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The Armchair Advocate

By Jeff Guerrero

I’ve heard it said that change begins at home. And while we’re often reminded that people around the world need our help, it seems to me that all too often we overlook our own neighbors. For most people it’s just easier to make an online donation to their favorite charity than to actually go out and volunteer. But making a difference doesn’t always entail a lot of money, a long-term commitment or even any real hassle.

Not long ago I was pumping up one of the neighborhood kids’ tires when his sister comes over with two flats. Before pumping up her 16” tires, I mention that the bike is way too small for her. She shrugs it off since there’s not much she can do, though she would of course like bigger bike. I tell her that she can earn a bike that fits at our local bicycle cooperative, and learn how to work on it at the same time.
“I already know how to work on bikes,” she corrects me. So I hand her the pump. It turns out she does know how to work on bikes, and I’m impressed. She goes on to tell me how she used to jump her bike like the local BMX kids, but sadly hers was stolen right off the porch.

Touched by her story, I let her keep the pump and decide to find her a bike. At first I considered giving her my old GT Pro Performer, but like all eight of my bikes, it has too much sentimental value to part with. So I went and talked to my friend Gerry who owns a local community-oriented bike shop, figuring he might have some kind of deal for me. In love with the idea, he gave me a small mountain bike for free. It was a Huffy that had been dropped off for repair and never picked up. Sure, it’s a cheap bike but the thing was practically brand new, and just the right size.

Of course it occured to me afterwards that Khadijah’s parents might be a bit apprehensive about a stranger coming and donating a bike out of the goodness of their heart. So I went over and talked to her father, George. Not only was he totally appreciative, he was concerned about fixing his children’s tires in the future. He asked about buying a tube for his son’s bike, and it was just too perfect to be able to hand him a copy of Urban Velo #1 and point out the article on how to patch a tube, instead.

The next day I returned with the mountain bike, a lock and a patch kit. Khadijah was so excited she hardly finished saying thanks before charging up the street on her new ride. For me the real thanks came thirty seconds later when she sped back down to ask her father, “Daddy, can I go to the park?”
What more can you ask for? Well, when I offered to show George how to patch his son’s tube, he declined the offer. He had read the entire zine and felt confident that he could fix his kids’ tires from here on out. What’s more, he plans to get a bike for himself so he can make cycling a family activity.