform the house into a halfway home for ex-convicts. I was also happy to see some family friends in South Bend as well – thanks again for the ice cream, Phil and Julie!

We then made our way to Madison, Wisconsin and helped Habitat for Humanity, fixing up some single family homes by priming the walls and installing drywall. Madison itself was beautiful and pretty easy to bike around.

Following Madison, we biked up the Mississippi River to Onalaska, Wisconsin. Unfortunately, our Build Day was rained out after about an hour of work. But before that happened, we began framing a single family house in a low-income part of La Crosse (a college town 15 minutes south of Onalaska) with another Habitat chapter. Some of us also worked with local teens to build toolboxes as a community building activity.

After that, we crossed over to Minnesota to St. Paul to work with ReBuilding Together. Unfortunately, both of the projects they had planned for us didn't work out (one homeowner died and the other was foreclosed on – both events happening within a week of one another), so we painted their office building.

Even though some of our Build Days haven't worked out, this trip has been pretty stellar so far. Some memorable moments include celebrating Christmas in July, support and love from Bike and Build alumns, fellow cyclists who ride with us on occasion, and seeking out information on affordable housing from various places we bike through.

I'll try to write more often if time permits!

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Build Days in Vermont and New York

After traveling over 120 miles through New Hampshire, we had our second build day that was just over the Vermont border. We worked with Cover, a local nonprofit working to keep homeowners in their homes and make small adjustments to their homes. We were able to (almost completely) roof a veteran’s house. It was great to meet the homeowner while working and to talk to the director of Cover later that day at dinner.


After that, we conquered some crazy mountains in Vermont and New York (via a ferry!) and kept cruising til our next build days in Buffalo.


We spent two days building in Buffalo with their Habitat chapter. I was amazed to find out that Buffalo has appproximately 19 homes for everyone 1 homeless person. The issue is that it takes the city a lot of money to maintain the properties and fix up the buildings for those abandoned homes. Currently, the city is investing money in revitalizing their downtown area instead. Jury’s still out on if it’s working or not.

At the site, though, we focused on two single family homes. The majority of our work was assembling and installing walls, putting up a front porch, and some electrical work.

The work site in Buffalo.

We hit the road again and followed Lake Erie through Pennsylvania and Ohio. 

The perfect snack stop.

Talking about affordable housing, of course.

Rock on, Cleveland.


Next post: Michigan, Grand Rapids Build Days, Indiana, Chicago, and Wisconsin.

Six days, three rides, and NH’s best cinnamon bun. 

Hello from Lebanon, New Hampshire! We’re six days into Bike and Build. After wrapping up orientation (rules, a group practice ride, and our first Build Day with South East New Hampshire Habitat for Humanity), the 36 of us dipped out wheels in the Atlantic Ocean in New Castle, NH, and rode 59 hilly miles to Concord, the state capital. Let me tell you – it was no walk in the park. But since then, we’ve ridden two easier days (still some hills, though).

Geared up before the wheel dip. The New Hampshire coast is picture perfect.


Some highs so far include: eating New Hampshire’s best cinnamon bun in the town of Warner, jumping into a beautiful lake outside of Lebanon, and just getting to know the team. 


Shout out to our hosts so far – they have been amazing. First Baptist Church in New London generously cooked us dinner and a very early breakfast. They also gave us a tour of their beautiful bell tower, with a bell made by Paul Revere from the early 1800’s. Here’s the view from the top:


Tomorrow, we have a Build Day here in Lebanon, NH, and then we’re off to Vermont. 127 miles down, only 3,819 to go!

T-minus 0 days 

Tomorrow begins our orientation in Portsmouth, New Hampshire! Even with over 500 training miles, one 65 miler, more than 10 hours sweat equity, and over $5,300 (!!) raised, still not feeling entirely prepared. But when you’re about to do something you’ve never done before, you can never feel adequately ready. However, upgrading to a sweet bike saddle can help. 

Thanks to everyone who has supported me so far! Couldn’t’ve done it with out you. Follow our Northern US (NUS) route here – it includes trip journals and mail drops (places we’ll periodically pick up mail). Check it out!

Cheers, and happy riding.

Bike Month Updates

Yes, such a thing exists!  May is national Bike Month, thanks to the League of American Cyclists. Around the country, there are states, cities, and communities that have been celebrating Bike Month with Bike to School Day for students, Rides of Silence for fallen cyclists, and Bike to Work Day. The League of American Cyclists advocates for better bike infrastructure to make American more bike-friendly and also has great resources and data if you want to learn more about recreational and urban cycling around the country. Check ’em out and see how bike-friendly your state is.

In preparation for the summer adventure, my B&B teammates and I have been leading weekly discussions about AH with different perspectives. Topics range from a general overview of AH availability around the country, to creative approaches to public housing, to San Fran’s efforts to increase AH, to how the lack of AH affects different groups in our country (such as women, senior citizens, etc.). One great read I encourage you to look at is Impacts of Affordable Housing on Health. It discusses how AH can free up money for healthier food, how home stability can lead to less mental stress, how “green” energy efficient homes can mitigate long-term health risks, and much more. The more you know, right?

Bike with art

Three beautiful pieces of art.

 

 

April Update

Holy smokes, where did the month go?

Here’s my Bike and Build progress since the last post in March:

  • Broke through my fundraising goal of $4,800 – woohoo!
  • Biked 38% of the pre-trip training requirement
  • Volunteered with an affordable housing organization
  • Began reading Evicted by Matthew Desmond – an educational read

A big “thank you” to everyone who donated to Bike and Build and got me this far! Your generosity has been amazing.

In other news, this cross-country journey will be one-way for me – I am starting graduate school in Portland, Oregon in September for a master’s in urban and regional planning! I am grateful for this exciting opportunity.

Cheers, and happy riding.

 

 

Connecting housing and transportation

Earlier this month, Bike Maryland held their annual Bike Symposium. Folks who attended heard from the Maryland Department of Transportation, Washington Area Bicyclists Association, as well as other groups. The Symposium also educated attendees about what state bills had been introduced regarding cycling and pedestrian safety. Overall, it was an educational day focused on bikes, but also kept in mind transportation equity for everyone.

Hearing about the bills in the midst of preparing for Bike and Build brought me to consider the connection between transportation and housing. They are, after all, often the two biggest costs on a family’s income. Affordable housing is often developed away from public transit (since housing near transit is in high demand and expensive) and lacks safe bike infrastructure, and low-income individuals often cannot afford a car, let alone the indirect costs of driving such as auto-care and parking costs.

From Mobility Lab:

According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Guidebook for Creating Connected Communities, typical households in auto-dependent neighborhoods spend about 25 percent of their income on transportation costs, but this number drops to 9 percent in neighborhoods with a variety of mobility options.

This frees up money for individuals and families to save for homeownership, health care costs, and higher education, in addition to reducing time-costs. Targeting both affordable housing and transportation equity can greatly reduce the burden on low-income individuals and families.

An example of the value of this relationship between housing and transportation is seen in the fight to restore funding for a subway line connecting West Baltimore, home to many low-income families of color, to the city center, the source of many jobs.

To truly improve quality of life, affordable housing should be seen in tandem with other factors as well, such as transportation. For now, building affordable housing alongside thirty other young adults across the country is a good place to start.