City program helps maintain bikes, make roads safer
Esperanza Offers Free Bikes After Safety Classes
It’s a common situation: Someone steals the front tire from your bicycle, and the $50 replacement cost inhibits your ability to get around town.
In Albuquerque, the Parks and Recreation Department has designed a local center that has made it its mission to make sure this scenario and others like it don’t stop bicyclists from rolling safely around town.
The staff at Esperanza Bicycle Safety Education Center (5600 Esperanza Drive NW, Albuquerque), located on the edge of the South Valley and West Mesa, won’t just replace the tire for free, but they’ll also show you how to do it yourself.
While Esperanza informs youth and adults on bicycle maintenance, the most important goal for the volunteers is to educate people on safety, going so far as to give community members an opportunity to earn a refurbished bike and helmet by completing two of the center’s safety classes through its Earn-A-Bike program.
“We’d like to see more kids riding their bikes to school. Part of that means getting their families out riding together. Parents need to re-enforce the safety aspects of riding a bike,” said Hugh Hulse, one of Esperanza’s bicycle educators.
The bikes earned through the program are donated by community members that Hulse and others at Esperanza then rebuild. The shop has given away 1,000 bikes over three years. Bikes that can’t be rebuilt are stripped for parts to stock the shop and are given free to those who come to Esperanza to work on their bikes.
Jerry Bock is an Esperanza volunteer who helps to restore bikes for Earn-A-Bike. Bock, a retired electrician, started riding bicycles after his doctor suggested he get more exercise.
Bock has collected seven bicycles of his own and volunteers at Esperanza 20 hours a week.
“When you’re retired, you start looking for things to do. Bikes are fun to work on,” he said.
For those who already own a bicycle, Esperanza also provides the tools, shop space and a staff of mechanics to help bicyclists learn to do repairs and maintenance on their own.
Santiago Valencia, a 14-year-old student from West Mesa High School, goes to the shop with a buddy to work on a BMX stunt bike.
“I started coming when I was in middle school. My friends told me about it,” Valencia said.
Now, he now introduces his friends to Esperanza, helping others work on their bikes out of the shop regularly.
Hulse said, “We instill mechanical experience, so you feel comfortable using your bike.”