The coronavirus hasn’t put the brakes on Phoenix Bikes’ youth programming

Virginia

Its Earn-a-Bike program -- for students in middle and high school -- is training the next generation of bike mechanics and building confidence.

Noe Cuedra (left) is Phoenix Bikes business manager and a former Earn-a-Bike participant.

ARLINGTON, Va. (WDVM) — Phoenix Bikes offers full-service repairs and sells refurbished, used bikes at an affordable price. But it’s not just a business; it’s also a 501(c)3. 

The nonprofit promotes bicycling as an equitable, empowering mode of transportation, and the pandemic isn’t putting the brakes on the cycle. About 200 kids participate in Phoenix Bikes’ summer programs. This summer, however, Education Program Manager Raymond Duran says they reached about 30 to 40. “It’s really nice that we’re still reaching some,” said Duran. 

Its Earn-a-Bike program — for students in middle and high school — is training the next generation of bike mechanics and building confidence as students learn how to fix flat tires and adjust brakes over the course of about 25 hours. Following CDC guidelines, Phoenix Bikes hosts classes outdoors and masks are required. The sessions are split in half — only five students were enrolled in Tuesday’s session. 

“While you’re learning the mechanic skills you’re really learning problem-solving skills. You’re solving puzzles all the time,” Duran said. And if they’re lucky, they’re learning from Noe Cuedra — Phoenix Bikes business manager and former Earn-a-Bike participant. 

“About eight years ago I got a flat on my bike and the nearest bike shop was Phoenix Bikes. I wasn’t able to afford a new tube that day so they showed me how to fix it,” Cuedra recalled. “I was a freshman in high school. I got my first job here when I was a junior and ever since then I’ve been involved. Moved up as the senior mechanic, then the assistant shop manager, and now I’m the business manager.” 

The program is even more valuable this fall as students aren’t spending their school day in the classroom. “You get to meet new students from different schools and seeing them growing up is exciting for me and just being a teacher, basically,” said Cuedra. 

Once they complete the program, they’ll have “earned a bike,” and maintaining it won’t break the bank. Plus, it’s a versatile way of getting around. “You kind of create your own schedule,” said Duran. “You don’t have to wait for the bus. You don’t have to sit in rush hour traffic. If one way home is kind of busy, you’re on a bike. You can take it anywhere you want.”

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